“The Sight Loss Council members were so welcoming, friendly and incredibly knowledgeable. There wasn’t anything anyone couldn’t or wouldn’t help with, so I signed up! How could I not want to be part of this?”

Laura, 27, from Birmingham is a SLC member in Birmingham. She has been registered partially sighted since 2016. At that time, she had lost her career, her driving license, her confidence and ultimately herself. Laura spent years being sad, depressed, reclusive with no one to tell her how to adapt or carry on. She was hit with an overwhelming grief, feeling alone and isolated, she became anxious, scared to go out alone and struggled to adapt to her new life. Having always been an incredibly independent young woman, learning how to ask for help was difficult for Laura.

At this point, Laura was put in touch with a local charity who offered her support within the home, mobility training and also signposted her to other sight loss charities and events. She registered to attend a Working Age Forum (an employment forum for the visually impaired) and as Laura had faced discrimination at work, she decided to go along.

Although feeling anxious and overwhelmed about travelling, going to an unknown place and meeting new people, Laura was put at ease the moment she arrived and enjoyed the networking with amazing individuals who lived with sight loss themselves. After feeling so isolated for years, she described it as a breath a fresh air.

Laura now says “It was the best step I have ever taken. The WAF opened up a new world for me. I felt enabled and uplifted.”

One of the contacts Laura made became a very close friend, who she collaborated with on the Suddenly Sightless podcast.  Using Twitter, the pair we reached out to the Birmingham Sight loss Council to tell them about the podcast and were invited to a meeting with the Council.

Being part of the council empowered Laura to know that I could make a change. She has since been involved with many projects ranging from online accessibility with apps and websites, input into local events and changes and she even developed her own project with taking sight loss awareness training into primary education. Laura is incredibly passionate about improving the lives of those with sight loss.

“I am so thankful that I joined to become a member. Every meeting I attend is inspiring, we discuss issues, look at campaigning projects and I hope to continue to be a member for many years to come. Being part of the sight loss council has made me a stronger, wiser and much more confident person.”

While volunteering, Laura has not only from developed her campaigning skills, she has met amazing people who have shown her that she can carry on being the person she always has been. She feels empowered and more determined to make change knowing that she has the support of the Sight Loss Council. Laura does not feel alone anymore, knowing that there are people, like her, trying to make a difference, is inspiring.

The Council gave her the ability to unleash her passion, which led her to train as a young leader for the RNIB Connect+ community. She now runs a monthly peer-to-peer support group, called BRUMEYE, for 18-30year olds living with sight loss. Laura also now sits on the RNIB network committee in Birmingham representing younger people. The peer-to-peer support she receives has enabled her to feel empowered by my sight loss.

Laura says: “I have picked myself up, been part of some incredible projects, met amazing people and now have the confidence to stand here and say that I have not let my disability define me or stop me from living, I am using it to help others.”