Thomas Armitage, founder of RNIB

Post date: 
Monday, 16 July 2018

Born in 1824, Thom​as Rhodes Armitage, a physician who had lost his sight, founded what would become the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) to improve the availability of literature for people with sight loss.

At that time, some literature for blind people was available through embossed type (raised shapes that could be felt by fingertips), but the situation was complicated by the fact that there was no single standard of type. 

On 16 October 1868, Armitage formed the British and Foreign Society for Improving the Embossed Literature of the Blind to champion the adoption of Louis Braille’s system as the main standard of embossed type. The Society would later expand its work to improving education and employment prospects for blind people, and eventually became the RNIB of today. Thanks to Armitage’s legacy, we’re here to celebrate our 150th anniversary and support more than two million people living with sight loss.

Robert Saggers, RNIB Heritage Services, takes us behind the scenes at RNIB's headquarters in London and shares minutes from RNIB's first-ever meeting. Watch the Thomas Armitage film: