Bhavini’s Employment Journey

Can a blind or partially sighted person be employed? Can they have a desirable career?  Can they work in jobs they’re absolutely passionate about? The answer is yes to ALL!

As a severely sight impaired person, when I applied for the position of activities co-ordinator everything inside me lit up because I knew I was the right person for the role. The job combined both of my passions; supporting vision impaired people and organising events, activities and meetings to improve social inclusion for VI people. So when I received the phone call that I got the job, I literally cried. I was thrilled, proud and happy. Then it dawned on me- “Oh my god, I’ve got a job! How will I manage? I know I can do it, but how?”

I was told about a government scheme called Access to Work (ATW). The scheme assesses you in regards to the support you require to carry out your job. Once my support was in place I was able to settle into my new role. I was also eligible for a support worker for sighted assistance.

The ideal support worker should be able to empower you to carry out your role professionally. Instead of talking on your behalf, support workers should introduce you and take you to the person you need to speak to. Moreover, they must understand your role so they can relay information to you that may be essential for you to carry out your duties. In my case, when carrying out risk assessments for activities and outings, my support worker would highlight certain risk factors that I will ask them to look out for. And they would also inform me of possible hazards which I cannot physically see myself. Having the right support worker gives me the extra help I need to carry out my role to the best of my ability.

If you’re passionate about getting in to a specific career then don’t let your vision impairment hold you back. Support is out there to help you every step of the way. After being unemployed for 10 years, I thought I’d never work again, but the support from Thomas Pocklington’s Employment Service helped me to prepare for my interview.

To conclude, here at East London Vision over half the team are registered blind or have a visual impairment, and most of us have a support worker. Unfortunately, I recently had to say goodbye to Shivani, who was an excellent support worker. However, on the positive side, I’m on the hunt for someone new to work alongside myself and ELVis CEO Masuma Ali. To find out more about this role, please email


Photo of Bhavini (right) with her support worker Shivani (left).
Written by Bhavini Makwana


Team ELVis at National Eye Health Week 2017

In this week’s blog, I’m going to be sharing what Team ELVis got up to during National Eye Health Week (18th – 24th September) in partnership with local optometrists, health and social care professionals, and the voluntary sector.

On Tuesday, we had an ELVis stall at the Sainsbury’s Supermarket in Whitechapel to raise awareness about what we do as a charity and the importance of getting an eye examination. It was a successful day. We spoke to lots of people who had not been for an eye examination in recent years and encouraged them to make an appointment at their local opticians.

Then on Wednesday, we were at Queen’s Hospital in Romford and joined by the local vision impaired group, Sight Action Havering. We had another successful day promoting the charity and sharing lots of helpful eye health tips with hospital patients and visitors.

Our final day of National Eye Health Week activities took place on Thursday. We spent the day at Chrisp Street Market in Poplar speaking to the local community. It was a chilly day but we braved the cold. Moreover, we managed to sign up a new ELVis member. The biggest challenge of the day was ensuring that we didn’t lose our leaflets to the wind!!

During the week we handed out plenty of freebies – pens, trolley coin keyrings, magnets, and mints – which were really popular!

Although National Eye Health Week has ended it’s important to continue looking after your eyes.  Did you know that there is a link between smoking and increased risk of blindness and eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration (AMD)?

Furthermore, to limit the risk of developing an eye condition it’s recommended by the NHS that you should undergo a sight examination at least once every two years.

More information on keeping your eyes healthy can be found by visiting:


Photo of Sight Action Havering members (Mike, Tracy, Maureen, Sandra and Izzy the guide dog) and Team ELVis (Ray and Graham).

Written by Masuma Ali


ELVis’s Cooking Success!

Hello Lovely people,

This week I’d like to tell you all about the fantastic cookery courses we ran over the past few months.

We ran 2 cooking courses to give blind and partially sighted people the skills and confidence needed to cook healthy meals.

Sixteen service users participated in the six week beginner and advanced cooking courses, which were run in conjunction with Made In Hackney as part of our “Healthy Body Healthy Mind” project, from June to August.

The course helped participants gain confidence to use cooking equipment such as knives and hot saucepans in a safe environment and helped people discover that they were still able to prepare fresh meals despite their sight loss.

The group had the opportunity to make a variety of easy but healthy meals ranging from vegetable ratatouille to black bean chili chocolate cookies.

Having attended the beginner cookery course, it was great to see how much attendees benefited from the course and how it built their confidence to try the recipes for themselves at home. Many people losing their sight believe that they are unable to continue to do lots of the things they did when they had sight and preparing meals is just one example.

Participant James Murray said the cooking sessions were very enjoyable and he looked forward to them each week.

“They were informative, welcoming and everything was explained in an easy to understand manner. The course has changed the way I now make salads as they are much more interesting and tastier!”

Simple adaptations in the kitchen such as, bump-ons on gas cookers, colour contrast of equipment and talking weighing scales can assist blind and partially sighted people whilst cooking

It was fantastic getting people to use knives, chopping vegetables and weighing ingredience using talking scales for the very first time after having lost their sight and for there to be a delicious meal at the end of it to tuck into. I love an apple crumble, so I was rather pleased the week we made it, and not only was it healthy, but pretty yummy too!

The cookery sessions were made possible from a grant received for our “Healthy Body Healthy Mind” project from Hackney Council’s Healthy Neighbourhoods project.

Catch you all in a few weeks time.



Accessible phones

Hello All.

Whenever I visit groups of people to talk about accessibility, one of the questions I am always asked is which main stream phones are accessible to people who are blind or vision impaired.  People often want to go and buy from a shop near them and buy a phone that is relatively affordable that they can access straight off the shelf.  In general, main stream accessible phones have touch screens though they can be used with a Bluetooth keyboard.

The biggest choice that users must make is IPhone or Android?  This has in fact been the case for some time but there are now more affordable yet powerful options in both camps, so now seems a good time to consider what’s available and what it might cost.  I am not including phones designed for visually impaired people here as this subject is worthy    of a post on its own.

Apple IPhones come with a screenreader called VoiceOver built in.  They also have a voice assistant called Siri and a screen magnifier called Zooms.

Until recently, new IPhones generally cost over £500 or around £450 for an older model.

For those wishing to use the IPhone, prices are still in general somewhat higher than for equivalent phones running Android but there is a new kid on the block which is of considerable interest.  The IPhone SE is a phone with a 4 inch display. Externally it looks like the IPhone 5S which is over 3 years old but it includes many of the same features as the current IPhone model, the IPhone 6S.  This phone was created for those who want a smaller phone with the power and battery life of later models which are generally larger with larger screens.

The IPhone SE with 16 Gigabytes (GB) of storage costs £349 from the apple store.  This is a good option if you don’t install many apps and don’t intend to use your phone for listening to music, reading books or listening to pod casts.  Note that there is also an IPhone SE with 64 GB of storage costing £439 which is a good option for storing music and using lots of apps etc.  It’s better to spend money on the IPhone with the most storage you can afford with whichever model you go for since you can’t fit more memory to an IPhone after it has been bought.

You can still buy the IPhone 6 S as well as the IPhone 6S Plus.   These phones have 4.5 and 5.5 inch screens respectively.   Most people will find the screen on the IPhone SE to be quite acceptable,   but if you need the larger screen The IPhone 6 S now costs £539 for the 16 GB model so it’s more expensive than the 64 GB IPhone SE.

I have not listed all the models here, but I’m comparing like with like. As far as possible.  For more information visit

All the IPhones available from the apple store now have a finger print reader which is used for security.  The finger print reader is in the home button and you can touch it to unlock your phone securely and pay for things using Apple Pay where available.

Android phones come with a screenreader called Talkback.  They also have magnification gestures which can be turned on and off.  Android phones vary greatly.  They have different versions of Android and with the exception of the Google Nexus range, it’s hard to predict when or if they will receive updates.  There are however android phones that are much cheaper than the IPhone and accessibility of android is improving.  To guarantee the latest version of Android I would suggest using any of the Google Nexus phones.  The google Nexus 5X is currently available for under £220 from amazon and this certainly represents great value.  It has 32 GB of storage as well as a finger print reader for tasks such as locking the phone and paying for things. Android Pay has now started appearing in the UK and though its availability is somewhat limited, it is likely to become more available over time.  At the moment, cheaper android phones do not have a finger print reader so Android pay is not available on these phones.

There is less information around about accessibility of android than apple, but there are various email lists where people can provide you with help should you need it.  Google also provides some help on it’s website at

The Motorola Moto G 4th generation has a great screen and fast processor.  It retails for just under £170 and is widely said to be the best budget phone around with great battery life and processor power.

Apple and Android both have voice assistants with strengths and weaknesses.   On the IPhone, Siri lets you control many of the features of the IPhone but you can’t do everything.  You can call people and create calendar entries as well as launching apps and setting alarms and timers but you can’t create contacts at the moment.    Siri will allow you to ask questions such as what is the weather like and many other things, though Google Search is widely thought to be the better assistant for finding out information and answering questions.  Google Search is not however able to control the phone itself.  There is an app called Voice Access which is produced by Google that lets you control the phone.  This app is currently in Beta testing which means that it is not yet considered a stable product ready for release but it looks very promising.

In conclusion then, if you want a phone that works out of the box that works without much customisation then the IPhone is probably the best though still the most expensive solution.  Android phones are however more accessible than they have ever been before and a great option for those who want to customise their phones and experiment a bit.

Activities update by Chris

Summer is taking it’s time in coming except for the few days we have had, hope you are all making the most of the nice weather when it appears.

At East London Vision we have so many exciting activities happening at the moment we have beginners cookery taking place, walks, gentle exercise classes, yoga, dance and bowls  it’s all happening.  These activities have been made possible by Healthier Neighbourhood grant from Hackney Council, Get Moving grant through the Mayor’s Office and Motivate East.

One group visited  Tate Britain we had a guided tour and was allowed to touch some of the sculptures and the Tracey Emin’s My Bed was described in detail.  Everyone had a great day and enjoyed themselves followed by having lunch in the grounds.

Another successful quiz night took place for Beyond Barriers in Tower Hamlets.  The quiz was challenging and it was a great night everyone enjoyed having the opportunity to have fun, to meet and socialise and at the same time raise money for the group.

Laura the teacher explaining the importance of healthy eating to the group.
Graham stirring the lentil mix
Kidney Beans Stew, The Lentils and the Rustik Chips end result.


Accessible sporting opportunities

I have a confession to make:  up until recently, I didn’t do any exercise.  I knew it was good for me, I knew that regular exercise results in a range of physical, mental and social benefits, both short- and long-term, and that exercising is likely to increase not only your lifespan but also the quality of the life you lead.  But I was just too lazy.  It seemed like such an effort to get started on anything- it all looked so tiring and difficult.

The barriers facing vision impaired people are of course often far greater than just a natural predisposition towards perpetual laziness.  Many sports in their original forms aren’t necessary suitable for someone with low vision, and many sports centres or coaches who haven’t had much interaction with VI people in the past are often unsure of how best to adapt their activities to make them more accessible.  Thus, vision impaired people who are as of yet unfamiliar with the sporting world not only have to muster up the mental willpower and physical energy to try a new sport, but they need to take that extra time to ensure that their chosen sport is going to be accessible for them.

However, for any VI people out there who are as lazy as me and think that this gives them a great excuse to not exercise, I’m afraid that I’m going to disappoint you!  Improving access to sporting activities is a key part of the services that ELVis provides, and to this end we have already this year provided our service users with the opportunities to undertake a variety of sporting activities.  From park walks in Hackney to yoga and dance in Barking and Dagenham, and from bowls in Waltham Forest to a multi-sports day in Havering, where people took part in various activities from athletics to rock climbing.  Gentle exercise for those looking for a relaxing session as well as more physically challenging activities for those wanting to work up a sweat, we’ve had it all covered!

And there’s more still to come!  Over the course of the next year we will be working with our partners Metro Blind Sport (who, of course, are also pivotal in providing accessible sporting activities to vision impaired people across London) to provide a series of one-off ‘unusual’ sporting activities for vision impaired people.  These are going to be exciting opportunities for people to try things they might not have had the chance to do before, so watch this space for more information!

So, luckily, there are many opportunities out there for vision impaired people to get active and get fit, and if you would like any more information then please get in touch with us or the aforementioned Metro Blind Sport (

And me?  I can now say that I am a regular rock-climber.  It’s very good fun, and well-worth all the physical exertion!  If even a hopelessly lazy chocoholic like me can find a sport to enjoy, then there should be no stopping anyone else!

First blog entry from Bhavini Makwana ELVis’s Activities Coordinator

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!

Bhavini Makwana
Activities Co-Ordinator
East London Vision
Supporting people with sight loss

T: 020 3697 6464
M: 07976 448824
Charitable Incorporated Organisation number: 1154207