Vision Ireland, the new name for NCBI, ushers in a change in sight after a century of service provision

Chris White, CEO of Vision Ireland, is wearing a suit and standing next to Edith Toomey who is holding her white cane and is wearing a blue top, and Lar Keogh who is wearing glasses and a black coat. All three are standing in front of a Vision Ireland poster which features a picture of Edith.

Monday 6th November 2023 – At an event today, at 58 South William Street, Dublin 2, which was the organisation’s first official office in the 1930s, NCBI, the national sight loss agency, changed its name to Vision Ireland, as the true size of the community of people who are blind or vision impaired is revealed.

The name change is designed to be more inclusive, ensuring that everyone knows Vision Ireland supports people with a wide range of visual impairments.

According to census data, published recently, there are more than 296,000 people in Ireland who are blind or have a vision impairment. The name change for the 92-year-old national sight loss agency is designed to reach even more of the 6% of the population, or one in 17 people, who are blind or have a vision impairment. The data shows that blindness or vision impairment affects 27% of all people experiencing at least one long-lasting condition or difficulty to any extent.

At a special ceremony in Dublin to mark the launch, Chris White, Vision Ireland CEO, said: “Many people with sight issues are missing the opportunity to avail of our services because they are unaware that we support people with different levels of visual impairment. Our new name, Vision Ireland, is designed to reflect our broad range of support.

“The Vision Ireland name was developed through extensive consultation with staff, service users and volunteers – and they also like how our new name better represents the forward-looking and dynamic organisation that we are.

“Our mission hasn’t changed – we will continue as before – and continue to promote good eye health, and continue to champion an inclusive society where physical and digital spaces are more accessible for all, regardless of abilities.”

Speaking at the launch today, Paul Kelly, Chair of Vision Ireland, said: “As someone with a vision impairment that did not access the great services of the NCBI as my family, my doctors and myself all thought it was not for me as I was not fully blind, I am particularly proud to be associated with the great staff and volunteers of Vision Ireland today as we embark on the next phase of the journey to empower even more blind and visually impaired people in Ireland.”

Messages of support for Vision Ireland poured in from all over the world from RNIB (Royal National Institute for the Blind) in the UK, Vision Australia, European Blind Union and the World Blind Union among others.

Commenting on the launch of Vision Ireland, Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, outlined how the Government is committed to providing services for people with disabilities so that they can lead independent lives, while acknowledging there is much work to be done.

“With new thinking, new perspectives and pooling ideas, we will do better. And I’m glad that we can call on Vision Ireland’s expertise in developing a barrier free and inclusive society. With the goal of enabling people to live an independent life of their choice, Vision Ireland is making a real difference to the lives of people every day. The dedication of Vision Ireland staff and volunteers is truly commendable,” Mr Varadkar said.

Speaking in support of the launch, Robbie Henshaw, Member of the Board of Trustees of Vision Ireland, said: “I’ve been involved with NCBI for a number of years, and it has been both an honour and a privilege to witness the tremendous impact that it has on people who are blind or have a vision impairment. Their unwavering commitment to providing essential support and resources has been a beacon of hope for so many people in Ireland. Their dedication to improving the lives of all those they support is truly remarkable, and I am proud to be a part of the next chapter for Vision Ireland.”

Neasa Hourigan, TD, speaking at the launch event said: “Being the parent of a child who has a vision impairment, I have first-hand experience of the challenges and uncertainties that can arise. At every stage, NCBI has been a tremendous help, offering invaluable support and resources that have made a significant difference in our lives.

“The dedication and expertise has given us hope, empowerment, and a brighter future. We are immensely grateful for their unwavering assistance and I would encourage every parent and guardian to avail of Vision Ireland’s support and services,” Ms Hourigan added.

Also speaking at the event was Wicklow native Lar Keogh, who was born the same year NCBI was launched, 92 years ago. “I’ve had vision issues for quite a few years, but I didn’t realise I could avail of the services of NCBI. It’s been a revelation for me since I became a service user and I have been welcomed with open arms by everyone at Vision Ireland. Their support has been fantastic, and it’s really made a big difference in my daily life.”