Hello and welcome to my first EVER Blog! Firstly, let me introduce myself, my name is Bhavini Makwana and I am the new Activities Coordinator and started mid April 2016. Prior to this I volunteered for RNIB as a Telephone Facilitator, the RP Fighting Blindness Charity as one of their Helpline Assistants and as an Eye Clinic Support Services Officers at one of Moorfields Satellite sites. I also founded and created SocialEyes – a social group for Vision Impaired people in Barking and Dagenham. So you can say I am very passionate about providing support, information and promoting services and opportunities to those affected with any form of sight loss. Encouraging those who need guiding into being independent and showing them different ways of how this can be achieved, for those who are ready. Having being diagnosed with /Retinitis Pigmentosa for the past 19 years, I can definitely relate to the issues, barriers and hurdles Blind and Partially Sighted people have to face. Raising awareness and promoting accessibility is very important to me.
I love to organise events, trips, activities and gatherings/parties and have lots of experience in this. So I guess you can say this is the perfect job for me and I definitely agree. Liaising closely with the 7 Boroughs of East London that ELVis look after, a challenge that I am overcoming is travelling independently on public transport. The thought of getting too close to the platform edge or getting on the wrong train or bus and arriving at an unfamiliar destination, would certainly worry and panic me. Inevitably, travelling is part of my daily routine and sometimes to more than a couple of destinations a day. I am quite ecstatic to share that I am travelling and conquering one of my fears, I have come to learn that the train staff at Underground and Overground stations are fabulous in assisting Vision Impaired People. For those who have never used the assistance before, let me describe what a typical journey would be like.
Arriving at my 1st station I will make my way to the sound of the bleeps of tapping Oyster Cards at the barriers. A member of staff will approach you or a kind passer-by by asking if you need any help. Informing them where I would like to travel to, they will plan the easiest route to your final destination. Calling up ahead to the station that you will be arriving to, they will let the staff know what train I am on, what time it left my current station, what time the train will arrive at station I am travelling to and what carriage I am in. Once I arrive, a member of staff will already be there waiting for me to either help me out the station or repeat the process if I need a connecting train. I have found this service really valuable and reassuring and has definitely made me more confident in travelling independently. Some of the staff I meet regularly have come to know me and are extremely helpful by walking me out the station and to the nearby bus stop that I need.
I have also come to discover the acts of kindness of random strangers from simply asking me “Do you need any help?” by helping me cross the road, finding me directions, and some even getting me into the train station and waiting with me until a member of staff is available.
Well I hope I have given an insight into how terrified I was about going out and about on public transport alone but now I am not only travelling in my area, but across East London and occasionally throughout the Capital. Why not give it go with a family member or friend until you can do it independently, it will certainly boost your confidence and help with not relying on others and waiting for them to take you out.
Well look out for my next blog where I will share what activities the groups have been on since I have been with ELVis, but in the meantime you can contact me if you would like to find out more about the Social Groups near you.
Thank You for reading!
East London Vision
Supporting people with sight loss
T: 020 3697 6464
M: 07976 448824
Charitable Incorporated Organisation number: 1154207