‘We are a team’ Essex SLC work together to improve personal safety in Essex

Essex Sight Loss Council held it’s ‘Have your say on transport and safety’ event on the 25th of March. Sight Loss Council member Samantha Fox has been heavily involved in Essex Sight Loss Council’s work to improve blind and partially sighted people’s personal safety in Essex. We asked Samantha to tell us more about the Sight Loss Council’s work with Essex police and all about the Essex VI Forum. 

Samantha Fox and her guide dogEight years ago, I lost my sight, and I’m now totally blind. It is amazing how vulnerable this can make you feel. I can remember sitting in my son’s car on the way to the shops when I heard a car crash close to us. I sat in the car and cried because I was scared, I didn’t know if we were just about to be involved in the accident as the noise was loud, but I froze up and cried. I was scared. Luckily, we were safe on this occasion, not even involved in the accident, but I have been out and worried on several occasions. You can hear an aggressive argument, car drivers beeping their horns in anger at other drivers, and I have no perception of if this will be of risk to me. This does not even include the difficulties a blind or sight-impaired person faces every time they walk outside, only to find that bins or roadworks have blocked the pavements. It can be a nightmare in the outside world, but do sighted people understand… I never did or even gave it any thought!

I wanted to join the Essex Sight Loss Council since they seemed to be able to make a difference. The Essex group is a team of wonderful people who all strive to make things better in whatever way they can for blind and partially sighted people. We all support each other, knowing each other’s strengths and, therefore, who should address specific subjects. It was this fantastic teamwork that enabled us to put on the first Essex Sight Loss Council Hybrid event, and if I do say so myself, I thought it was great!

I explained why safety was the subject. However, the response we have had from this event is truly amazing. As a result of the meeting, Essex County Council Highways Department now wants to speak and liaise with us on future projects. The new e-scooter company will be working in collaboration with the Essex Sight Loss team to organise a couple of event days in the areas where e-scooters will be running. We have contact information for the local bus companies and a direct link. However, the best result from the meeting was our link to Essex Police.

Every Police force has what is known as IAGs (Independent Advisory Groups). Essex Police are actively encouraging greater liaison with blind and partially sighted people. Currently, we have a sight-impaired person in 75% of these groups. The feedback I have received from the organiser of these groups is a credit to everyone. It is surprising how little is known, even about the available local community help. Would anyone be surprised to see that it was a sight and hearing impaired person who told the police about Community advocacy? Essex Police are so impressed by all the Sight Loss Council members who have attended the IAG in their area. All have been invited to an invitation-only event at the end of May regarding Policing Excellence. This event will be attended by the Chief Constable and the Fire and Police Commissioner, amongst other guest speakers.

Essex Sight Loss Council hold the first-ever VI Forum

Glen Shuttleworth from Go East Anglia talking at the Essex VI Forum, with chair Sam FoxOn the 25th of March, Essex Sight Loss Council held a ‘Have your say on transport and safety’ event. The event gave blind and partially sighted people the chance to raise their concerns about personal safety, e-scooter trials, and accessible bus travel.

At the event, officers from Essex Police talked about a new protocol they are developing in collaboration with Essex Sight Loss Council to help blind and partially sighted people safely identify a police officer. They also spoke about their work to raise awareness of the needs of blind and partially sighted residents amongst their staff. 

The event hosted representatives from e-scooter operator Spin, who talked about their precautions to make their e-scooters safer, by educating e-scooter riders and introducing audio vehicle alerts. She also outlined out how people can report concerns and issues. Representatives from Essex Highways were also in attendance and spoke about their work to make their services accessible.

Glen Shuttleworth, from Go East Anglia outlined the training that it does for drivers but relies on feedback from the public. “We want to understand what we can do better. Our drivers know they need to give blind and partially sighted people time to get to their seats. Please do not be afraid to remind them of this and please do let us know if this is not happening”Glen Shuttleworth, Go East Anglia

In the very short time that the Essex Sight Loss Council has been running, our amazing teamwork has ensured that our presence is already being noted. Everyone works hard and is very passionate about the projects they are working on. Probably one of the great things is that we are a team who are not only friends but also work extremely hard to promote a better way of life for everyone who is blind or partially sighted in Essex. Our next event will be in November, and I hope that other Sight Loss Councils will be able to join us on the day. Thank you.

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