North East Sensory Services (or NESS for short) was started in 1879
North East Sensory Services (or NESS for short) was started in 1879 by William Ferguson of Kinmundy and his brother Thomas Ferguson, as the Aberdeen Town and County Association for Teaching the Blind at their Homes (the Association). The organisation was set up with the support of the Earl of Aberdeen, whose family stayed a patron of the organisation until the 2000s. The first Superintendent, Robert Meldrum, instrumental in setting up the Association and identifying the first 125 blind people that the Association was to support. Within the first few years, the organisation found itself delivering services to people in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, parts of Banffshire, Buchan, Orkney and Shetland.
When the Association started, it inherited a library of books in Braille and Moon (another form of raised text more popular than Braille at the time). This library had been set up by Rev. William Corbet, who was blind, and who had started the work that was later taken on by the Association, but which stopped on his death in 1875. NESS still has a library today with over 4,000 audio books.
The Aberdeen Town and County Association for Teaching the Blind at their Homes quickly became recognised by the local authorities as the local organisation supporting Blind and Partially sighted people, and later received funding from the local authorities to run the services provided. The Association set up their first premises in Crown Street in Aberdeen, before moving to Bon Accord Square in the 1960s.
The Association became Grampian Society for the Blind in 1980, after the formation of the Grampian Regional Council, with services being provided across the Grampian area. By this time, Grampian Society for the Blind were employing Mobility Officers (now called Rehabilitation for Visual Impairment Officers) and Social Workers, amongst many other roles.
In 2009, Grampian Society for the Blind tendered and successfully gained the contract to deliver integrated joint sensory services in Moray. In 2010, they were invited to take over the running of the Deaf services in Aberdeen, and later successfully tendered for the joint sensory services in Aberdeen City. This cemented the organisation’s identify as one of the only fully integrated joint sensory services in Scotland, delivering support to people who were Deaf or hard of hearing as well as those who were blind or partially sighted.
In 2010, to reflect this shift in focus, Grampian Society for the Blind became North East Sensory Services. Since then, NESS has taken on services in Dundee and Angus, and now supports over 6,500 people with a sensory loss in Aberdeen, Moray, Dundee, Angus and Aberdeenshire.
Grampian Society for the Blind bought and renovated the current Resource Centre in Aberdeen, with Princess Margaret opening in in 1994. The renovation work ensured that the building was as accessible as possible for people who were blind or partially sighted, including using colour contrast round doors and switches, ground level entrance, with a lift to the first floor.
The smaller Resource Centre was set up in 2010, and the Dundee Resource Centre, which is based in the Dundee Voluntary Action building was established in 2015.