A Sense of the Past: a Social History of Blindness in Northern Ireland

A talking book machine from the 1960s

Heritage Grants

Belfast, Northern Ireland
RNIB Northern Ireland
A Sense of the Past researched and recorded the first social history of blindness in Northern Ireland, covering the period from the 1800 to the present day.

The project was managed by blind and partially sighted people to provide an accurate record of their own personal histories, experiences and key influences. The heritage was shared via a book, talking book and interactive accessible exhibition featuring artefacts and personal stories. The exhibition proved so successful that it travelled across museums and other venues across the whole of Northern Ireland.

The project had a wealth of input from members of the blind and partially sighted community in Northern Ireland including local inspirational figures, such as the sportswoman Janet Gray, adventurer Mark Polock and David Mann, Chair of RNIB NI. The interactive and accessible exhibition utilised 'Pen Friend', an accessible media tool used by blind and partially sighted visitors to listen to a narrative of information contained on the six display panels covering chapters within the book.

David Mann commented: "A lot has changed for blind and partially sighted people over the last two hundred years. Once objects of pity, we now assert our rights to self-determination and full inclusion in society. The historical perspective which this exhibition and book afford us should serve to strengthen the determination of RNIB and of blind and partially sighted individuals to continue the struggle for a more equal and inclusive society in which we can play a full role."

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