My Training for the Peak District Challenge

I have given up my social life over the last 8 months training for the Peak District 50k Challenge taking place this September.  I and my Look Who’s Walking team members are hoping to be the very first blind and sighted group to undertake such an exhaustive challenge and to complete it in the allocated 12 hour time frame. The Look Who’s Walking team consists of Bhavini, Saul, Ian and myself.

I would consider myself reasonably active with a good base level of fitness due to my joy of seeking out adventurous activities, as well as regularly taking part in tennis and other sporting events.  I started the year by doing short walks of 5k three or four times a week, and over the months I have increased the distance I walk.

Most recently, I completed my longest walk of 24 miles. My fitness levels were certainly stretched!  With the final 3 miles being a struggle, the idea of jumping on the train at Cockfosters was extremely inviting.  However, I persevered and hit the 24 miles.  It isn’t every day that I’ll be able to say I’ve done 57,000 steps!

Personally, one of the biggest challenges has been finding people to guide me as part of my training during the evenings for a couple of hours and longer walks on a weekend to ensure I am well placed to complete the challenge. It highlights how an activity that is taken for granted by most people can instantly become inaccessible for blind and partially sighted people.  I am extremely grateful to my family and friends who have walked with me and supported my training efforts over the past 8 months, and are continuing to do so leading up to the event.  If it wasn’t for their support, I wouldn’t have built up the stamina to undertake such a challenge.

It has also encouraged me to step outside of my comfort zone and seek walking opportunities elsewhere. This has led to me attending a Meetup walking group, which for me was a huge deal to pluck up the confidence to not only be guided by someone I didn’t know, but to also walk with people I hadn’t met before. However, they were all super lovely and I’d happily walk with them again in the future even after my challenge. I believe mainstream activities such as walking should be inclusive, and I want to remove the need for vision people to only attend VI events.

Moreover, as part of my training, I’ve started making my own energy snack bars to eat during my walks. My speciality is a date-based bar.  They have become my pick-me-up when the energy levels are dipping.  After our 12 mile training day in June in the Peaks with terrain of various degrees of difficulty and the energy quickly disappearing, I can see myself chomping through several of my homemade creations on the big day.

For anyone wishing to sponsor my Peak District walk with the Look Who’s Walking Team, you can do so on our JustGiving page, or if you fancy walking with myself and Bhavini for the final few weeks, please contact us via the Look Who’s Walking website at https://www.lookwhoswalking.org/.

Hopefully my next update will be on the success of the challenge and how we all got on.  See you soon!

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The Look Who’s Walking Team high up in the Peak District during a practice run of the challenge.

Written by Masuma Ali, ELVis CEO

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Nicola’s Farewell Message

Saying goodbye is often very difficult.  However, knowing that you’ll be able to look back on happy memories can make it a bit easier to cope with.  Sadly, my time at ELVis has now come to an end, but I am lucky in that I am able to look back on the time that I’ve spent here knowing that I’ve had some great experiences and that I’ve learnt a lot along the way.

I’ve talked in this blog before about how little I knew about the sight loss world before I started my post with ELVis.  I was ‘blind’ to all the issues that VIPs have to face every day, but also to the myriad ways that people are able to overcome these in order to live an ordinary, and sometimes extraordinary, life.  My awareness of the vision impaired world has increased drastically, and this is knowledge that I will be able to carry with me and pass on to others.  I will now be a much more vocal supporter of disability rights as well as ensuring that I live my life in a way that is as inclusive as possible.  I would like to thank every single VI person who I’ve met over the course of this job for talking to me about your experiences, for giving me the opportunity to learn, and for being extremely patient when I’ve been slow to understand (and also when I’ve not been guiding very well and have caused you to trip up).

But as well as the more serious side, this job has also been great fun!  I’ve been very lucky and had the opportunity to go to places and try things that I never would have done otherwise, and to do so in the company of some great people.  I’ve already written a farewell letter dedicated to all the members and service users I’ve met over the course of this job, but I’d like to say, again, thank you very much.  Not all the activities went completely to plan, but you certainly helped to make them all thoroughly enjoyable!

And finally, I have to say a massive thank you to all of my ELVis colleagues, past and present.  This job wouldn’t have been anywhere near as enjoyable as it was without your support and guidance, or the many snacks you brought into the office!  It’s been wonderful getting to know you all, and I’ll miss you a lot.

Of course I’ll stay in touch and keep up to date with what ELVis is getting up to in the years to come.  I wish everyone all the very best, and I look forward to catching up with you when our paths cross again in future.

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Photo of Nicola holding up her leaving card and presents with the rest of the ELVis team.

Written by Nicola Stokes, ELVis Service and Delivery Manager

Christine’s Fruit Cake Recipe

As you might have gathered, I love making cakes as well as eating them.  One of my favourites is fruit cake which I am going to share with you.

Fruit cake ingredients:

  • 8 oz self-raising flour
  • 4 oz caster sugar
  • 4 oz butter or margarine, softened at room temperature
  • 2 medium eggs (beaten)
  • 4 oz mixed dried fruit
  • 2 oz glacé cherries
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C, 350°C fan or gas 4. Line and grease a deep 7-inch round cake tin.
  1. Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl. Beat in the eggs a little at a time, adding a little of the flour to prevent curdling.
  1. Fold in the flour using a metal spoon. Then fold in the fruit. Add a little milk until the mixture is a soft dropping consistency.  Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin.  Level the top of the cake.
  1. Bake in the oven for 1 – 1 ¼ hours or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
  1. Leave to cool in the tin for about 5 minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack.

HOPE YOU ENJOY BAKING THIS CAKE AND EATING IT!!

 

Written by Christine Edmead, ELVis Administration and Information Officer

The Hazards of Shared Spaces, Pavement Parking and Street Furniture

As confident as I may seem, there are things that really frighten me and actually put my life at risk!

It has been an ongoing dilemma for decades and it affects me now that I use a white cane as much as it affected me before.

Inconsiderate drivers who park on the pavement who force me to walk on the road, drivers who start to move whilst I’m still making my way across the zebra crossing, or even electric vehicles.

Vision impaired people rely on their hearing in addition to other senses or aids to distinguish when it is safe to cross the road, but electric vehicles, which make less noise than other vehicles, are dangerous, especially if the drivers are pre-occupied and not concentrating on the road.

Shared spaces is also a common battle that people with disabilities keep having to face and it’s about time that businesses, motorists and councils took this matter seriously.

Rubbish bins and bags, bike rails, A-boards and other displays businesses place on pavements are constant obstacles that people with disabilities have to try and navigate through. Before using my white cane, I fell over a carpet roll that was on display in front of a shop. I badly injured my hip and knees and was bruised quite a lot. On another occasion, I was shouted at and abused just because I knocked over an A-board, but they had no idea how terrible I felt, how much confidence it took away and how I felt scared of walking on main roads.

I really wish the general public would consider these small factors that could prevent hazards and not put disabled people’s lives at risk.

Having to walk out into the road with young children to avoid dustbins, overgrown bushes or a vehicle parked on the pavement, terrified me. I would wait for ages until I knew I couldn’t hear the sound of moving traffic, asking my children for confirmation.

Some areas have also removed the dropped kerb and made the pavement and road all one level which is so difficult to identify, especially when tactile paving is not used. I just wouldn’t know when I had entered the road and when I was back on the pavement. It is absolutely crazy that councils would agree for this to be introduced.

Blind and partially sighted people have to compromise their safety in all types of shared space situations which can certainly decrease their confidence in getting out and about.  All this does is increase isolation and the fear of the worst. I know as this is how I feel when faced with these circumstances.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, you can get in touch with your local council to let them know about the problem.  Councils are in a good position to make changes in this area.  For example, Hackney Council has announced a zero-tolerance policy on A-boards.  You can also contact TfL to let them know about an issue local to you, using this link: https://tfl.gov.uk/help-and-contact/contact-us-about-streets-and-other-road-issues.  TfL launched Operation Clearway in 2015, which aims to tackle part of this problem by engaging with businesses about their responsibilities to keep the pavements safe, and prosecuting businesses who refuse to remove their street furniture.

If you would like more information or to get more involved in this issue, you can get in touch with Transport for All, who have recently mounted a campaign to make the Government more aware of the problems with shared spaces: http://www.transportforall.org.uk/about/news/petition-against-shared-space-signed-by-50-organisations.

You can also sign this petition urging the Government to take swift action to tackle unsafe pavement parking: https://e-activist.com/page/27482/petition/1?ea.tracking.id=f8863c91.

Written by Bhavini Makwana, ELVis Activities Co-ordinator.

Photo showing Bhavini and her sighted guide walking along a high street, navigating around parked vehicles, A-boards and shop displays.
Photo showing Bhavini and her sighted guide walking along a high street, navigating around parked vehicles, A-boards and shop displays.

Beyond Sight Loss Fundraising Event Success

Just wanted to share with you what a great time I had when I attended a fundraising event.  The event was hosted by and in aid of Beyond Sight Loss which is a peer led support group for visually impaired people living in Tower Hamlets.

It was an excellent evening.  There was music being played in the background and lots of raffle prizes were won by the members, which included high street vouchers, teddy bears and exhibition tickets.  Beyond Sight Loss are very grateful to the individuals and organisations who donated their prizes to the group.  Moreover, prizes were handed out to members who were able to give correct answers to ‘Guess the Weight of the Cake’ and “How Many Sweets in a Jar”.

Members also enjoyed their three-course meal.  It included samosas for starters, Undhiu (a variety of unusual vegetables, prepared slowly with small mildly spiced dumplings), served with naan and raitha for the main course, and mango sorbet for desert.  The food tasted fresh and was very delicious to eat!

Towards the end of the evening, everyone was in a great mood.  The members were dancing on the dance floor and having a fantastic time.  What can I say?  The fundraising event was a success and I’m already looking forward to next year!

Well done Beyond Sight Loss for putting on such a great event and to chairwoman Ashrafia Chouldhury for making it all possible.  Congratulations!

Written by Christine Edmead, ELVis Administration and Information Officer