End of year Team Blog Part Three

Third instalment of end of year Team Blog

Well 2018 is nearly coming to an end and what a year it has been. Personally, I have won several awards to highlight the work I do to raise awareness, campaign, advocate and create engagement opportunities relating to sight loss and try my best to empower those less confident outside work on a voluntary basis.

As an Ambassador for Retina Uk, I was invited to Westminister Palace for a special celebration event. Introducing the Celebrating Diversity and Disability Category to a typical Beauty Pageant Talent show which vision impaired people had the opportunity to showcase their wonderful wisdom, tantalising talents and beautiful personality. If you would like to find out more about the next event, then please email bhavini@visualeyeswithbhavini.com I also became a Lady of the organisation Ladies of All Nations International where I am a representative for anyone wishing to find our more around vision impairment, raise awareness with living, dealing, coping and managing sight loss and still aim to achieve ambitions, aspirations and more.

This year has gone far too quickly and perhaps I feel this way as most of my weekends were taken up training for the Peak 50 Bronze Challenge which we, The Look Who’s Walking Team undertook in September 2018. Definitely the biggest and hardest challenge I have taken part in.

However my biggest life changing moment was being matched to my Guide Dog. he has certainly made a positive impact to my life and made me feel a great sense of confidence tackling routes and travelling in the dark. Of course I still feel that we need to still work on a few things but overall he has bought so much joy to my life already.

I am planning to take it easy in 2019 but honestly who am I kidding, I have so many ideas, hopes, bucket lists both in and out of work that I would like to work towards.

Hope you had a good Christmas and wishing you a very Happy New Year.

Written by
Bhavini Makwana

End of year Team Blog Part Two

Second instalment of End of Year Team Blog

We are coming to the end of 2018 just wanted to say we have had so many great outing and get togethers’ with members this year like going to various seaside places, museums, meals, quiz’s and many more. It’s been a pleasure to meet up with everyone seeing everyone making friends and building up their confidences in going out and socialising and building new skills.

It is been my pleasure and privilege to be part of these gathering and meeting so many great people. Looking forward to 2019.

Written by
Chris Edmead

I have really enjoyed working with the Elvis team over the last few months especially supporting and getting to know groups such as Beyond Sight Loss, SocialEyes and Vipon. I have been lucky enough to accompany the groups to lots of different places including Kensington Palace, Natural History Museum and the Olympic Park. As a West Ham United fan, it was really good to liaise with the club re accessibility in advance of the VIPON group trip to the London Stadium in November and I have to say the staff were extremely helpful and cooperative We all had a very enjoyable day as West Ham won the game against Burnley and it was so rewarding for me that all the group enjoyed the day especially those who had never been to a football match before.

Written by
Paul Vassilliou

The 3 years I’ve spent with Elvis have seen considerable changes in technology. One of the biggest changes to mainstream technology has been the introduction of voice controlled technology such as smart speakers as well as the evolution of voice assistants on both Apple and Android mobile phone platforms. This has been possible due to improvements in voice recognition technology and artificial intelligence, but the technology is still really in its infancy.

The Android platform has become more accessible, allowing people to have more of a choice than they have ever had when it comes to accessible mobile phones.

Electronic books have become more accessible. In particular, Kindle books are now accessible across a range of devices including mobile phones, computers, tablets and smart speakers.

One area where we are still somewhat lacking in accessibility is DAB radio and television. There are still no truly accessible DAB radios that I am aware of, and accessibility of television is more ;promising but information on the subject is scattered across a range of sources and generally quite hard to research.

Numbers of people requiring home visits or help by phone or email to help resolve accessibility issues have continued to increase. Rehab officers and other charities have made use of the service I have been able to offer and other services such as the Macular society and other parts of what will be London Vision have introduced similar services.

Written by
Graham Page

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year



End of year Team Blog Parts One, Two and Three

1st instalment of End of year Team Blog

It’s that time of the year where most of us reflect on the goings-on of the past 12 months, as well as the desires and wishes for the forthcoming year. We at ELVis will not be straying from the notion, thus over the coming week blogs from the team will be sharing some of their personal/professional memorable moments, in addition to aspirations for 2019.

Over the past 12 months I have been fortunate to have had various holidays, attended theatre shows, was the B1 runner up for the Tennis Nationals, as well as numerous things in between. Yet for 2018, there is no doubt that for me my greatest attainment for the year is being the first blind person to have completed the Peak District 50K challenge. It has granted me the opportunity to have built new connections, taken me out of my comfort zone in more ways than I had anticipated, and certainly taught me a thing or two about endurance training and stamina. One of the areas at work this year that has stood out to me would be the creation of our vision impairment awareness training videos on sighted guiding and the simulation of the most common eye conditions. These have proven to be an excellent tool for awareness raising despite my preference to not be featured in the videos!

Call me a cynic, but the realist in me never sets New Year’s resolutions because I don’t believe in setting myself up for failure. It doesn’t feel like a fresh start to the new year if you are doubting yourself by the end of January.

As many of you are aware we are currently in the process of merging with London Vision and therefore we’ll no longer be continuing with the ELVis blog. I know I know it is super sad, but you can put the tissues away because you can still hear what the team will be up to on the London Vision website. We’ll not be returning in 2019 as ELVis, but as LoVE (London Vision East) instead!! The first LoVE newsletter will be coming your way in January.

Wishing everyone a festive holiday and happy New Year.

Written by Masuma Ali


Last week marked International Volunteers Day which made me reflect upon my own volunteering I do and also how important and valued our volunteers are to us.

I started volunteering for RP Fighting Blindness back in 2014 on their helpline, and then for the RNIB as a Telephone facilitator. This was a group of around 6 Ladies who got together over the phone from across the UK and Ireland and it allowed them to share their views on sight loss related topics but also just things about general life, share tips on anything and discuss Ladies issues in a non-intrusive space

I also volunteered for RP Fighting Blindness by raising awareness by hosting charity fundraising events to support those affected with RP, their family and friends and bring information and other support services available to them. I later volunteered for the Pocklington Trust as an Eye Clinic Support Services Officer at an East London satellite site for Moorfields.

All my volunteering experiences allowed me to offer advice, information and guide them in the right direction to help them cope and deal with their sight loss and manage their day to day life, no matter what their age, how far along their sight loss journey they were on, what other family support they had but the fact that I was able to make a difference in a positive way made me feel greatly satisfied.

The reason I started volunteering was to give back to others that I had received from other volunteers in fact. RP Fighting Blindness was a life changing charity who supported me to get back on my feet and I wanted to show my appreciation and soon started volunteering for them. The rest just came up as opportunities and I just simply loved impacting and helping others whilst they adjusted and accept life as a vision impaired person. It’s a worthwhile and humbling feeling, knowing that someone has benefitted from what you shared with them, the time you gave them or just listened when they needed to talk.

Whilst working as an Activities Coordinator, I heavily liaised with the volunteering department to request volunteers to support our members to enable them to attend meetings, activities, or events which are organised, Our volunteers support by guiding, describing, listening and much more. Without our volunteers, some of our members would not be able to attend, which would only lead to increase isolation.
I recently took a group out to Madam Tussaud’s s part of a Focus Group, to test out their accessibility, I was delighted to have some corporate volunteers from the Standard Chartered Bank, who supported our members, which enabled them to attend and thus provide feedback.

Volunteering is so rewarding and empowering and it is wonderful to see more and more corporate organisations getting involved. If you would like to find out more about volunteering for either TPT or London Vision then please do get in touch with volunteering@picklington-trust.org.uk

For me volunteering enabled me to enhance my skills, give me the confidence to believe in myself and helped me start socialising, therefore improving my mobility skills. Volunteering can bring about so many opportunities both for Disabled and Abled individuals. If you do not know where to start, then, find your passion and research organisations from various sectors and approach them, what have you got to lose? If the organisation you approach has never had a vision impaired volunteer or employee, then please do get in touch and we can certainly point you and them in the right direction.

Written by Bhavini Makwana, Activities Co-ordinator, ELVis

A Focus on Healthwatch

For this week’s blog, I thought I would focus on the services provided by Healthwatch.
Firstly, what is Healthwatch? Healthwatch acts as an independent champion for local people with regards the health and social care services provided in their area. There is a local Healthwatch in every area in England and therefore there is one in each of the boroughs within East London Vision’s reach.

What does Healthwatch do? Each local team hosts local meetings and events to discuss services such as those provided by local hospitals, GP services, care and nursing homes and capture opinions, experiences (positive or negative), concerns, suggestions and feed this back in the form of reports that will be shared with the service providers, members of the public and the local Health and Wellbeing Board.

Each local authority has a Health and Wellbeing Board which meets routinely to discuss the service delivery and effectiveness of local health and social services taking in to account the needs of the local population. Members of the Health and Wellbeing Board include representatives from the NHS, adult social care and children’s services and elected representatives. Healthwatch representatives sit on this board in order to inform the views and opinions of local people and hold services to account where delivery is failing.

It is this process of feedback and accountability that makes Healthwatch a powerful resource for local people in getting their voices heard and I would encourage residents to become familiar with their Healthwatch to find out what is going on in their area. The local websites also promote local events for charities and organisations from the voluntary sector and provide a good resource for residents and services alike.
For example, residents of Redbridge may be interested to know that Healthwatch Redbridge’s next Annual General Meeting will take place on Thursday 13th December at 12.30pm at the Salvation Army Hall, 15 Clements Road, Ilford, IG1 1BH to review the work of this year and plans for the coming year – further details can be found on the website provided below.

Should you wish to find out more about your local Healthwatch, please find below the contact details of those situated within East London Vision’s area –

Healthwatch Barking and Dagenham, Lifeline House, 25 Neville Road, Dagenham, Essex RM8 3QS  Tel: 0800 298 5331 – web https://www.healthwatchbarkinganddagenham.co.uk

Healthwatch Hackney, The Adiaha Antigha Centre, 24-30 Dalston Lane, London E8 3AZ
Tel: 020 7923 8358 – web – http://www.healthwatchhackney.co.uk/

Healthwatch Havering, Queen’s Court, 9-17 Eastern Road, Romford RM1 3NH
Tel: 01708 303300 – web – https://www.healthwatchhavering.co.uk/

Healthwatch Newham, The Resource Centre, 200 Chargeable Lane, London E13 8DW
Tel: 0203 866 2969 – web – http://www.healthwatchnewham.co.uk/

Healthwatch Redbridge, 103 Cranbrook Road, Ilford, Essex, IG1 4PU
Tel: 0208 553 1236 – web – http://healthwatchredbridge.co.uk/

Healthwatch Tower Hamlets, Room 23, Block 1 (Trust Offices), Mile End Hospital, Bancroft Road, London E1 4DGTel: 0800 145 5343  web – https://www.healthwatchtowerhamlets.co.uk/

Healthwatch Waltham Forest, Waltham Forest Resource Hub (Central), 1 Russell Road,
London E10 7ES  Tel: 0203 078 9990 – web https://www.healthwatchwalthamforest.co.uk

Written by Paul Vassilliou, Development Manager, Central West London & North London Vision


Volcanic Vindaloo!

Well another Christmas has rolled around so I thought it would be a great time to combine food with technology!

Many people who know me will be aware that I love a good hot curry! If the thought of yet one more expensive overhyped roast turkey dinner is giving you the shivers, then you might want to consider the Volcanic Vindaloo from Morrisons! It’s a real satisfying tasty curry with a full-on chilli hit that still packs plenty of flavour. Morrisons website quite rightly describes it as the hottest supermarket curry in the UK, and the link to the description is here! https://groceries.morrisons.com/webshop/product/Morrisons-Volcanic-Vindaloo/393702011?from=search&param=volcanic%20vindaloo

While of course I am happy to talk about food all day every day, my blog always needs its fair dose of technology!
It so happens that Morrisons has one of the most accessible apps that I’ve ever come across when it comes to supermarket shopping apps.
I have only used Morrisons on the IPhone, but I believe that the Android app is also very accessible.

There are 2 features of the Morrisons app which really stand out for me.
Firstly, when browsing the app, you will see lists of categories in which products appear. On the first product list after selecting Browse for example you will see a list of categories.

As you swipe through them you will hear category name followed by the number of products in that category. At the time of writing, I hear Fresh, 3240 items, Bakery and Cakes, 542 items, Food Cupboard, 5315 items etc.

When your shopping has been delivered you can tap on Orders and Receipts and access an electronic copy of your receipt. This includes use by dates for the items in your order which means of course that you have a record of use by dates without having to scan your shopping or ask someone else to read the pack.

It should be noted that another shop, Ocado, has the same app. This delivery only company sells branded products and Waitrose products so it’s relatively expensive though good quality.

I hope you all have a good Christmas, may all your technology and food dreams come true!!!

Written by Graham Page, ELVis Assistive Technology Adviser.

Mince Pies

The way to get yourself into the Christmas spirit is to make mince pies, well that’s what I do. I thought I would share this recipe with you.

140 g Plain Flour
70 g Margarine
3-4 tablespoons water
1 Egg
1 Jar of Mincemeat
2 Party cutters one bigger than the other

1. Rub the margarine into the flour
2. When it looks like breadcrumbs, add the water and draw pastry into a ball
3. Grease 12-hole tin
4. Preheat the oven to 180 degree c
5. Divide the pastry into two with one half a little bigger than the other
6. Roll out the larger piece as thinly as possible
7. Using the larger cutter, cut out rounds (12) in the pastry
8. Place each round in a hole in the tart/mince pie tin
9. Spoon mincemeat into the pies
10.Roll out the remaining pastry and cut out the tops
11. Place the topes on the mincemeat, gently squeeze the edges to ensure the top stays secure
12. You can brush the topes with a beaten egg if you wish
13. Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes
14. Leave to cool on a wire rack, you can dust with icing sugar if you wanted to.


Written by Christine Edmead, ELVis Administration and Information Officer

Purple Tuesday and the value it brings

Tuesday 13 November saw the launch of Purple Tuesday, which encourages retailers to be inclusive and accessible to the 14 million disabled people in the UK.

Whilst it is a great initiative it needs to insure retailers embed the needs of disabled people at the forefront of their thoughts every day of the year. Oddly enough disabled people shop throughout the year just like everybody else! With this in mind everyday should be a Purple Tuesday for disabled consumers, so here’s to trusting this is the start.

There are already some great positive initiatives out there, which I’d like to highlight in this blog as they can at times be overshadowed by negative experiences. I myself being a vision impaired consumer have had many a misfortune of being on the receiving end of not so helpful customer service, or navigating an inaccessible website making me want to throw my mobile/laptop out the window. On the flipside I have had the welcome break of being treated with respect and dignity enticing me to part with my hard earnt money.

The first of which I would like to mention is the concierge service at Stratford Westfield. They have two concierge desks where you can request assistance. The idea is that a member of the concierge team will assist you to the retailer you desire to visit and get the attention of staff at the store to aid you once there. At this point the concierge staff will leave, but not before instructing the retail staff member on what to do once the customer has finished and should they require further support. The concierge staff are there to support customers visiting Stratford Westfield to various shops and restaurants, but not to help in reading menus, search for gifts, as this is the responsibility of the business in question. The team can be reached on 020 82217377.

The second of which I would like to mention is the personal shopper service at Lakeside in Thurrock. You need to book this service in advance on 01708 684351. The idea here is that a member of the personal shopping team will find out what it is you are looking for and you can then either choose to go with the personal shopper to a number of retailers, or you can decide to wait while the staff go around and brings a handful of items to you. This service is free to use.

With the lead up to Christmas we will be arranging for a trip to Stratford Westfield where blind and partially sighted people will have the opportunity to try the concierge service with the view that they can use it independently in the future. This event is to take place on Tuesday 27 November, time to be confirmed.
If you would like to attend, please call Bhavini Makwana on 07976 448824, or email bhavini@eastlondonvision.org.uk

We would love to hear your positive shopping experiences.
#PurpleTuesday #PositiveStories

Written by
Masuma Ali, ELVis CEO

My journey working with blind and partially sighted people

Firstly, I would like to thank the ELVis team for asking me to write this blog – it is a real privilege so here goes!

I wanted to use the blog to reflect on my own experiences working and supporting blind and partially-sighted people throughout my working life that extends way before my involvement of working with London Vision.

I started working in the health and social care field in 1990 as a change of career – my first role was as a care assistant in a large residential home for older people in Westminster. Unsurprisingly, some of the residents were registered blind but there seemed to be no additional support for this and the care that was provided was by willing staff who did not have the specific training with regards guiding people and being aware what was available by way of aids and adaptations. As a staff team, we did our best to provide support and being new to the sector I didn’t even think of suggesting that we contact the RNIB or other sight-loss specialist provider for support.

Throughout the 1990s and in the early 2000s, I worked within the home care and sheltered housing sectors. Again, I worked with blind and partially sighted people and the acknowledgement of their sight condition was somewhat better as aids and adaptations had been provided in the home by the local authorities’ occupational therapy teams. Some people had a designated visitor from what was known as The Metropolitan Society for the Blind for reading post and completing forms – today this service is known as BlindAid and I know that many people still value the support of this service.

The first occasion I had involvement with a member of a local authority sensory team was when I was managing a large sheltered housing scheme in Hammersmith. There was a couple living at the scheme who were both registered blind and for the first time I was privy to being involved with the types of practical support that was needed and voiced by the couple themselves to the local authority. However, the support that was provided was purely within the home – there did not seem to be opportunities available that extended to the local community.

Somehow, this all seems a long time ago. I have been most fortunate to have worked with Thomas Pocklington Trust and London Vision for the past six years and thus enhance my knowledge and experience of working with blind and partially-sighted people. In recent months, I have been working with the ELVis Team and I would just like to express what a wonderful team they are and how welcoming they have been to me.

In conclusion, what have I learnt thus far on this journey? The first thing is to say I will never know it all – working with people is an honour and a privilege and one can never be complacent as new scenarios and situations will surely arise – this is what makes life enriching, challenging and enjoyable. Secondly, when I think of my younger self in the 1990s I wish I could have contacted a group like the ELVis Team for guidance and support with regards best practice in working with people with sight-loss as well as the availability of social groups and expert advice regarding assistive technology – I did not have the awareness of such a group back then but it is so reassuring groups like ELVis exist to support blind and partially-sighted people and also give expert advice to health and social care professionals, friends and family members.

Written by Paul Vassilliou, Development Manager, Central West London & North London Vision


ELVis 5th Birthday Celebration

Last month, ELVis members and colleagues came together to celebrate the 5th anniversary of ELVis.

It was my task to organise the 5th birthday party and I wanted to ensure that our members would have an enjoyable time coming together.  Being a 5th celebration, I took that literally – as if it was a 5- year-old’s birthday party – with entertainment such as Pass the Parcel (with forfeits), Pin the mic on Elvis Priestly and a quiz with prizes to be won.  Fish and Chips only seemed right (as it was a Friday), and we had a delicious, mouth-watering cake, with snacks to keep everyone happy.

It was wonderful to see our members from all over East London, some who have developed the confidence to travel to our office using public transport independently or connecting with other members to travel together.

As the celebrations continued, members talked amongst themselves sharing recent events they had attended and useful information that they picked up at meetings.  Impressively, all the members willingly took part in the forfeits in the games, such as singing Elvis Priestley songs, dancing to the Macarena, doing impressions of celebrities and acting out scenes from TV and film.

Once the entertainment finished, ELVis CEO, Masuma Ali, gave a fantastic speech which highlighted ELVis’s achievements over the years and thanked all our members.  It was humbling to receive comments from our members: “I joined ELVis early this year and it has been a life saver – I don’t feel isolated and it has given me the confidence in being more active supporting my local group.” said Tolga from Hackney.  Glen from Newham shared that since moving to London, “It has helped me connect with others and enhance my social life, and I have enjoyed coming out on ELVis outings.”  Esther from Dagenham said, “I am so glad I came today.  I came all by myself by train and had a lovely time with everyone.  ELVis have supported me so much.”

As the Activities Coordinator for ELVis, I am so proud to witness our achievements and successes, and how our members have gone from strength to strength developing in personality, skills set and confidence.  Overall, it was an enjoyable and entertaining afternoon. Thank you to my colleagues and volunteers for assisting on the day.

As some of you may know (or may not), ELVis will soon become London Vision East and you may see our new name popping up here and there over the next few months.

I look forward to working with London Vision East and developing our services and continue to support those affected with sight loss, those just diagnosed, and those who need to access support a little later on in their life.

Photo of Bhavini, Masuma and Cathy from London Vision cutting the ELVis birthday cake.

Written by Bhavini Makwana. ELVis Activities Coordinator