Blind and partially sighted people face restrictions and barriers in undertaking tasks that most of us take for granted, especially in using the internet. Many have no idea how to access information leaving them isolated, lacking confidence and self-esteem.
Those who suffer severe visual impairments need the same opportunities as sighted people, but technology makes it possible only if there is access to it.
The Apple iPad is recommended by the RNIB as ideal for the visually impaired so we raised the funds to run sessions which provide one-to-one tutoring for visually impaired and blind people. Nobody else in this area is doing this.
The training sessions are led by an expert tutor supported by volunteers and include guidance on iPad built-in accessibility features, basic navigation, adjusting settings to suit different eye conditions, sending and receiving calls, text messages and emails, downloading applications, social networking and using the camera.
This service reaches people with visual impairments who may be lonely or living in isolated circumstances and offers companionship and enough support to control and lead the life they choose.
It is provided by caring, reliable and well trained volunteers, carefully matched up with a person who shares the same interests. They offer the chance to socialise, take up new activities and get involved in the local community once again.
The befriender may enable a visually impaired person to go out shopping or visit other family members, provide practical support in the home or supply company at a time of need. They may also help read mail, assist with hobbies and interests, and importantly, offer regular contact in person or by telephone.
Here is an example of how it works. In the volunteer’s own words:
I have been volunteering with the Lincoln & Lindsey Blind Society as a befriender for five months. I was matched up with Ruby as we both like doing the same sort of things. I take her out once a month and we have lunch, and then do some shopping. She likes to try on clothes, but she has difficulty reading size, price labels and distinguishing and matching colours, so I help her with that. We have a natter and sometimes walk in the park and we’ve become good friends. I really enjoy being a befriender and I know Ruby gets a lot from our outings. I would recommend volunteering to anyone, it’s time well spent for both parties.
Ruby tells us:
Thank goodness I’ve got someone to help me go clothes shopping, I can’t get out on my own, and I’ve been stuck in the house for ages. It’s so difficult to choose the right things that go if you can’t see very well and now I know that the clothes I buy will match! We have a laugh and we both like eating out, so it all works very well.
We provide a structured programme of activities and sports specifically designed and developed for visually impaired and blind children and their families.
Day or weekend sessions such as goalball, go-karting, archery, judo, water sports and trampolining are organised. Children may also try other sports such as shooting, fishing, climbing, canoeing and gymnastics along with day trips and activity weekends.
Here is some feedback from children who have taken part:
I am 15 years old. I have been taking part in all the children’s activities and it’s great as my family can come too. I got the confidence to enter competitions, and represented England in the 2012 Judo Championships in January and I won a Commonwealth Gold Medal which was a great feeling!
Jack has a degenerative condition which means he is profoundly deaf and visually impaired and has only about ten degrees of vision. He had suffered some blows to his self-confidence; taking part in the programme restored his self belief and the results are self-evident.
I am 12 and I used to be scared of water as I can’t see very well. I went on a water activity weekend and on the first day I learned to swim and on the second day I tried scuba diving, it was so good I want to do it again. I never had the chance to do anything like this before.