One hundred years ago this week (on April 5, 1920 to be exact) 74 blind workers from Scotland and north east England set off from Leeds to march down to London to meet the Prime Minister, David Lloyd George.

A further 60 blind workers from Ireland and the north west left Manchester, and 37 from around the south west departed from Newport.

The aim of the ‘Blind March’ of April 1920 - a river of blind and partially-sighted people converging on London on foot - was to press the Prime Minister to introduce fairer rights for people with sight loss. “Social justice, not charity” demanded the placards carried by many of the marchers.

The event, which was organised by the National League of the Blind, was the first disability movement of its kind and eventually resulted in the Blind Person’s Act 1920 – an early precursor to today’s Equality Act (2010).

Now, 100 years later, the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is asking people to use their one exercise a day to remember this event and take their own steps for equality.

Among those already committed to doing so this month is 24-year-old blogger Holly Tuke, from York. Holly describes herself on her award-winning blog Life of a Blind Girl as a ‘Yorkshire lass ...a York St John University graduate (and) a lover of pop music, beauty, fashion, and all the usual girly stuff. “

She has a condition called Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), which means she can only see light and dark. Determined to mark the anniversary of the march, she has already reenacted the first steps via video.

“I’m taking part in the Blind March 2020 as I’m passionate about raising awareness of sight loss and helping others,” she said. “To me, equality means having equal access in every aspect of society. There have been many positive changes that have had a significant impact on the lives of blind and partially sighted people over the last hundred years, however we still have a long way to go.

“Over the next hundred years I’d like people to see our ability, not just our disability.”

Maqsood Sheikh, RNIB’s Regional Campaigns Officer for Yorkshire and Humber, has also been taking part in the virtual march.

“I want to help create a society where sight loss isn’t a barrier to living life to the full,” he said.

“Only one in four people of working age with sight loss are employed in the UK, one in three children with vision impairment in schools are still not receiving the specialist support they need.

“We need clear streets, accessible transport and built environments to help us get around independently. In the current coronavirus pandemic, we need accessible information online and better access to supermarkets.”

Keith Valentine, Director of Development at RNIB, has also taken his own steps in commemoration for the event.

He said: “Society has moved on leaps and bounds over the last hundred years. But, for all our progress, many of the issues that the National League of the Blind marched to London to change remain the same today.

“Just like in 1920, blind and partially sighted people continue to face barriers finding and keeping employment, accessing education and getting appropriate Government support. There has been some progress, but it’s not good enough. That’s why we want people to use their one exercise a day to get moving and take their own steps for equality.”

The National League of the Blind (NLB) was a trade union that campaigned for legislation that would ensure:

- Better working conditions and workers’ rights for blind and partially sighted people

- Better education for children with vision impairment

- State support for those blind people who could not work

MP Ben Tillett introduced a Private Member’s Bill in February 1920 which met all the NLB’s aims. However, the Government announced it would bring forward its own, which was less impactful. In order to put pressure on the Government, the League took action to arrange a large-scale march of its members to London, where it would stage a mass demonstration in Trafalgar Square.

There had been many protest marches previously, but this was the first of its kind - choreographed with different contingents across the UK, with rallies in towns along the route. The Jarrow March 16 years later was based on the model used by the Blind March.

Stephen Lewis

To find out more about the Blind March and the work of the RNIB, visit