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For this award we wanted to hear about how Visionary members had disrupted their usual service delivery model to create or develop a service or initiative that has benefited visually impaired people locally. This could include, but is not exclusively about where an organisation has developed its’ services in response to COVID-19.
Beacon Vision have worked with partners to develop an integrated pathway of support that uses a person-centred approach to ensure that no one with sight loss ever feels alone or forgotten. Whatever stage people are at in their sight loss journey, it is a first port of call for people needing more help. The aim is to inspire people to see beyond their sight loss while increasing confidence and independence.
They have completed 700 referrals in the first year of the programme using an initial assessment to create an individualised package of assistance. Services could include emotional support, technology and equipment demonstrations and signposting and they are all delivered by expert, compassionate staff, 50 per cent of whom have lived experience of the issue.
Mutual cross-referrals means that the whole person is considered. Beacon Vision made almost 225 outgoing referrals in the past six months both internally and externally allowing people to improve their digital skills, access benefits advice and befriending programmes. This has meant they have been able to strengthen relationships with local partners and raise awareness of sight loss in the community.
Their pathway also offers support to family members, both indirectly by increasing the confidence and independence of someone with sight loss and directly, with emotional support and practical advice. By addressing people’s emotional and practical needs in addition to their clinical requirements people are better supported, more independent and more confident as a result.
Forest Sensory Services
Whilst other organisations were reducing services during the pandemic, it was recognised that blind and partially sighted people within the area needed more support. Forest Sensory Services decided to create a “one stop help shop” – a helpline for any issue during the 2 lockdowns.
They centralised local information and made it user friendly including government guidelines, supermarket information and additional support. The helpline became a lifeline for many. Some of the help and services given include:
emotional support, funeral arrangements, advocacy blue badge and attendance allowance, passport application, safeguarding, representative at police interview, hospital forms, online shopping – Brazil nuts to shavers, mouse catcher, hearing aid batteries, house move forms, fraud investigation support, organising carers, grant applications for equipment, banking advice, supermarket shopping, dog walkers, rehoming cats, sorting broken down freezers, helping with IT and sorting paperwork backlogs. The list is endless.
Monthly calls were made to each of the 250 members to check on their welfare and to ensure they knew where to get help if needed. Forest Sensory Services set up a buddying telephone line, among 70 clients. Each person had at least 3 telephone buddies. This reduced the isolation and supported wellbeing. Many have become firm friends and those friendships continue today.
As the organisation moves forward the trust continues. They are now seen as a support organisation whom they can confide in and rely upon. Forest Sensory Services are on hand to signpost, but it goes deeper than that – they are now truly a family that cares.
My Sight Notts are bringing astronomy to blind and partially sight people in partnership with Nic Bonne (University of Portsmouth) and Chris Harrison (Newcastle University), both astronomers. Using audio and tactile models to bring a multi-sensory astronomy experience for blind and partially sighted people, the My Sight Notts Astronomy club aims to break barriers and bring astronomy to those that have traditionally been left out!
Did you know that a galaxy called Messier 51 is ‘eating’ a smaller galaxy nearby? My Sight Notts didn’t either until they started their Astronomy Club. Bringing astronomy to people with sight loss has been a revelation – they have seen their confidence grow as they have become more immersed and interested in the subject. They have seen people’s knowledge and understanding grow. Most importantly, throughout the pandemic, they have seen people making new connections with each other over a common interest.
Who said astronomy wasn’t for people with sight loss? Not My Sight Notts!
Visibility Scotland believe children and adults with a vision impairment should receive the same access to education, employment, healthcare, social care and leisure as everyone else. This access should have no social, emotional or physical barriers!
During a time of global panic and uncertainty, children and young people with a vision impairment experienced a greater level of loneliness, isolation and exclusion due to the inaccessibility of services, educational materials and the new world of online friendships.
To address these disparities, Visibility Scotland created their ‘Shine On Access’ project. The aim of this which was to reduce the inequalities faced by young people who have a vision impairment to access the digital world. For many children, Assistive Technology represents the difference between enjoying their rights or being deprived of them.
Their usual services were disrupted as they were unable to reach children and young people face to face. ‘Shine on Access’ allowed them to increase their interaction with the group through the use of digital platforms, while enhancing peer relationships and support networks for the children, young people and then their families too.