One thing I learnt in the sight loss awareness training that prompted this series is, every blind or partially-sighted person is entitled to an assessment of their care needs. During that assessment, social services will categorise their needs as Critical, Substantial, Moderate or Low. Shockingly, many fall into the Low category, for which no funding is available. Now, I don’t think I’m someone who likes to play the sympathy card, especially when it comes to being assessed. Organisations will advise you to paint the blackest possible picture, but I think it’s really important to be honest about what I can do, so I don’t currently have any help from social services, but I do have a volunteer from a local organisation come to read my post once a week. This is very beneficial, but you do have to be organised, E.G. what if your volunteer’s been on Wednesday, but it’s someone’s birthday on Monday and you’ve forgotten to ask her to write their card? Thankfully I have friends/family nearby and a lovely, small, family-run card shop. They’ve addressed a last-minute card for me before now, but if your local card shop is a chain and staff are constantly busy, they may not be able to do this.
To help someone with sight loss, I’d really recommend seeing what’s available locally. (Non-UK readers, please bear with me for a minute.) You used to be able to look for your local Association for the Blind. They now have more abstract names like Sight Concern or Vision Link, but I’m sure if you contacted your County Council, they’d point you in the right direction. Though RNIB is a very high-profile charity, I really don’t understand why. Admittedly they do have a great selection of products to help with everyday life, but blind and partially-sighted people still have to pay for these. Now they’ve merged with National Library and Action for Blind People, there are the books and holidays as well, but I think local organisations are far better when it comes to meeting your needs as a blind person. There are more benefits to RNIB when you’re a member, E.G. getting books transcribed into Braille free of charge.
What was that about holidays? Yes, there are holidays that cater specifically for visually-impaired people. Action for Blind People run hotels in Devon, Somerset and the Lake District. A friend has been on several of these holidays and loves them, but because I’m wary of dogs, she’s cautioned they wouldn’t be for me. (In hotels like these, a high proportion of the guests will be guide-dog owners.) If you’re a Christian, you might enjoy a Torch holiday, or if you’re more adventurous, Traveleyes take blind and sighted travellers to all sorts of destinations – Cape Town, Canada, Jersey, York … Can you tell this is the one I’m leaning towards? Sighted travellers receive a discount in exchange for guiding a blind person, so blind people have to pay more in order to subsidise their guides. Fair enough, but it is very expensive. One day when I’ve got the money, I’d love to go to Cape Town, or on the holiday they call Rhythms of the Deep South.
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If you’re supporting someone with sight loss, my recommendation would be to get as much advice as you can, from as many different organisations as you can. I hope this series has given you a starting-point to be able to do that.