|On October 8th we commemorated the centenary of the Norwegian Association of the Blind and Partially Sighted with a stamp designed by Enzo Finger. The value of the stamp is printed in Braille.
They say that, if you lose one of your senses, the others will become stronger. It is not quite as simple as that, however. The other senses have to be developed through training and, even if they become stronger, they will never fully compensate for the one that is lost. There will always be things a blind person cannot do by himself, things he needs help with.
Norway's first school for the blind, Kristiania Blindeinstitut, was established in 1861. There was very little experience to build on at that time and every small advance was made through painstaking trial and error. The objective of the school was to teach the pupils a skill or craft that would enable them to be self-supporting when they left the school. The school opened with only two pupils, but the numbers grew rapidly. By 1867 it was ready to move into a new building with room for 36 boarding pupils. The plans for the school were drawn up by the Society of the Blind (founded in 1858). The State took over full responsibility for the school in 1896.
In addition to the Society of the Blind, a Mission for the Blind was founded in 1891 and a Self-Help Society of the Blind in Norway was started in 1903. All three organizations had sighted members only, whose efforts were directed at improving conditions for the blind. As time went by, the blind began to organise their own local self-help societies. The first to do so were former pupils of Kl?bu School for the Blind near Trondheim, who founded the Self-Help Association of the Blind in 1900. It was renamed the North Norway Association of the Blind in 1908, and local associations were founded the same year in the West and East of Norway. In 1909, the three associations merged to form the Norwegian Association of the Blind. One of its primary goals was to give the blind and partially sighted a chance to support themselves by, for example, selling their own products. The Association also set up a Braille printing works and Braille libraries were opened in Kristiania, Bergen and Trondheim. In time those also acquired a good selection of audio books.
The Norwegian Association of the Blind currently has 6,500 members. Its most important activities include projects for children and young people, rehabilitation courses and a work centre for the visually impaired. The Association also runs a guide dog training school.