Landmark years and achievements

Our journey is the powerful and compelling account of the experiences of families involved with Sense and Sense International over five decades.

Sense has been here for people who are deafblind, or have other complex disabilities, for more than 60 years.

Take a look at the major landmarks and achievements that have shaped our journey.

1955: the birth of Sense

Two mums – Peggy Freeman and Margaret Brock – catch rubella while pregnant and their children are born deafblind. Desperate for support and information, they connect with 10 other families and form the Rubella Group.

1961: connecting with others

The Rubella Group's first conference brings together families and professionals. The families visit schools to raise awareness, and call for increased support and specialist care.

1965: children’s centres

The first day unit for children who are deafblind is set up at Hither Green Hospital, London. A pre-school group is also established in Birmingham.

1974: Sense Holidays

Our first holiday takes place, led by the parents of a young man who was deafblind. Today, lots of children and adults enjoy Sense Holidays and Short Breaks each year.

1980: support for young adults

The first housing, education and training centre for young adults who are deafblind opens in Peterborough.

1983: Usher syndrome

We begin to provide services to people with who have developed sight and hearing problems later in life, including Usher syndrome.

1985: Sense Living

The first Sense Living residential accommodation – where adults are supported to live together – opens in Market Deeping, Peterborough.

1986: the first Sense Shop

Our first charity shop opens in Petts Wood, Kent. Today, there are more than 100 Sense Shops across the country.

1989: landmark legislation

Following years of Sense campaigns, the Government publishes the first guidelines on the education of children who are deafblind.

1992: intervenor services

The first intervenor service begins in Lincolnshire, providing weekly support to families at home.

1993: new locations across the UK

Sense Cymru launches in Wales, three years after Sense Northern Ireland. The first Sense Family Centre opens its doors in Bristol.

1994: Sense International

Sense International is established. Today, we support the development of services for people with deafblindness in eight countries.

2001: Deafblind Guidance

Our Yes to Access campaign results in the introduction of the Deafblind Guidance. This requires local authorities to assess and provide support for people who are deafblind.

2005: older people

Our Fill in the Gaps campaign raises awareness of the needs of older people and how they can be supported.

2011: CHARGE syndrome

An international Sense conference brings together people with CHARGE syndrome.

2012: listening to people

The Sense User Reference Group (SURG) – people who use our services and influence how they develop – celebrates its first birthday.

2013: Sense Arts, Sport and Wellbeing

Supporting people to participate in Sense Arts, Sport and Wellbeing activities becomes a strategic priority.

2014: getting active

Sense develops social prescribing groups, where isolated disabled people come together to try new activities and find support. We launch a programme of sport and physical activity with the support of Sport England.

2015: tackling isolation

We mark our 60th anniversary by launching the friendship campaign. The campaign raises awareness of the isolation experienced by many disabled people.

2016: let every child play

We take play to Parliament. Our Case for Play report highlights the benefits of play and the barriers that face children with multiple needs, and our Play Toolkits offer practical advice to parents.

2017: TouchBase Pears

TouchBase Pears opens its doors in Birmingham. A pioneering, multi-purpose centre, it models a new way of bringing people together. It includes day services, arts and wellbeing activities, a family and children’s area, community library, spaces to hire and public café.