Sense is a unique national organisation. It serves people with complex disabilities, including deafblindness, and has developed unrivalled skills and experience in this area.
But it has also been shaped by broader changes and developments in society – such as changing attitudes towards disability and the role of women.
During the 1950s and 60s, a succession of new voluntary organisations grew up, often started by women who responded to needs that were not being met by other services. Sense – or the Rubella group as it was first known – was one of these.
It was founded in 1955 by Peggy Freeman and Margaret Brock, who had both given birth to children who were deafblind as a result of catching rubella in pregnancy. They gathered together a group of parents who were struggling to bring up their children with this devastating disability. They supported each other, raised funds and campaigned for the recognition of their children’s needs – and very gradually things improved, and Sense began to grow.
In 1965 they were joined by another deeply committed and caring woman called Jessica Hills who became Chair of Sense in 1980, staying in that role for an inspirational 22 years.
Today, Sense’s 2,000 staff offer individually tailored support to people with complex disabilities in services across the UK – whether that’s at our centres, through our holidays and short breaks, or in people’s own homes. As well as practical support, we also provide information to families, and campaign for the rights of people with complex disabilities to take part in life.
There are of course a huge cast of women and men who have given their all and played a pivotal role in the Sense story. But today, on International Women’s Day, we would especially like celebrate and salute the life-changing contributions of Peggy, Margaret and Jessica.