Celebrating our achievements
Our Sight Loss Councils (SLC), led by blind and partially sighted members, worked on some brilliant projects in 2022. Their hard work paid off and we saw some great results for blind and partially sighted (BPS) people locally and nationally. Whilst they finalise their planning for 2023-24, we thought we’d revisit some highlights, celebrating their achievements from last year.
‘A Perfect World’ – Sight Loss Council conference 2022
In October, members from 14 SLCs came together to collaborate and celebrate their achievements at our second annual conference.
The theme was ‘A Perfect World’. This was explored through guest speakers, workshops, and presentations.
The weekend was a huge success with SLC members taking inspiration from each other’s work. Everyone left with fresh determination to create positive change for BPS people.
Merseyside SLC member, Julie Lee, is stood with Judith Potts, trustee of Thomas Pocklington Trust. Julie is holding her Rodney Powell ‘Volunteer of the year’ award.
As our work is recognised in the country, demand for our services has naturally increased.
In 2022, we launched two new SLCs in East Sussex and Worcestershire. We have plans for additional SLC launches over the coming years. This includes North Yorkshire, South West London and West Sussex Sight Loss Councils being launched this Spring.
Listening Month: What matters to you?
In November 2022, Sight Loss Councils and Thomas Pocklington Trust joined together to ask blind and partially sighted people ‘What matters to you?’
Listening Month saw SLCs host a range of activities and events across the country. We wanted it to be an open opportunity for BPS people to have their say on all the issues that are important to them.
This will inform our future work. The information has also been collated into a report, which will be shared later this spring.
Here are just some of the highlights from Sight Loss Councils’ regional projects in 2022.
Our #MakeStreetsAccessible campaign works to raise awareness of the impact that street clutter and obstacles have on BPS people. The aim is to ensure all visually impaired people can navigate the streets independently and safely.
To do this, we invited council representatives across the country to experience what it feels like to ‘walk blind’ by participating in one of our sim spec walks.
Sim specs are special glasses which mirror some of the various sight loss conditions many BPS have. They allow the user to understand what it is like to navigate town centres with a visual impairment.
Here are some examples of this work:
East Sussex Sight Loss Council
Since its launch in May 2022, East Sussex SLC began to work closely with Brighton & Hove City Council to make our streets more accessible for BPS people. This includes ensuring the needs of BPS people are considered during the planning stages of any future developments.
For example, in July we met with Councillors from Brighton & Hove’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee who took part in a sim-spec walk. The walk, as featured by BBC South East Today and BBC Sussex Radio, aimed to give the Councillors an insight into the challenges presented by clutter and obstructions on pavements and walkways.
In September, Brighton & Hove City Council’s Transport Projects and Engineering team participated in a sim-spec walk to inform proposed developments to the Hove station corridor. This partnership is continuing to grow.
Council leaders from Stroud District Council and Wotton Under Edge Council, stood with Gloucestershire Sight Loss Council members, during a sim spec walk
Gloucestershire Sight Loss Council
Gloucestershire SLC has been working with councils in Gloucester and Stroud to address the challenges BPS people face in town centres.
Councillors and officers from both councils participated in sim spec walks. The group also discussed some of the changes the council could implement to make the streets more accessible for BPS people.
As a result of our work, both councils have committed to taking their experiences into future decision making. Further sim spec walks are planned in 2023 with other district councils across the region.
West Yorkshire Sight Loss Council
In September, representatives from Calderdale Council, Hebden Royd Town Council, and the Business Forum experienced how it feels to walk blind during a sim spec walk in Hebden Bridge. The aim was to reduce street clutter and obstacles so blind and partially sighted people can navigate the streets independently and safely.
The walk was initiated ahead of Calderdale Council’s launch of a new A-board licensing policy, developed alongside West Yorkshire SLC, which includes a trial ban on A-boards in the centre of Hebden Bridge.
The walk was covered on national and regional TV and media. Local councillors and business leaders in Calderdale reported that they felt the challenges BPS people face in Hebden Bridge could be resolved.
Our SLC’s continued their work to make retail accessible for BPS people. This included providing vision awareness sessions to retailers, trialling navigation apps in store, participating in Purple Tuesday and raising awareness of the purple pound, and launching a guide for retailers.
Black Country Sight Loss Council
As part of Purple Tuesday 2022, Black Country SLC members worked with over 25 retailers at Merry Hill Shopping Centre to help make retail more accessible for blind and partially sighted customers. To do this, we delivered vision awareness sessions to retailers and shopping centre management. We also took sim specs into retail spaces for staff to wear whilst they shopped. This enabled them to experience what it feels like to shop as a blind or partially sighted customer.
As a result of our work, Black Country SLC has been invited back to deliver further vision awareness sessions this year.
Greater Manchester Sight Loss Council
Greater Manchester SLC held their ‘Making retail accessible’ VI forum in July. This event was attended by more than 40 BPS people and included guests from John Lewis and Manchester Arndale.
At the event, BPS people outlined some of the difficulties they have when shopping. This included locating items in shops, needing more help from retail staff, better lighting in shops, and keeping walkways clear. Attendees were also able to explore technology that could help them when out shopping.
Since the event, Greater Manchester SLC has gone on to produce a ‘Top tips for retailers’ resource. This invaluable resource is available to retailers across the country.
Greater Manchester SLC member, Anthony, with retailers at Manchester Arndale shopping centre, raising awareness of what it means to be blind or partially sighted
Transport continues to be a huge barrier to blind and partially sighted people. Our #MakeTransportAccessible campaign fights to ensure BPS people are able to rely on accessible public transport to travel independently and safely.
Bedfordshire Sight Loss Council
Bedfordshire SLC began working with Luton Rising to inform the development of a new transit shuttle, the Luton DART. The Luton DART will whisk passengers from Luton Parkway station to the airport terminal in under four minutes. Our feedback will help ensure the new transit is accessible to BPS travellers.
Examples of this work to date includes informing their tactile wayfinding routes (signage) and audio-visual announcements for BPS people. We are continuing to support Luton Rising ahead of their launch to help make transport accessible for blind and partially sighted people.
Samantha Leftwich, Engagement Manager for East England, with Bedfordshire SLC members on the Luton DART
Bristol Sight Loss Council
Bristol SLC teamed up with Network Rail, to launch a first-of-its-kind audio guide for Bristol Temple Meads station. This is to assist BPS people with wayfinding at the station. The guide comprises 12 audio files and is easily accessible from any personal device, such as a smartphone or tablet. Each file will guide the listener safely through a section of the station, making it far easier to navigate for blind and partially sighted people.
It’s the first time that such a tool has been made available at any Network Rail managed station. Network Rail wants to continue working closely with Bristol SLC and users of the audio guide to further improve this technology and roll out these guides more widely across the country.
This work was covered by national media, featuring on TV, radio, and print.
Northumberland Sight Loss Council
In March 2022, Northumberland SLC teamed up with Newcastle International Airport to run an AirTag experiment to help BPS people locate luggage on a carousel independently.
For many visually impaired travellers, trying to correctly identify your luggage can a daunting prospect. Apple’s AirTag is a small Bluetooth powered item tracker that can be placed inside a suitcase. Using Apple’s ‘Precision Finding’ feature it should be possible to determine the exact distance and direction your bag is traveling in on the luggage carousel.
Birmingham Sight Loss Council
Birmingham SLC helped ensure the delivery of the most accessible Commonwealth Games to date.
We sat on the ‘Accessibility Advisory Forum’, ensuring that every aspect of the games was accessible. SLC members also volunteered at the games, delivered vision awareness sessions, tested apps, and helped with navigation.
Other work included ensuring audio description, volunteer wayfinding and signage was accessible.
One of our proudest moments was SLC member, Claire Williams, being invited to carry the Queen’s relay baton.
“We will take our learning from this experience to ensure blind and partially sighted people have access to be involved with, and watch, sporting events and activities in our area.”
Louise Connop, Senior Engagement Manager, Central England.
Essex Sight Loss Council
Essex SLC worked with Essex Police to create a new Visual Impairment Procedure (VIP). This allows BPS people to identify a police officer at their door.
The procedure involves using a one-time memorable password agreed between the caller and call handler at 101 or 999. As a result of its success, discussions are being held to roll this out on a national level. This new way of working is optional and can be used by anyone who is blind or partially sighted. It can also be used by anyone who cares for or supports them.
London Sight Loss Council
50 blind and partially sighted people attended London SLC’s ‘Are you getting the full picture?’ event at The Postal Museum to learn about audio description (AD).
Guest speakers working in TV, film, theatre, museums and galleries, and premier league football, joined us. Each shared the various ways BPS people can participate in arts, culture, and sport through AD.
Attendees also had the opportunity to participate in an audio-described tour of the museum and ride on the museum’s Mail Rail.
“Having such great professionals advocating across a wide variety of entertainment gives me hope for the future of audio description.” Jonathan Abro, London SLC member
An attendee at London SLC’s audio description event shown riding The Mail Rail
Merseyside Sight Loss Council
Last July, over 80 people came together in Liverpool to attend Merseyside SLC’s ‘Metro Mayor’ event, despite a rail strike being in place. BPS discussed the key issues that are most important to them and put key questions to the Metro Mayor. This included issues related to employment, transport, health and wellbeing, and accessibility.
One of the biggest issues raised by BPS people was public transport, which will now be one of the big projects that we focus on for 2023-2024.
Tyne and Wear Sight Loss Council
Tyne and Wear SLC delivered a powerful workshop ‘Linking the mental health and sight loss pathway in the NHS’, at our 2022 SLC volunteer conference.
At the workshop, they explored what a perfect world would be in terms of the provision of mental health services for blind and partially sighted people. This included:
- mental health services providing an accessible environment for all BPS people
- everyone who uses eye care services being offered support for their emotional wellbeing at various times during and after any diagnosis
- a relationship between the SLC and the mental health service providers in the region.
Tyne & Wear SLC continues to work towards making a significant change regarding this issue.
Hazel (second from left), sat with other SLC members, during a workshop at the SLC conference
York Sight Loss Council
Last summer, York SLC brought together over 40 BPS people from across York to join their ‘Let’s get active’ multi-sport taster event. Participants were invited to try a range of activities which included VI football, tennis, cricket, and swimming, amongst many more.
The event was a huge success and provided a great opportunity to highlight some of the activities on offer across the region. Since then, a new VI tennis group has started, with plans for VI Tai Chi underway. New cricketers have joined Yorkshire’s VI Cricket Club, and the tandem cycling club also had new members join them. Many attendees reported that following the event, they would like to return to their preferred sport after a long break.
Image shows a young boy, called Teddy, getting ready to try tandem cycling at York SLC’s ‘Let’s Get Active’ event for blind and partially sighted people
About Sight Loss Councils
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 February 2023