Bedfordshire SLC delivers VI Awareness session at Marston Vale

This month, Bedfordshire Sight Loss Council (SLC) visited the Forest Centre at in the Forest of Marston Vale to deliver a VI Awareness session and provide feedback on the sensory garden. They also discussed how audio description could be used to enhance the experience for blind and partially sighted (BPS) visitors.

Bedfordshire SLC began by discussing various sight conditions, before moving on to some of the mobility aids that BPS people may use. The session then moved onto effective communication and sighted guide training. Attendees also tried simulation spectacles (sim specs) which simulate the various sight conditions some visitors may have.


Marston Vale staff sitting around a table talking at the VI awareness training.

Image shows Forest of Marston Vale staff seated at a table during the VI Awareness training session


Feedback from the session

Jo Roberts, Community Engagement Officer, Forest of Marston Vale, said:

“As a community forest, we are very keen to make our woodlands as accessible as possible. Working with Bedfordshire Sight Loss Council enables us to fill gaps in our knowledge to make our centre accessible for blind and partially sighted people. We want all our customers to be able to connect with our sites in an accessible way.

“We had a great take-up for the VI awareness session. It was attended by most of the ranger team, and several members of staff and volunteers.

“The session was delivered brilliantly, and it was incredibly useful for all the team here. We are already thinking about the small changes we can make to improve the experience of our woodlands and forest centre.

“We are very grateful to Samantha and her team for their time and support, and we’re looking forward to working in partnership over the months to come.”

Samantha Leftwich, Engagement Manager for the East, said:

“We spoke to blind and partially sighted people in the area about what they want in a sensory garden. We were then able to feed this back to the ranger team at the Forest of Marston Vale.

“We were also able to share these ideas on how the sensory garden can be made more accessible and enjoyable to the BPS community.

“This includes a tactile edge along paths and borders, the inclusion of a water feature, adequate seating, and ensuring that any plants are non-toxic for visitors with guide dogs.”

“It was a very positive VI awareness session, and everyone was eager to engage with our members. It is clear the Forest of Marston Vale is committed to improving the accessibility of the site and ensuring staff and volunteers have the knowledge and confidence to welcome blind and partially sighted visitors.”

Gina Mynors, a volunteer from the Forest of Marston Vale, added:

“The awareness raising session was excellent. It included wearing simulation glasses to experience eye conditions as a blind or partially sighted person, and a quiz to aid our learning.

“Being guided around the building whilst wearing the spectacles showed just how difficult it can be for visually impaired people in different environments, and the challenges they face.

“The most important thing is to make no assumptions and have a respectful open way of asking if any help is needed.”

Stefan Crocker, Bedfordshire SLC member, finished by adding:

“I was delighted to help deliver the VI awareness training at the Forest of Marston Vale. I was able to share my lived experiences with the team and was delighted at their interest and enthusiasm to learn. I look forward to working with them to provide a welcoming environment for visually impaired visitors in the future.”


Bedfordshire SLC is looking forward to continuing its partnership with the Forest of Marston Vale. They will be working with the team to produce large print and audio described maps and are looking forward to returning in the spring to hold a sight guided walk.


From left to right: Bedfordshire Engagement Manager, Sam Leftwich, Jo Roberts, Community Manager at Marston Vale, and SLC member Stefan Cocker. are standing by the SL banner, with guide dog Lizzie.

Image shows from left to right: Samantha Leftwich, Engagement Manager for Bedfordshire SLC, Jo Roberts, Community Engagement Officer, Forest of Marston Vale, and Stefan Crocker, Bedfordshire SLC member.

Join Bedfordshire Sight Loss Council

Bedfordshire Sight Loss Council is looking for new members. If you are blind and partially sighted, live in Bedfordshire, and want to improve services for visually impaired people in your area, we want to hear from you.

Sight Loss Councils are led by blind and partially sighted members and funded by Thomas Pocklington Trust. We advocate the needs of visually impaired people in our communities and work to improve access to goods and services at a local and national level.

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Publication date: 24 November 2022

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