The newly appointed Assistive Technology Advisor Graham Page introduces himself

My name is Graham Page and I have been working at East London Vision for about 1 month. I am the Assistive Technology Advisor. This is a new role and in this blog post I will introduce myself and broadly describe what I will be doing.

So, a few words about myself! I have been working in the field of Assistive Technology, sometimes called Access Technology, since 1996. In those days, the World Wide Web had been invented but very few people other than academics really had access to the Internet or even Email. Were just starting to take off. I am blind myself and I was immediately struck by the potential of the World Wide Web and other internet services to provide me and other blind people with access to information and opportunities that just did not exist before. I clearly remember being unemployed in 1994 and being unable to look for jobs independently let alone apply for them. All the jobs were in the paper or on boards in the job centre and, in Preston; there was not even a job club to go to. This was not a good situation to be in at the age of 24!

In 2014, according to the Office of National Statistics, 38 million people in the UK access the internet every day and the number of people accessing the internet on a mobile device has doubled since 2006. Many vision impaired people do not have access to the internet however, and my experience is that many people with full sight assume that if you have difficulty reading the screen of a mobile phone or a computer then these devices are totally unusable for visually impaired people.

A large part of my role will involve helping vision impaired and blind people in the Elvis region to use and access devices of various kinds including desktop, laptop and tablet computers as well as a range of mobile phones. People have said they want to know more about these kinds of technology so I will be involved in giving advice and demonstrations as well as providing individual and group training.

Alongside this, many organisations such as libraries and education providers do not have equipment that is accessible to visually impaired people so that they can write essays, use email and browse the web among other things. I will be working with local organisations to help them implement accessible technology and provide training so that they can provide a more accessible service in general.

So if you have questions or want help with something related to technology please do contact me.

If I don’t know the answer to a question, or if there is a service already set up and providing the help you require, then I will certainly point you in the right direction!

My email is:

graham@eastlondonvision.org.uk

Tel:

020 3697 6464

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Service User Consultations update from Sharon Schaffer

Not another consultation!

The Vision Strategies are now entering their second round of service user consultations…

Each year, each Vision Strategy Action Plan has, built into it, a consultation with service users, with the two fold aim of

  1. Updating local people on the milestones, achievements and challenges faced by the Vision Strategy Group in implementing the Action Plan over the past year
  2. Identifying and discussing the priorities for action in the year to come.

This year, having heard the priorities and areas of concern from the previous year’s consultations, I wanted to not only report and invite feedback on the Vision Strategy Group’s activities, but also bring the ‘horse to the water’, so to speak, so that service users could hear it from the horse’s mouth, and hold providers to account…

The first such consultation took place in Waltham Forest on 12.10.15, and was run in association with local user support organisation, Waltham Forest Vision, and Healthwatch Waltham Forest.

The very next day Hackney VI Group hosted a consultation on behalf of the Hackney Vision Strategy Group, and on 25th November a similar event will be held in Redbridge where attendees will receive updates from officers from the London Borough of Redbridge on:

  • Welfare & Benefits Advice
  • Work Redbridge: employment and training opportunities
  • Care Act: Implications and changes
  • Redbridge Fairness Commission Recommendations
  • Redbridge Leisure and Culture Strategy

My hope is that it will be as informative for the officers as it is for the service users/residents.

With the Seeing It My Way outcomes providing an excellent measurement framework, and the emphasis moving away from ‘for the blind’ to ‘with’ vision impaired people, consultation, user involvement and the gauging of impact, has to be at the heart of what we do, otherwise it just becomes a hotch potch of ‘do-goody’ intentions at best, or self-serving career justification at worst.

My thanks, therefore, to all those who have, or are planning to, participate in these consultations. I hope to have more positive developments next year, but in the meantime, if you have any thoughts and comments please contact me on

E: sharon.schaffer@lvif.co.uk

T: 07875 541133

NB: A more detailed article on this theme is available on the ELVis website: http://www.eastlondonvision.org.uk/index.php/news.html

Have a wonderful week:)

Sharon

Hassan appreciates the importance of East London Vision’s collaboration with Made in Hackney

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Hello readers

I know you’ve had the pleasure of reading some wonderful blog entries on the topic of corporate partnerships and how vital they are to East London Vision.

I am delighted to report that we continue to establish and strengthen our partnerships with other local charities and organisations. I earnestly believe it would be of benefit to build partnerships with local schools, mosques, churches and other religious establishments in East London as well. This will allow us to best represent the views of people living with sight loss and fingers crossed enable us to find and aid other Vision Impaired people. As you may have read in previous entries from me, I intend on visiting schools and building relationships with community leaders in order to reach younger Vision Impaired people. This will also allow us to fund raise and in return we would then offer Vision Impairment Awareness training to year 4, 5 and 6 pupils. I’m thrilled to report that Marion Richardson and Redlands Schools respectively have agreed to fund raise for East London Vision and we are grateful for their cooperation and support. I’m sure I’ll have a further update for you in my next entry, so watch this space!

Talking of Partnerships, over the last 2 months or so we have worked closely with Made in Hackney who deliver fun, supportive, often life changing courses in local food growing, cooking and composting. They work with local charities, community organisations, housing associations and support groups to ensure their wonderful courses are offered to people most in need, such as low income families, children in care, teen carers, young people excluded from school, parents,  children and people suffering from diet related health problems.

Whilst their classes are mainly focused on tackling food poverty, they understand that cooking is incredibly therapeutic and has a real impact on mental health and self-confidence.

Our members have completed a 6 week course, in which they were taught how to make healthy food from scratch. Whether it was making baked beans or mayonnaise as a team we were quick to learn that it was cheaper and healthier to make your own food rather than purchasing over sweetened or extremely salty foods from the market.

The Made in Hackney team including the lovely volunteers were exceptional, considering they had no previous experience of working with vision impaired people

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The sessions were invaluable to the members. One of our Hackney members admitted: “Loved it! Would have never done this, I haven’t cooked in 8 years until now!”

Another member added:

“Having lost my sight, I never thought I’d be able to cook, let alone use a knife independently.”

Taking the general consensus into account, I’m confident the members would like to do this course again in the New Year and I’m sure the phenomenal Made in Hackney team would welcome us back with open arms and long may this flourishing partnership continue.

You can also find out more about Made in Hackney by visiting their website at: http://www.madeinhackney.org

So before I take my leave, I’d like to share the following quote with you:

The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not.

Mark Twain

Some exciting news from ELVis and an update on 2 Vision Strategy Consultations!

Hi all, it is good to catch up again and today I have 3 things I’d like to share with you.

On Friday the 25th of September Tower Hamlets held a Sight and Information Day.  Various exhibitors attended the event, including: Beyond Barriers, East London Vision, Humanware, to name a few.  It was so nice to see so many people from the local peer support groups supporting this event. People seem to learn, have fun and gain useful information and on the plus side, we managed to register a few more members.:)

Now for the exciting news!

We had a new addition to the ELVis Team who started with us 6th October.  So let us welcome Graham Page, Graham is our Assistive Technology Adviser, it is a pleasure having Graham around.  Also a very warm welcome to Andrew Goodwin (The Volunteer Coordinator) Who will be dedicating some of his precious time to ELVis and I’m happy to say, both Andrew and Graham have settled in extremely well.

Last week there were 2 Vision Strategy consultations that took place. Firstly, Waltham Forest Vision held their AGM and Vision Strategy consultation which was well attended.  Great discussions took place on future priorities, followed by a yummy supper of fish and chips.

And finally the Hackney Vision Strategy consultation, this was well attended too and I’m pleased to report that the event ended with a finger buffet, which gave the members an opportunity to socialise and make new friends.

Have a blessed week.

Chris

Read Masuma Ali’s latest blog all about our partnership with the NCS The Challenge

Hello, it is time for me to check in with you all again! I’d like to tell you about our work with NCS The Challenge over the past few months.

Another year, another summer and another extremely beneficial partnership with NCS The Challenge. This is our third year working with The Challenge across the East London Boroughs, as either part of the Team Challenge, the Social Action Challenge, or both in some boroughs.

NCS is a government-funded initiative that supports community engagement, social action and social mixing among young people. We have worked with over 65 young people and staff, and in total have taken part in 18 different sessions in Barking and Dagenham, Hackney, Newham, Redbridge and Waltham Forest. We provided the young people with basic vision impairment awareness training in order for them to feel comfortable and confident in assisting vision impaired people.040IMG_0032The young people volunteered with us in September where they gave up their Saturday or Sunday to assist with events, which ranged from a multi sports day, to tandem cycling, to preparing lunch and entertainment.

At the end of their volunteering day, one Young person said: “I’ve really enjoyed today and would feel confident in helping a vision impaired person in the future.”

Also as part of The Social Action Challenge, the young people fund-raised for the local voluntary organisation for vision impaired people in each borough that they had worked with. The funds raised will help each organisation to continue providing a wide range of activities for blind and partially sighted people.

As part of the young people’s skills visit in Newham, drama went down a treat with all involved, allowing an excellent opportunity for everyone to work together on a drama piece.

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One Participant who attended the Redbridge event said: “What an extremely lovely bunch of young people, so polite, helpful and full of energy.”

Some of the young people’s campaign days fell during National Eye Health Week (21-27 September). They were keen to ensure their campaign took this in to account and promoted the benefits of keeping your eyes healthy and having regular eye tests. They also used various resources that we provided, to show the general public the 6 most common eye conditions using simulation spectacles.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with all the staff and young people from The Challenge over the summer, each year is completely different, but equally exciting. It is a great partnership, which is not only beneficial to us as an organisation, but allows young people to engage with their local community and gain new skills such as vision impairment awareness.

We look forward to working with the NCS programme again in 2016!!

Have a good few weeks until next time!:)

CEO of ELVis discusses the topic of employment for Vision Impaired People

Hello to all our wonderful readers

First of all, a warm welcome to our new platform.

2 recent events have made me think that employment for blind and partially sighted people should be the topic of the Blog this week.

The first of these was that I have just been involved in the recruitment of a new member of staff for ELVis. We received 52 applications, and although about 40 of them were discarded immediately because the applicant hadn’t submitted the required information, or clearly hadn’t properly read the job description, it does show that, whatever the Government statistics, there are still plenty of people out there looking for a job. Or, does it indicate, with my more cynical hat on, that job hunters have to prove that they have applied for a certain number of jobs to maintain support or benefits and, with the ease of applying online these days, this is relatively simple to do, even if the applications aren’t appropriate.

Of more relevance though was the second event, which was the output from an employment session run by a colleague of mine at a recent RP (Retinitis Pigmentosa) fighting blindness weekend. Just a few or the work related problems raised were:

  • Where do I get information about training and re-skilling?
  • Feeling hopeless during interviews when trying to convince employers that you are just as capable as the next person.
  • Government schemes to get people into work are often not accessible to people with a disability.
  • I don’t know how my employer will react when I tell them about my deteriorating sight.
  • There is little information to support employers
  • One bad experience can put off employers from then taking on another person with a disability.
  • Access to work support is getting more and more difficult to obtain and the support is often of poor quality.

This is only a flavour of the discussion, which also included looking at solutions. But it does show that with 70% of Vision Impaired people of working age not in employment (and that’s the best estimate), that there is an undoubted need for the sight loss sector to provide collaborative advice and support. I am absolutely not promoting positive discrimination, but assistance with obtaining and maintaining a job will clearly help reduce the startling statistic of blind and partially sighted people who are currently unemployed.

I am sure we will return to this topic in a future Blog!

Sharon Schaffer assesses the nuances of National Eye Health Week!

Here I sit behind at stall at Valentine’s Mansion during Age UK’s Older People’s Fair, as I sat last week behind a stall in King George’s Hospital, Ilford… and in Queens Hospital, Romford, pondering the nuances of National Eye Health Week.

The main message of National Eye Health Week is to get your eyes tested regularly so that any eye conditions can be detected as early as possible and that sight loss becomes as preventable as possible.

It strikes me as somewhat ironic that it is majorly the Sight Loss sector and Sensory Impairment Teams, (ie the charities and bodies that support people with vision impairment), that coordinate and undertake most of the awareness raising activities in this week.  Surely the onus should be on Public Health to promote this major prevention campaign?

Whilst I am delighted with the support Public Health reps involved in the Vision Strategy Groups in their borough have given to the local sight loss societies and Sensory Teams (that have organised a plethora of activities across the region – detailed by Chris in her blog a fortnight ago), I can’t help feeling that it should be them coming to us, instead of the other way round.

Is it more or less pertinent to receive information on eye health from someone who is blind…and is a person with a vision impairment better of worse equipped to offer advice on sight loss prevention?

A national public health campaign might go a long way to encourage people to visit their optician regularly (regular sight checks, and timely services to deal with the results, will save a lot of money in the long run)…. Indeed, the Barking & Dagenham Health and Adults Services Select Committee (HASSC), as part of its 2014/15 review into Local Eye Care Services, includes the following recommendation:

“The HASSC therefore recommends that the Health and Wellbeing Board oversees a local communication campaign undertaken by the Council’s Public Health Team emphasising the importance of having regular eye tests, whilst also delivering other important eye care messages.”

Not sure how this might work on a local level, with recently announced cuts to the Public Health budget, but such a campaign could highlight the link between smoking, obesity and sight loss, and reiterate the fact that a sight test can highlight other health conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure….

Maybe, armed with this knowledge, we might overcome our hesitation about visiting an optician…. I know many people (my husband for one!!) who put off their eye test because they don’t want to be pushed into paying for overly expensive glasses. The ‘shop front’ nature of the high street optician is, undoubtably, a barrier to regular testing for many of us….

A study carried out in Leeds, on behalf of RNIB (Shickle, D. et al, Address Inequalities in Eye Health with Subsidies, Public Health 129; 2015)
highlighted the strong relationship between optometrist practices and the sale of glasses and showed that the true cost of providing eye examinations is at least twice the amount paid by the Government via fees to optometrists. The sale of glasses, therefore, effectively subsidises sight tests by enabling optometrist practices to be profitable, which in turn, allows them to remain in business and carry on offering tests.

I must say, that in my experience of dealing with optometrists, through my work with the Vision Strategy Groups, they are clinicians before they are salespeople, and much more interested in eye health than designer frames.

The fact remains that currently over the course of National Eye Health Week it was mainly people involved in sight loss trumpeting the need for eye health, and at the same time blowing their own trumpet about the things they have put in place (peer support, activities, information) to support those that are living with sight loss.

Hope to see you on the trail….

Sharon:)