Yvonne Richardson has been a member of the Birmingham Sight Loss Council since just after the launch in October 2016. Having previous campaigning experience, she was drawn to the Sight Loss Council as an opportunity to stand up for blind and partially sighted people.

Yvonne started to lose her sight in her 30s due to Retinitis Pigmentosa and was registered blind in November 2000. She moved to Birmingham in June 2016 and unfortunately lost her remaining sight not long after. Living with no sight and symptoms of Charles Bonnet Syndrome, especially not long after moving to a new City can be very daunting but Yvonne tackled this by jumping into the Sight Loss Council head first!

As Access & Good Rep, Yvonne sits on a number of Access Forums, including the Birmingham New Street Access Forum. As part of this she has been looking at making the train station more accessible and giving feedback on a new mobility lounge that is being developed. She also sits on the Access Forum for the Birmingham Hippodrome where she has advised on the accessibility of theatre shows as well as the upcoming refurbishment of their welcome area and café. In the near future, Yvonne hopes to become part of the Access Forum at the Birmingham Symphony Hall thereby promoting the voice of the Birmingham Sight Loss Council’s through yet another service.

Yvonne is keen to take part in as many Sight Loss Council events as she can and has even presented to the Women’s and Equalities Select Committee on behalf of the Birmingham Sight Loss Council. She is still keen to do more and uses her volunteering to learn new skills. She has recently started volunteering with Guide Dogs to improve her public speaking skills as well as office and administration expertise. Within her role on the Sight Loss Council, she also volunteers for Birmingham City Council as part of their Daily Opportunities programme where she helps to assess Council services such as libraries and leisure centres for accessibility.

Yvonne gets a great deal of satisfaction from volunteering her time and enjoys getting involved in different things. Her dedication and determination to improve services has recently seen her awarded West Midlands Volunteer of the Year at the Pocklington Volunteering Awards ceremony in June 2018.

When asked what she likes about volunteering, Yvonne said: “From when I first attended a Sight Loss Council meeting I felt as though I was joining a family – the group really has become a family of friends to me. I love giving back to my community and supporting others. If the work I do can help one blind person then it is an achievement.”

Yvonne’s confidence has clearly grown from when she first started with the Birmingham Sight Loss Council. This has led to her taking on new challenges including volunteering with a local Eye Clinic Liaison Officer (ECLO) which she thoroughly enjoys - “I get to use my own experiences to help others – and there’s never a dull moment! I’ve met some real characters in my volunteering roles!”

Yvonne isn’t slowing down, despite all of the Forums and Volunteering commitments she is hoping to undertake training to become an ECLO, she is learning Braille and is busy with her upcoming engagement celebrations.