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

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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.

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

Written by Bhavini Makwana. ELVis Activities Coordinator