The most relevant steps of a long journey towards social integration
The first attempts to to establish an association for the blind in Italy date mainly back to two patronage societies/associations which were founded during the last decade of the previous century and were named after “Nicolò Tommaseo” and “Queen Margherita”. Dante Barbi Adriani was their very prominent counselor and he established and also ran two news magazines, among them was the first one written in braille.
In 1910, the “Blind teachers’ association for education” was established at the suggestion of Carlo Grimaldi, Augusto Romagnoli and others. This association turned out to be the first one in aid of the blind.
On October 26th 1920, the Italian Association for the Blind was born, as an extension of the Blind teachers’ association, and its founder and first president was Aurelio Nicolodi. The birth of the Italian Association for the Blind marks the first step of a long path towards social integration. Shortly after the Association’s inception, was established the Newspaper for the Blind, the National Library for the Blind, the Braille Print House, the National Labor Institute in Florence, Rome, Naples, and many other initiatives were announced.
In the Thirties, the progress has been very slow, and some objectives were thwarted by regime’s corporate structure. However, there were two important breakthroughs: the abolition of the New Civil Code of the incapacitation of the blind from their birth and their inclusion into the Air Force as sound-locator operators.
Towards the end of WWII, Nicolodi, disliked by the regime, was removed from office and replaced with Paolo Bentivoglio who stayed on as president for almost twenty years, until 1965. It was a time of post-war reconstruction and there were some remarkable historical moments such as the big demonstration in Rome in 1954, the so-called “grief march” which led to a first legislation for a pension for the blind.
Still in the Sixties, it was also enacted an effective legislation for the right to employment in three sectors: education, massage and physiotherapy and phone switchboard. Clearly, it changed considerably blind persons’ living conditions and their future expectations, and it represented another significant step towards the long-awaited social integration. It is important to bear in mind that the State, by Decree-Law 26.10.1944 n. 1047 acknowledged the Italian Association for the Blind as the sole Italian institution which has its goal the moral and civil protection of the rights of the blind and visually impaired.
Giuseppe Fucà replaced Bentivoglio and earned the title of “Battle’s President”. Actually, in those years, the Association was carrying on a noteworthy battle for social equivalence which was yet far from over but it has considerably evolved the cultural image of the visually impaired. Since blindness was recognized as a more challenging disability than others, the Association, during Fucà’s presidency, achieved an incapacity allowance, together with other long-awaited breakthroughs.
The Association’s fourth president, Roberto Kervin, carried on down this path and increased the Association’s reputation by also making it known abroad.
The current Italian Association for the Blind, headed by Tommaso Daniele, has to fight to defend the achievement reached so far and at the same time move painstakingly towards new objectives, which have to fit into the modern social reality. The Association has to take into account that young people might not feel such a strong allegiance to it, as others did in the past, that same spirit which took the association from its 8.000 members in 1947 to the nearly 120.000 as of today.
The journey was and still is difficult, but a less uncertain and challenging state of visual impairment, than in the past, will be achieved only by addressing effectively the new issues.