VIPON’s London Zoo Outing on the 29th of June

We were joined by Aqua Ephraim and Tahira Malik at the ELVis office recently and they shared their experience of VIPON’s (Visually Impaired Persons of Newham) trip to London Zoo on the 29th of June.

How was the journey to the zoo?

We all met in Stratford in the morning and we took the Overground train to Camden Road Station. From there we took a bus directly to the zoo. It was a pretty straight forward journey.

What was the group’s impression of the zoo?

The terrain at the zoo was very hilly which made it challenging for some of us in wheelchairs to get around. Also, we didn’t have a member of staff from the zoo guiding the group so we had to rely on ELVis volunteers to be our guides and describe the surroundings. On a positive note, we saw lots of animals including giraffes, flamingos, monkeys…the list goes on! Although, we were disappointed we didn’t get to see the tigers and lions- they were probably resting because of the hot weather. Our newest member Muqqadas who was attending her first outing with the group said she liked the zoo very much and was glad she came along, especially because the group made her feel very welcome.

What was your favourite part of the zoo?

We both loved seeing the tropical fishes and underwater plants at the aquarium. For some of us with some sight the colours of the sea life stood out which made the experience really enjoyable. Also, most of the members really liked the penguins because they could see their black and white skin. We watched them swim and act silly while they splashed us!

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Photo of Shahid, ELVis service user, crouching down in front of a large perspex water tank with swimming penguins.
How accessible was the zoo?

I’d say it’s fairly accessible- the zoo is mostly sight orientated so more work should be done to make it a better experience for VI people. Although saying this we were able to smell the different animals which was helpful for members of the group with very little or no sight. Also, the facilities at the zoo were great and the group loved eating in the restaurant because the air conditioner helped them to cool down.

And what are your overall thoughts about the outing?

It was the hottest and longest day of the year but we enjoyed ourselves very much. VIPON would like to say a massive thank you to the ELVis volunteers and members of staff for making the day accessible and enjoyable for all. Well done!

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Photo of some members of the VIPON social group looking happy and standing besides a very large sign that says ‘welcome to the zoo’.
Written by Aqua Ephraim, Tahira Malik and Ray Calamaan

Dementia Awareness training with Redbridge Council

While here at ELVis we obviously focus on the issues surrounding sight loss, it’s worthwhile remembering that people can have complex needs, and sometimes people with a visual impairment can be experiencing other issues as well.

A couple of weeks ago, a few ELVis members of staff went to Redbridge Council to receive training in dementia awareness, to become Dementia Friends.  Dementia and sight loss are more closely related than some people realise. Both conditions tend to be more common in older people; it’s not unlikely that someone could naturally develop both conditions independently of each other, but sight loss can sometimes be a consequence of the dementia itself, or both conditions might originate from the same source, such as a stroke.

Furthermore, a person living with both of these conditions may experience more obstacles than someone with just one of them.  For example, a person with both dementia and sight loss may get disorientated more easily, have an increased risk of falls, or have more difficulty in recognising people.

Therefore, it’s very important to educate ourselves on what dementia is, and what we can do to help those who are living with it, which was exactly what our training covered.

The training began with talking about common ideas and misconceptions about dementia, and we discussed how people with dementia can still communicate effectively, that there is more to a person than their dementia and that it’s possible to live well with the condition.  These were very important messages, as people can often focus solely on the negatives when they or a loved one are diagnosed with dementia. It was encouraging to learn that the future isn’t always as bleak as people might fear.

Another important lesson that we learned from the training was that, while people with dementia may struggle to recall recent ‘factual’ memories, such as where they went at the weekend, they are in general much better at retaining ‘emotional’ memories.  This means that, if someone visits them and they end up having an argument, an hour later they may not remember that they were visited but they’ll still feel upset, whereas if someone visits and they have a great time, although they might not remember the visit later on, they’ll still feel the happiness that the experience brought them.

Learning more about dementia and understanding more about its causes and effects will definitely help us all when interacting with those who are affected in the future, and all of us are proud to be able to call ourselves a Dementia Friend.  Thank you very much to Redbridge Council for providing this training.  If you are interested in learning more, you can go to the Dementia Friends website: https://www.dementiafriends.org.uk/.

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Photo of Ray, Nicola, and Bhavini from ELVis with Mike O’Hanlon, Dementia Friends trainer and Diversity Programme Manager at Redbridge Council.

Written by Nicola Stokes

Visit to Marion Richardson Primary School for Vision Impairment Awareness training

Hassan Khan from SELVis (South East London Vision) assisted us by delivering Vision Impairment (VI) Awareness and VI cricket to children from Marion Richardson Primary School in Limehouse on Friday, 23rd of June.

Hassan spent the day providing basic vision impairment awareness by:

  • Talking about terminology and wherever possible to use everyday language with vision impaired/disabled people
  • Demonstrating and passing around various equipment/objects such as the braille notetaker, bumpons, VI cricket balls, VI tennis balls, and simulation spectacles
  • Explained basic guiding tips
  • Showing the children a short video of England ODI captain Eoin Morgan training with the England blind cricket team
  • Speaking about his personal sight loss journey

The children then had the opportunity to practice some of what they had learnt by taking part in practical activities which included the following:

  • Simple ball exercise to demonstrate how important listening, hearing and communication is in any VI sport
  • Catching the ball on 1 bounce in a circle
  • Batting in pairs; 2 hits each whilst wearing tunnel vision glasses and the bowler blindfolded

Ms Khan said: “The children really enjoyed the VI cricket and I would like for Hassan to visit my class next year.”

The children also had the opportunity to ask questions, which ranged from “What inspires you?” to “If you could see what would you be?”

All the children that participated in the day received either an East London Vision pen or fridge magnet, which they were extremely thankful for.

Hassan said: “It’s always a pleasure visiting this wonderful school. It’s crucial for us to continue to visit schools such as Marion Richardson to raise awareness of vision impairments. I believe our workshops leave an everlasting impact on the children. An example of this is the children being aware of how to guide VI people and being aware of the things in their everyday environment such as the rotating cones on traffic lights.”

Thanks to Hassan for visiting the school and delivering an excellent awareness raising and educational day for the children at Marion Richardson Primary Sschool .

Written by Masuma Ali

My experience at the RP Fighting Blindness conference

The RP Fighting Blindness Charity held its first Families Conference earlier this month which saw around 30 families come together to meet others who have similar Retinal Dystrophies all going through the same situations.

Guest speakers shared their knowledge on the latest research, genetic counselling, support services available to both adults and children affected, as well as inspirational stories from those living with RP but have gone on to achieve their ambitions and not let their vision impairment hold them back. The members who attended were able to spend time with each other during the weekend and so did the children over activities that were planned for them. The workshops on offer for all to participate in provided additional sources of support and information.

As an ambassador for RP Fighting Blindness, I was invited to speak about my experience of living with Retinitis Pigmentosa. From a shocking diagnosis, moving to London, bringing up children, and then finally getting the support I desperately needed, I finally accepted and came to terms with my sight loss. I found ways I could relive my life; from volunteering, setting up a social group, organising charity fundraisers and now working for East London Vision.

“Was I nervous presenting at my first public speaking event? –most definitely. Would I do it again? – yes indeed.” I had learned that the biggest help and support I received was from another vision impaired professional who knew exactly what I was going through and how I felt. In fact, this is exactly what people said to me about my talk and how they could all relate.

Attending as a delegate was very useful, not only for me but for my family as well. My daughters met other children with vision impaired parents and children who were affected with sight loss too. It was a great opportunity for them to share their feelings over fun activity sessions and during times of socialising. Equally, my husband met other partners in the same situation and it was certainly a great bonding time for them. Moreover, I felt that my parents, who attended their first RP information day ever, found it extremely useful and engaging by talking to other parents and seeing how other people with RP cope and manage in different ways.

Overall, it was a fantastically organised weekend and very much-needed. It was a privilege to have been asked to speak at the event but at the same time thrilled to have been part of it; gaining and sharing lots of information, and connecting with others.

One aspect which I can take away from the weekend, and would love to share with others is – please talk about your emotional journey, whether it be to a family, friend or professional, as there is always someone who can help and you do not have to go through it alone.

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Photo of Bhavini standing in front of a RP Fighting Blindness poster at the RP Families Conference.

If would like to listen to my talk at the RP conference please click on the YouTube video directly below.

Written by Bhavini Makwana

Louise Successfully Completes Marathon and Raises Over £3,000 for ELVis!

Hi Everyone!

After a bit of a hiatus, the ELVis blog is back!  So stay tuned for more weekly updates about what Team ELVis has been getting up to, as well as interesting and useful news and information relating to the VI world.

For our first post, we’d like to celebrate a fantastic achievement that ELVis supporter Louise Fairhurst undertook recently: completing the Virgin Money London Marathon.  Below is an account of how well she did and what the rest of us got up to on the day when we went to support her:

On Sunday 23rd April, a group of ELVis members and staff were up bright and early to ensure that we got a good spot at one of the biggest events our capital has to offer: the Virgin Money London Marathon. Our runner was to be Louise Fairhurst, whose longest competitive run up to that point had been 10K, but who had been training hard for several months to give herself the best chance of taking this challenge on. She’d previously told us “It has been my ambition to run the London Marathon for several years, but I was planning on only running once I was determined to find the right charity to support. When the opportunity came up to represent East London Vision – I just couldn’t say no.”

With a good spot on Tower Bridge, the group of supporters settled in and got ready to cheer! Seeing several vision impaired runners in the para-athlete part of the race was an uplifting sight, and gave our vocal chords a good warm up ready for when the masses started to run past. The atmosphere of the Marathon is incredible, with everyone cheering on and encouraging strangers who they’ll never meet, there’s a fantastic sense of camaraderie and support. We kept a lookout for Louise amongst all of the Spidermans, Vikings and fairies running past us, aided by the app we’d downloaded on our phones which tracked her progress, so we knew when she was likely to arrive. At about midday we say her running past, and let out massive cheers and whoops to encourage her through the second half of the race.

Shortly afterwards we made our own way to the finish line (via the much easier and slightly quicker London Underground), where we met Louise once she had finished the race. She had not only managed to complete her first ever Marathon, but had done so in a time of 4 hours and 11 minutes, an amazing achievement. And not only that, but she didn’t even look tired! We all congratulated her on her fantastic achievement and admired the medal that she’d deservedly been given.

Many thanks to everyone who joined us to watch the race, and to those keeping track of Louise at home via our Twitter page and the app. And of course, a HUGE thank you to Louise herself- we’re so grateful for all of the time, effort and sweat you put into the training and into the race itself. We hope that you are extremely proud of your achievement!

There is still time to donate to Louise to show your appreciation for all of her hard work. Please go to her Virgin Money Giving page to do so: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserProfilePage.action?userUrl=LouiseFairhurst.

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Photo of Louise holding up her medal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Nicola Stokes