Blind children across the country will be helped to read thanks to Hampshire and Isle of Wight Freemasons

Camilla Oldland, Chief Executive Officer at Living Paintings, centre, and Peter Vosser from the Freemasons, right

Hundreds of blind and partially sighted children will be able to equally access the visual world of pictures, books and learning, thanks to a grant of £30,000 from Hampshire and the Isle of Wight Freemasons to the Living Paintings charity.

The Hampshire-based charity has an established project that uses raised, tactile pictures that are explored with the help of immersive audio descriptions. The charity manufactures and publishes unique ‘Touch to See’ books, which provide access to the images that colour and inform our lives and will help blind children learn to read, support students in schools and promote social interaction and positive wellbeing.

These unique multi-media books are loaned, free of charge, from their hugely varied library and benefit 1,239 blind and partially-sighted children across England and Wales. Over the two years of the project funded by the Freemasons, the charity aims to increase the number of children benefitting to 1,900 and introduce 30 new titles to their Touch to See library

There are an estimated 800 blind and partially-sighted children in Hampshire alone, with an estimated 23,000 living with social and educational exclusion across England and Wales. Studies show that 43 per cent experience bullying and 83 per cent are not included in everyday activities such as being invited to birthday parties, whilst mainstream schools rarely have sufficient knowledge and experience to meet their requirements. Thanks to the Living Paintings books, blind and partially-sighted children can develop literacy and communication skills, share more fully in classroom teaching and are able to talk about the same topics as their peers.

The most recent survey of blind and partially-sighted children who use Living Paintings books reveals that:

  • 98 per cent have improved confidence, including 96 per cent who are more confident in joining in class activities and discussions,
  • 98 per cent have attained an increased interest in learning,
  • 95 per cent acquired an improved confidence in reading,
  • 97 per cent benefitted from an increase in shared experiences with sighted friends, family and peers;
  • 95 per cent have improved confidence in taking part in physical activities

The grant from Hampshire and the Isle of Wight Freemasons comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends, from across England and Wales.

Camilla Oldland, Chief Executive Officer at Living Paintings, said:

“We’re so grateful to Hampshire Freemasons for this wonderful grant. Thanks to Living Paintings, blind and partially-sighted children are learning to love and read books; a lifelong gift, and engaging with classroom education alongside their sighted friends.  Our charity can only provide these completely free, constantly expanding and developing, services thanks to donations such as this.  And, since the onset of COVID-19 our work has never been more needed which makes this grant even more valuable and impactful.”

Kevin Head from Hampshire and the Isle of Wight Freemasons, said:

“I’m very pleased we’ve been able to help Living Paintings with their hugely important project. It’s hard to think of a more essential skill than being able to read. Literacy is the key to education, future employment and the pleasure that comes from books lasts a lifetime. However, for blind and partially-sighted children learning to read is much more difficult than for those who are sighted. Living Paintings are giving a gift that will last a lifetime.”


Notes to Editors

For further information about Living Paintings please contact David Beal:,  01635 299771

Living Paintings can be found on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Youtube

About Living Paintings

Special note:  Blind 19 year old, Louis Moorehouse, has just launched a campaign to raise money to bring the images from iconic TV servies Doctor Who to life for blind blind people with Living Paintings.  Louis has been a member of Living Paintings library since he was 2 years old and learnt to read with them.  He says that Living Paintings have ‘opened up the world’ to him.  To find out more about the campaign visit  The charity is proud to have received permission from Doctor Who to complete this special project. 

Living Paintings was founded in 1989 by former art history lecturer, Alison Oldland, MBE from her home in Silchester, Hampshire.  She remained its active Chairman until her death in 2008.  Her daughter, Camilla, has led the charity for over 30 years and continues to uphold her mother’s vision for the charity and develop it to meet changing needs. 

The aim of national charity Living Paintings is to transform the lives of blind and partially sighted children, young people and adults by providing them with equal access to the visual world of pictures, books and learning.  Our purpose is to put their life chances on an equal footing with the sighted people around them.  To achieve this we design, create and publish multi-media, Touch to See books for all ages that provide unique access to the images that colour and inform all our lives. These include raised tactile pictures accompanied by atmospheric, educational and entertaining audio guides. The audio guides, often narrated by famous people, help fingers explore the tactile images, tell the stories of the pictures and describe their features. In this way, the senses of touch and hearing combine to create a different way of seeing. By including colour images of the topics, our books can be shared with sighted friends, family and classmates.

Our unique Touch to See books help blind children learn to read, support students in school, inspire lifelong learning and promote social interaction and positive well-being.  They are provided completely free of charge from our postal library so all visually impaired people across the UK, no matter where they live or their financial circumstances, can borrow them and gain a feel for the visual world.

2,000 blind and partially sighted people children, young people and adults across the UK currently benefit from Living Paintings library. Membership of the library is free and there are thousands of books available for borrowing by all ages, families, teachers, and carers.

Library membership can begin at pre-school age and continue through school to teenage years and on into adulthood.  Living Paintings helps at all stages of life. 

The charity is funded entirely by voluntary donations.  Its work is achieved with the help of hundreds of volunteers. These include many well-known names such as Sir Derek Jacobi, Lord Julian Fellowes, Joanna Lumley, Michael Sheen, Martin Clunes, David Walliams, Hugh Bonneville, ESA Astronaut Tim Peake, Bill Bailey, Sir Robert Winston, Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, Pearl Mackie and Warwick Davies who have all lent their voices to the audio descriptions.

For further information about the Masonic Charitable Foundation, please contact Guy Roberts, Press Officer (  |0203 146 3311)

About the Masonic Charitable Foundation

The Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) is one of the largest grant-making charities in the country. Funded entirely through the generosity of Freemasons and their families, the MCF awards millions of pounds each year to local and national charities that help vulnerable people, advance medical research and provide opportunities for young people. The MCF also helps to fund vital services such as hospices and air ambulances and regularly contributes to worldwide appeals for disaster relief.  In total, MCF support helps to improve the lives of thousands of people every year in England, Wales and internationally. As well as providing grants to charities, the MCF supports Freemasons and their families with a financial, health or family need. Visit