Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Social Distancing and Accessibility - Amy

Getting out and about is very challenging for people who are visually impaired even in normal circumstances. As we all know, things have changed a lot over the last few months, and going out has become even more of a challenge.  

Some visually impaired people will struggle more than others depending on what useful vision they have. Some people do not have good central vision, whereas others do not have good peripheral vision. Even two people with the same eye condition may have a very different level of sight. It also depends on how confident the person is when they are out. Some are more confident than others which makes a huge difference. Some people may be more confident at doing certain parts of the journey, not necessarily the whole thing.  

I have not had the opportunity to get out far myself yet, but I have been to my local shop occasionally and to a few parks.  Luckily I have had my Mum or Dad with me when I have been going to these places otherwise I would find it extremely difficult. Even though I have not been to many places myself, I have heard about the changes that have been made in most places. I have also been told how difficult some of these changes are to understand and cope with.  Based on my experiences and things I have heard, so far I have been really quite frustrated about how inaccessible places have become for people who are visually impaired.  

Many places have signs up that can be hard to see, never mind read. There are also floor markings which are hard to follow. My local shop has introduced a one way system around the store which I do understand the purpose of, but I can’t always tell which way the arrows are pointing, so how am I supposed to know which way to go? I have also been told that some places have foot print markings instead of arrows, I imagine that I would struggle with that even more.  Queue areas also have two metre markings so that people do not stand too close to each other. It is often hard to tell who is queueing and who is shopping because of the large spaces between people. Plus if I am stood two metres away from the customer who is being served, I can’t always tell when they have gone, depending on the layout of the checkout area. I haven’t had to deal with these situations on my own, because I just won’t go on my own while all these changes are in place. I find it difficult at the best of times, but impossible with all of these changes. Having to rely on others so much is not a nice feeling. It is really important to me and other visually impaired people to be as independent as we possibly can be, however much this is. In the current circumstances I don’t feel able to be independent at all. The time I feel the most independent is when I am volunteering at SRSB. I do still need help sometimes, but I can walk around a busy building without feeling rushed or worrying about walking into something. Everybody understands, even staff and volunteers who are not visually impaired understand.  We all give each other plenty of time and space when we are walking around the building. This is the only building of that size where I can do this. I haven’t been able to go in while all this has been going on and I really miss it.  

I saw a video online yesterday which actually made me think. I did already know this, but it did help to jog my memory. The video was about a lady who has a guide dog and how the guide dog is not trained for social distancing.  Obviously I was aware of this, but it did get me thinking.  Guide dogs are trained to help people travel and go out more easily, safely and independently. As most of them were trained years ago, they have no idea of what social distancing is. The lady on the video said that her dog was trained to take her to the door of a shop, not queue up outside a shop. So when her dog has taken her to the door of the shop and not the back of the queue, somebody in the queue rudely shouted at her. Guide dogs are also not trained to keep a two metre distance from people. I do not have a guide dog myself, but I do know that they are very stuck in their ways and stick to what they have been trained to do. I sometimes have a guide dog laid under my desk when I am volunteering at SRSB. She lays there because that is where her owner sits, he wasn’t in the room at the time but didn’t need to take her with him. In the past people have tried to move her to give me more space and she was very reluctant to move. This is because that is where her owner sits when he is using a computer, so she was trying to make sure that he got his usual seat, which would make things easier for him. Just to point out, I didn’t steal his seat, he was out of the office for quite a while and we are usually in on different days. It is also my usual seat. I don’t mind her being there though because I don’t want to unsettle her, so we just leave her now and she keeps me company.  

One of the things that I really don’t like about social distancing is that people are not allowed to get close enough to help. My friends are not allowed to help me if I see them because I don’t live with them. And I can’t see them without needing some kind of physical help or guidance. So I just haven’t suggested meeting up. One of the things that I am so desperate for is for the rules on this to change, so that we can have physical contact with our loved ones again and give them a huge hug. The time that we need a hug the most has turned out to be the time when we are not allowed. And it’s horrible. I don’t mind not being able to go to restaurants or have my hair done, I just want a cuddle with my boyfriend and to hug my best friends.  

Friday, 19 June 2020

My Sight Loss - Tia

In November 2019, I was dealt a blow that after 6 months of regular hospital visits, surgery and various treatments, that nothing else could be done to improve the vision in my right eye. I would now be classed as blind.
Feelings of shock, hurt, grief and anger followed, I was trying to make what limited sight I had better with the surgery, not worse. I was supposed to be enjoying the last few months of my maternity leave with my first child, not worrying about what this meant for me and how was I going to cope. I felt like I was letting my baby girl and the rest of my family down.

Since my childhood diagnosis of Ushers Syndrome, I've always known that my vision would deteriorate gradually over time. I honestly didn't think it would be this soon and I don't think I was prepared for it as much as I thought I was.

I spent the next weeks in denial, trying to ignore what had happened, and struggling with daily tasks. Then I was dealt a second blow in December that I was to be made redundant from a job that I had loved and dedicated 10 years of service to. My confidence and self esteem absolutely plummeted. How on earth was I going to find another job that I could physically do and do well. And how could I do this on top of everything else that I was still trying to figure out.

It was then that I asked for help, and to my surprise many people responded, SRSB was one of the first that I contacted and that's how I met Heather. She regularly visited and kept in contact, she listened, she answered questions (she really knew her stuff!), she found additional support for me, she offered advice, she supported me, and most importantly she showed me that I wasn't alone. She introduced me to the wider community of SRSB. My little girl first met Santa at the SRSB Christmas party. I remember feeling an absolute nervous wreck before as it was the first event that I'd taken her to alone. But everyone was so friendly, welcoming and helpful. I left the party with a very happy and tired out baby, but also a confidence boost and a feeling that I can do this.

Heather and everyone at the SRSB, along with my family and friends, all paid a key role in the past 6 months.

I have accepted and am slowly embracing my differences. I have learnt new skills, knowledge and technology to help me continue to do all the things I need and want to do. I have learnt new ways of doing things and it has built my confidence back. For every new challenge that I came across, I have adapted and become stronger. I hope to continue this with all the new challenges yet to come.

The job situation is the next hurdle but I will tackle it once I am able to as the Covid-19 pandemic has put a hold on it. But I feel more prepared now and I hope to use the help and resources that SRBS have to help me when I can.

I have seen kindness and thoughtfulness that surprised me. It really is the case that if you ask for help, there are people that want to help you. I am forever grateful for the part that the SRSB played with helping me to feel like me again and being happy.

Monday, 25 May 2020

Week 9 in Lockdown - Amy

Week nine already? In some ways the weeks seem to be flying by, but then when I think about the last time things felt normal, it feels like so long ago. Things started to change slightly last week, the lockdown has eased a little. This is really good, but also very complicated and confusing. At least we are heading in the right direction, I just hope so much that it stays that way and that we keep moving forward. The sooner we all get to live normally again, the better. Even though the restrictions have eased slightly, things won’t be back to normal for a long time, if ever. For some people it will never be the same again. We came into the lockdown from one world and we will be leaving it into another. We never expected any of this did we?  

If you have read my previous posts you will know that mentally I have been really struggling with the lockdown. Not being able to go out and keep my mind occupied is not doing me any good. Also the feeling that I have no control over my own life, it makes me feel really uncomfortable and trapped.  In real life I always make sure that I have things to look forward to and that really does help to keep me focussed. In this life, lockdown life, I can’t do that. I can’t plan anything.  So with no real plans, what is there to look forward to? Other than what feels like an imaginary end to the lockdown. 

I have had issues with my mental health in the past, so this isn’t just the usual being fed up and not liking it. Some days I have been really down and depressed. For anybody who hasn’t experienced true depression before, it’s a darkness that takes over my way of thinking. I describe it as a level beyond sadness. And it makes it hard to see the good in things. Even the things that would normally cheer me up, don’t always have much of an effect. On a dark day, the chances are that nothing will really cheer me up. Things may help, but the darkness still comes back quite quickly. Then after a dark few days I am mentally and physically drained. I feel quite numb for a day or so as I gradually start to feel more positive. This week has probably been my darkest week in years. Everything felt so hopeless and like the lockdown would never really end. Luckily I am feeling a lot more positive today, but it has taken me five days to go through the process. Luckily I have some very supportive family and friends to help me through it.  

I have also noticed that when I occasionally go out, I am feeling a lot more anxious. This isn’t just because of the virus, but my usual anxiety related to my sight loss. This may sound strange, but I feel that my eyes have got to used to not seeing beyond the four walls of my house. When I am outside there is so much more to see and I think my eyes can’t quite catch up. There are things in the distance, things that move, the weather and potential dangers to look out for.  When I am in the house, everything is where it is and I don’t really have to use my eyes as much, because I know where everything is. I have got to used to staying in and that isn’t good. I knew it would happen though and it’s really annoying. I have spent so long building up my confidence and now all of that hard work has been undone. I feel like going back to normal is going to be a very nerve-wracking experience.  Even so, it is something that I am so desperate to do sometime soon. 

I really hope that all of my SRSB friends are doing well.  I really hope I get to see you all soon. Xxx

Monday, 11 May 2020

Lockdown. Archery Update - Phil

Due to the coronavirus, my archery training and competitions have unfortunately been put on hold. Both the National competition at Lilleshall and the Para European International in Sardinia were postponed. They may be rescheduled for later in the year or early next year, depending on how we emerge from this pandemic.

I am still doing archery related training exercises to keep muscle memory and to keep fit. I keep in touch with my SRSB archery friends by phone and other clubs via email.

Otherwise, most of my time during shielding, is spent in the back garden with my partner. Thankfully the weather has been good and we have enjoyed sitting out listening to music. My sister has sent me a variety of vegetable seeds that she had spare. I have made some small wooden planters and the seedlings are now growing quite well.

I am hopeful that sometime later this year we might be able to get out and about. Stay well and stay safe.

The Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind - Mary

Mary is the married to Lee, one of our clients. She wrote this lovely piece entitled The Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind a few years ago.

T stands for thoughtful
H stands for helpful
E stands for encouraging
S stands for supportive
H stands for hospitality
E stands for excellence
F stands for fun
F stands for friendly
I stands for interested
E stands for enthusiasm
L stands for laughter
D stands for developing
R stands for reassurance
O stands for optimistic
Y stands for young at heart
A stands for assistance
L stands for likeable
S stands for smiling
O stands for order
C stands for catering
I stands for interaction
E stands for eagerness to help
T stands for trust
Y stands for young children who attends sparkles
F stands for freedom it gives visual impaired
O stands for obliging
R stands for reliable
T stands for tactful
H stands for hopeful
E stands for essential help and equipment
B stands for the blessing of knowing that I can do stuff without worrying about Lee as I know he
is safe and sound
L stands for life changing
I stands for inspiring
N stands for nice people
D stands for discreet which the staff are
These are the reasons I love being part of the family and volunteering for the Sheffield Royal Society
for the Blind.

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Lockdown Poem - Carol

In This Time by Carol Adams

In this time it would be easy to get low
but do not despair so
for we have social media and the news
and you've got lots of time to snooze
If you venture out
without your spouse
it would be very hard
you must be on your guard   
you decide on your fate 
if you go out of that gate
can you see enough to know?
It's easier to just bake dough
to get work done in the house
to give your spouse
jobs inside
and afterwards show them both off with pride
at least it is warmer outside than it is inside
you can get that tan
and make time to do that bulk cook in that pan
feel lucky for what you have
it could be taken away 
don't be daft
come on ninny
just be silly.

Lockdown For Me - Carol

I wake up at some point during the day depending on how I've slept.            
I'd hope that the sun is out so that I can enjoy time in the garden getting a sun tan which I should have got on my holiday to Tenerife. That of course was cancelled.
I love hearing the sounds of the birds singing, the children playing and the occasional neighbour talking.
I also like to hear my husband doing the garden or doodling and tinkering with various tools as he makes items... usually to make my life easier in some way or another.
I sit covered in sun tan cream with a hat and glasses on, a lager in my hand... or sometimes something a little stronger, listening to a book or watching something.
This is all in between going in to sort washing or tidy the kitchen for our next meal.
At evening time we would have dinner while watching something on Netflix or Disney plus.        
On Fridays it is so strange not to be picked up by our lovely driver Dennis on the minibus to go to Mappin Street for the Writing Group.     
So I'd catch up with people on social media, or the phone, and I would take part in my choir session on line. I'd keep up to date with the news and by going on face book etc. 
Friends and family would bring shopping to our front door and the same with Amazon and the chemist.
The best thing about this all is that I get more time to spend with my husband and my gadgets without feeling guilty for missing anything and thinking about where I should be. I can exercise on my treadmill and get fresh air in the garden.