Birmingham conference centre celebrates 10 years of supporting blind people into work

Action-for-Blind-PeopleAction for Blind People’s Concept Conference Centre is celebrating its 10th birthday and highlighting the inspiring stories of its blind and partially sighted trainees.

The centre was set up in 2006 to provide training to people with sight loss and to challenge misconceptions about careers in the hospitality industry for blind or partially sighted people. Trainees are given the chance to gain experience in the kitchen or office to kick-start their career in catering and hospitality. The hard work of the centre and trainees has resulted in an 80 per cent employment success rate for the 32 paid trainees who have passed through the doors.

As part of the anniversary celebrations, each conference room is being redesigned to feature the story of a trainee and highlight their achievements. Delegates attending meetings will also be offered the chance to wear ‘sim-specs’, which simulate reduced vision, while eating their lunch or making a cup of tea.

Joanna Parsons, Concept Team Leader, said: “Concept conference centre has been a joy to work in with such talent coming through our doors. We have helped rebuild people’s confidence and teach them the skills they need to consider a career in catering or hospitality. It is also a great way to challenge misconceptions about how blind and partially sighted people can work to achieve their career dreams.”

Penny Buykx, who is registered blind and trained at Concept said: “When I first lost my sight all I could focus on were the things I could no longer do. Joanna invited me down to her kitchen and through tears of laughter and frustration, ‘can’t’ soon turned into ‘can’. The confidence the centre instilled in me paid off. I ran a bread department within a bakery for a group of high end restaurants and I am beginning to set up my own business.”

Chef de Partie at the conference centre. He said: “Concept isn’t just a matter of employment or money in your pocket, it changes people’s lives. Concept rebuilds all the skills that the majority of people take for granted, skills that I also lost when I lost my sight. It’s fantastic to educate delegates by showing them what we can do and also giving them a nice hearty meal.”

The centre holds five conference rooms offering high quality home-cooked food.

To find out more about Concept Conference Centre please visit

Action for Blind People is a national charity with local reach, providing practical help and support to blind and partially sighted people of all ages. Our close relationship with RNIB enables us to provide a unique combination of complementary strengths and expertise to help an ever increasing number of people with sight loss. Find out more at

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