Note taking on a budget

Well, it’s February 2016 and my turn to write a blog has soon come around again!

I receive a wide range of queries and this time I’m going to discuss the subject of note taking, as it has arisen quite often.

Many people take the ability to write down a quick note for granted,  one of those things they do without really thinking about it.  They may keep a pen and note pad next to the phone or if they are into technology they may use the notes app on a smart phone to make a quick note such as a phone number or a message for a family member.  For blind people or people with low vision who can’t see to hand write, this is often more of an issue

Solutions range in price from about £30 to £300 depending on the complexity of the product and whether you want it to be more than just a note taker. I may look at some of the multipurpose devices in a future blog but for now I’ll concentrate on the more affordable products.

I am sure many of you reading this will have come across those small hand held voice recorders that accountants and doctors use for dictating letters and notes which are typed up by secretaries. Well, these, often just referred to as Dictaphones or voice recorders have not gone away and they can be purchased for as little as £30.  They are now digital however which means they do not use cassettes.

At this price, you can expect decent quality recordings and the ability to record 40 hours or so of notes. They can be split into different folders e.g. family, work, clubs etc. and any message can easily be deleted without affecting messages around it.  This is a distinct advantage over cassettes.  The cheaper models don’t talk but they do often have beeps which will give you a good clue as to what is happening.

RNIB sell one of these cheaper end models for around £40. It is the Olympus DP211 Notecorder.  This is described as Easy to see and while it has good large print and tactile buttons, only some functions have audible bleeps associated with them and deleting messages is particularly awkward if you do not have enough sight to read the display.

For people with little or no vision my current favourite is the Sony ICdbx140 available from PC world for £23.99.

This unit has buttons for play, record, stop, back a message and forward a message as well as a button to move between folders. Deleting a message is a matter of holding the slightly recessed delete button for a second or so, releasing it and pressing it again to confirm.

As with almost all of these products there is a settings menu which is fairly inaccessible and you may need initial help to turn bleeps on in this menu but this only need be done once and your settings are remembered when you remove the battery.

Model names do change regularly so I have not provided a link to any products here as they are likely to quickly become out of date.

Other devices for playing audio such as Daisy Players also have basic note taking facilities. They are more expensive, generally costing around £250 to £300 but if you are considering a device such as a victor Stream or a Plextalk Pocket then you will get note taking included so may not need a digital voice recorder.

I’ve taken up plenty of space already so it’s good bye from me until my turn rolls round again!



How sports changed my life!

Greetings to one and all!


It’s been a while since I last wrote a blog entry. However, I must confess I’ve enjoyed uploading and reading some inspirational and spine-tingling entries from the team, I hope you’ve had a similar experience and will continue to support, read and like this excellent blog.


Boosting participation in sport can generate a variety of socio-economic benefits. Sport can, and does, make a profound and positive impact on individuals, communities and wider society. In this blog, I wanted to illustrate the importance of sports, particularly to Vision Impaired people and the positive impact it has had on my life. Despite being from a sporting background, I never had the opportunity of playing any competitive sports until I was 17 years old. Although I did take part in rowing, ten pin bowling and athletics at School, sadly it was never at a competitive level. Thanks to the success of the London 2012 Paralympics, internet and the power of social media, people are now beginning to notice – support and aid in developing sporting opportunities for blind and partially sighted people. I’m confident and pleased to report it is now much easier to discover sporting opportunities, consequently Blind cricket, football and Tennis is flourishing. For example there were between 100 to 200 people playing blind cricket in the UK when I started playing for Metro and now there are 22 clubs and over 400 players enjoying the game! It is important to add, physical activity, including sport, is linked to reduce risk of over 20 illnesses, including cardiovascular disease and some cancers. In addition, taking part in regular sport can save between £1,750 and £6,900 in healthcare costs per person.


Being from a serious cricketing background it was always my passion to play cricket at an international level, but if it wasn’t for my School Linden Lodge and Metro Blind sport, I’d have never achieved my ultimate dream. I was fortunate enough to make my debut for the England blind cricket team at the age of 19 in Sri Lanka in 2006. When I started my international career, I was a timid, inexperienced and a frightened young man, lacking basic mobility skills! But thanks to VI sports, I believe I’m now a lot more confident, mobile and independent, which often leaves my family astonished considering I developed these skills at such a late stage in my life. Published studies show the positive effects of sport on education include improved attainment, lower absenteeism and drop-out, and increased progression to higher education. For instance, young people’s participation in sport improves their numeracy scores by 8% on average above non-participants.


We hope to work with Redlands and Marion Richardson School in the next few weeks in order to raise awareness of various eye conditions, introduce VI cricket and to raise funds for ELVis. I’d also like to thank 10 parents from Marion Richardson School who held a charity lunch and were amazing in raising £295 for East London Vision, we are extremely grateful and appreciate their generosity.


I’d like to point you to a couple of articles that have been recorded and written about me, which will hopefully show some of the barriers I faced and how I got over them. My story isn’t told for sympathy, but rather to push other VI people to take on similar challenges and to achieve their respective dreams. I sincerely do hope, it will encourage more of you to support VI sport in the future. These articles stem from England’s recent Blind Ashes tour of Australia, where I’m pleased to report, we were successful in retaining the Ashes! In fact we beat the Australians emphatically 4 – 1!:P


Just to reiterate, I have thoroughly enjoyed writing, uploading, tweeting and reading the various entries. However, my role at Thomas Pocklington Trust will be changing, so whilst I won’t be writing further entries, though I will avidly follow, like and read future blog entries!

My final thanks go to Team ELVis, for all your support!

It seems as if I have broken my own rules and clearly not kept to the word count, but considering it is my last entry, I’m hoping you will forgive me just this once!


Goodbye from Hassan:)



Accessible Implementation Standard – Call to Action!

Hello to all:)


A couple of weeks ago I attended an Accessible Implementation Standard implementation workshop, run by NHS England, and thought I’d take this blog opportunity to urge everyone to write to their GP, their clinic, their social services provider and inform them of their preferred format and communication needs.


Here’s why….


The NHS England Accessible Implementation Standard was approved and launched last summer. It is there to ensure that patients and service users (and, where appropriate, carers and parents) with information or communication support needs (relating to a disability or sensory loss) have those needs met by health and social care services and organisations.


This includes recording people’s preferred formats (eg. font size, text messages, emails, Braille, etc) and language/literacy needs (eg. British Sign Language, Easy Read, etc), and meeting those needs.


By 31 July 2016 all organisations that provide NHS or publicly funded adult social care must have fully implemented and conformed to the Accessible Information Standard.


Having attended the implementation workshop, I must say I will be very surprised if half the NHS and Adult Social Care providers have met these requirements by July.

There were over 100 delegates, inc. NHS Trusts, Public Health, CCG, Local Authority, plus a few Voluntary Sector reps & Information providers. At one point, ironically and almost laughably, they asked for a show of hands from each sector…. until yours truly pointed out that this was not at all accessible to the VI delegates!… so they then resorted to a flustered attempt to give an idea of percentages present from each sector.


However, that aside, most delegates at the workshop actively welcome this directive, as the need for it is apparent and its implementation could save a lot of time, money and wasted resources…. BUT


To my mind the issue is that whilst the Standard has been approved, launched and made a statutory requirement, there is no centralised monitoring of its implementation, no-one is charged with ensuring compliance, there is no tick box, no imperative to fulfil implementation by July 2016 (other than it is statutory and therefore open to legal action if it is not met).


So why should this succeed where the Disability Discrimination Act, Equality Act and Care Acts have not?


The onus will be on the Voluntary Sector to promote and monitor effective implementation (and to bring legal action if necessary) and on individuals to make their needs known and met.


The Accessible Implementation Standard does provide us with a much-needed opportunity to hold providers to account – we now have a statutory mandate with which to demand that the information we receive and the consultations (appointments) we attend are accessible to us.


By 1 April 2016 all organisations that provide NHS or publicly funded adult social care must identify and record information and communication needs with service users


So I urge everyone to write to their GP, their clinic, their social services provider and inform them of their preferred format and communication needs so that we can take the opportunity the Accessible Implementation Standard presents and ensure it is put to effective use. (TOP TIP: make sure you keep a paper and/or email trail as evidence of your communication… RNIB will have guidelines available from April:


Sharon Schaffer

Nicola talks about the wide variety of ELVis services she has been involved with

From swimming to chess to visiting Hindu temples, when I first got this job I didn’t realise just how varied it was going to be. Since I started in this post two and a half months ago, I’ve been able to help facilitate meals out, Christmas parties, several trips including visits the Greenwich Royal Observatory, the Houses of Parliament and the aforementioned Swaminarayan temple, members’ meetings with visits from Living Paintings and from a troop of firefighters, and I’ve been to many other meetings in preparation for planned events such as the swimming and chess sessions mentioned above.  It certainly keeps things interesting!  And of course, one of the best perks of the job is the fact that I get to attend most of these events myself!

The fact that we have been able to support such a variety of activities and events is great for our service users, as it means that we can help to improve the social opportunities for people with a wide range of different interests.  From people who want to get fit to people who are looking for more of a mental workout; from people who want to get creative to people who just want to have a good time.  We have held activities that have appealed to people with interests in anything from history to culture to design to food (and let’s face it, who doesn’t have an interest in food?).  There have been people who are just starting new hobbies to those who are picking up an old skill.  And these hobbies don’t necessarily have to be confined to the hour or two a week our users spend with us.

Take, for example, the chess classes that are going to be starting this Friday (more information on the News section of our website). Once our new users have learnt the basics of the game and practised with the other members of the group, they’ll be able to build up confidence in their own abilities and find that their newfound hobby has turned into a skill that they’ll have for life.  They’ll be able to play against VIPs and sighted people, take part in online games, complete chess puzzles, or even try out a tournament if they’re feeling brave!

We very much hope that the services we provide do help to improve the overall wellbeing for our service users, and a big part of that is offering a variety of different opportunities to them. And of course, we’re always open to suggestions.  So if there’s something we’re not currently offering that you would like to see happening, be sure to let us know and we will see what we can do for you!