National Deafblind Helper’s League was formed in 1928. This was the start of Deafblind UK which has now become one of the leading authorities on deafblindness. In the mid 1980s Scottish members were surveyed and decided to establish a base in Scotland and in 1989 Drena O’Malley took up the post as Liaison Officer working two days per week in a borrowed office in Barrowfield Deafblind Complex. With the growing membership the office became too small and the operation was moved to Lenzie.
The guide-communicator service was established in 1995 and the first Scottish Advisory Group on Deafblindness (SAGoD) meeting was held in 1997. SAGoD’s aim was to make a formal meeting fully accessible to deafblind people.
The notion of establishing a separate, self-governing Scottish organisation was proposed and Deafblind Scotland was launched in 2001 with a ‘Hands Around Scotland’ relay. Members were sponsored to carry the Deafblind Scotland flag across the length and breadth of the country by unusual means.
Deafblind Scotland was launched with a brand new board of directors, seven of whom were themselves deafblind. Much has changed since 1989, however, steadfastly remaining is the ethos that deafblind people should run their own organisation; that they should always comprise more than 50% of the Board and that the guide-communicator service is essential if deafblind people are to be truly independent.
Drena O’Malley has stayed with the charity throughout this time. Now in a slightly different role she is still committed to, in her own words, “the most amazing group of people one could ever work for.”