Happy Anniversary: Celebrating change in the North West
This week we’re celebrating the anniversaries of two Sight Loss Councils. Our Greater Manchester Sight Loss Councils was launched one year ago on 29 March 2020 and our Merseyside SLC is celebrating its second anniversary on the 31st of March!
We look back at some of the work both SLCs have done to advocate for the needs of blind and partially sighted people.
As soon as it launched, Merseyside SLC members hit the ground running. They were involved in representing the views of blind people when the Merseyside travel charter was developed and they also reached out to the Apple store in Liverpool, to run assistive technology workshops. These sessions were run with Apple trainers demonstrating the accessibility features of Apple devices for blind and partially sighted users.
In November 2019, Merseyside SLC hit the shops for Purple Tuesday. They raised awareness of the simple ways retailers can make their shops more accessible for visually impaired customers such as clear signage, better lighting and assistance from staff. SLC member Laura Kennedy, who led on the Purple Tuesday activity said:
“It was so well-received by retailers who could see the difference they could make by adjusting a few things like simple layout and lighting.”
Bridge the gap
In February 2020, the SLC held an employment event at Anfield stadium. It brought together employers and blind and partially sighted job seekers. They discussed the barriers visually impaired people face into employment and shared ideas for meaningful change.
In March 2020, the Merseyside SLC teamed up with Bradbury fields to host a VI forum. The event gathered the views of blind and partially sighted people with the aim of setting the SLC’s agenda for 2020.
But, of course, barely a week after the forum, everything changed when Lockdown was announced on 23 March 2020.
Campaigning in Lockdown
All of the council’s meetings went digital and a big part of the council’s focused shifted to campaigning on the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.
For example, the council provided resources for the SLC’s national #DistancingBlind campaign which raised awareness of the social distancing challenges faced by visually impaired people.
The council has also been engaging with e-scooter operator VOI, which is running an e-scooter trial in Liverpool. The SLC has been campaigning for improved e-scooter safety for blind and partially sighted pedestrians as part of the Sight Loss Council’s national #StreetsForAll campaign.
The Greater Manchester SLC launched on 29 March 2020. In its first year the members have also tackled issues surrounding Covid-19, such as raising awareness of the challenges posed by social distancing measures and the dangers of fast and silent e-scooters
Many of the SLC members are keen podcasters. Gary and Ada were featured on an episode of Thomas Pocklington Trust’s Blindspot podcast in September.
They talked about e-scooter safety and the concerns they have as visually impaired pedestrians. This was followed up by a podcast published on Purple Tuesday. The SLC members teamed up with the Merseyside SLC to host a podcast all about accessible shopping experiences and positive action retailers can take to support blind and partially sighted customers.
For Volunteers Week 2020, Ada got behind the mic once again to share her experiences of volunteering with the Sight Loss Councils.
Sport and the arts
Many of the members are passionate about sport and the arts and the benefits they can have on confidence and general well-being. In their SLC meetings, many people have voiced the view that a lot of blind and partially sighted people have been denied access to sport due to delayed sighted guidance advice and inaccessible gyms.
The council will host a VI forum on 14 April to champion the benefits of getting active and creative. It will feature speakers including Paralympic world champion and food blogger Lora Fachie MBE and a live poetry reading from blind poet, Dave Steele.
Become a Sight Loss Council member
Inspired by what you’ve read? If you are blind or partially sighted and interested in advocacy and campaigning, you can now apply online to volunteer