UICI's Centenary

A whole year to celebrate one hundred: 2020, a year of events planned by local chapters celebrating the first century of the Italian Blind Union.
Alberto Borghi

The Italian Union of Blind and Partially Sighted People (now an NPO) was founded on October 26, 1920, in Geneva, thanks to the bright idea of Aurelio Nicolodi, an Italian army officer (decorated with a silver medal for bravery) who was wounded during the First World War and lost his sight. Assisted by other soldiers, who also remained scarred by the war, Nicolodi created the association with the aim of providing aid for the blind and helping them achieve empowerment and integration. He succeeded in transforming the establishments for the blind from mere hospices to educational institutions, obtaining the transition from the Ministry of the Interior to the Ministry of Education. The many successful initiatives include the foundation of the national Braille printing house in 1924 and, four years later, of the national guide dog school for the blind. Structured at the local level, the UICI had its primary operational chapters in provincial sections, which in turn converged in regional councils. The current president, Mario Barbuto, former Director of the Istituto dei Ciechi Francesco Cavazza, is joined in the National Council by ten of the elected representatives at the regional level. Over the course of a century, the association has had the opportunity to develop countless educational, welfare and cultural initiatives, guaranteeing services and programs such as the National Centre for Talking Books, I.Ri.Fo.R. (Institute for Research, Training and Rehabilitation), INVAT (National Institute for the Assessment of Devices and Technologies) and IURA (Agency for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities). It also acts at the international level, both by joining the European Blind Union and the World Blind Union, and by becoming an active member of the European Disability Forum.

The logo of UICI's Centenary

In order to reach the widest possible audience to learn about the UICI and to take part in its activities, the non-profit organization has decided to celebrate its centenary by building on its distinctly territorial vocation. For that purpose, each provincial section has developed initiatives which, on a special night – the "purple night" – will recognize the actions undertaken mostly on a voluntary basis and provided daily for the benefit of persons living with vision loss as well as their relatives. Experiences will be proposed so people can participate interactively, such as reading tests for talking books; reading in the dark as part of the project entitled "A spasso con le dita" about books in Braille. There will also be a Braille workshop, as well as practical tests of sports disciplines in which the blind compete (showdown, fencing), tasting sessions in the dark, experiences with guide dogs as well as activities in ophthalmic labs. These are only some examples of the activities offered by the various local chapters for the blind and visually impaired, presented in a unique setting for anyone who wishes to learn about the reality of UICI and its partners. The calendar of "purple nights" is available in detail on the UICI website, but the travelling tour began in Catania on February 24th and will end in Genoa, in the city where it all began, with a conference to be held on October 24th and 27th.


Mario Barbuto, UICI's President

The highlight of the series of celebratory events is certainly the concert with Andrea Bocelli, the ultimate protagonist. UICI's endeavours will also be recognized by the main actors of the national institutional life, on the occasion of meetings scheduled with the President of the Republic, the President of the Council of Ministers, as well as the Presidents of the Senate and the Chamber. In addition, President Mario Barbuto will be received by Pope Francis, confirming the moral importance of the work by UICI's members. As well, on behalf of the Italian Union of Blind and Partially Sighted People, the Vatican's foundries will cast a bell called Aurelia in honour of the organization's founder Nicolodi, which will be donated to the city of Genoa and its bishop. The bell will represent the unique link between the cities of Genoa and Rome, once again dedicated to Aurelia, understood as the ancient Roman road which connects the capital with the city on the Ligurian Sea. This will end the circle of one hundred years of actions and initiatives in favour of people whom Nicolodi has never considered "weak" but who deserved the right attention and instruments in order to achieve or maintain an active role in society.


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