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