Latest round up of news stories…

Keith Hickey has climbed Kilimanjaro to raise money for the RNIB and their continuing support for people with sight loss. Keith sets a fantastic example of what can be achieved. His full story can be read here. http://www.rnib.org.uk/getinvolved/fundraising/news/pages/kilimanjaro-overseas-trek.aspx?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social_media&utm_campaign=kilimanjaro

Two British men who have been totally blind for many years have had part of their vision restored after surgery to fit pioneering eye implants. They are able to perceive light and even some shapes from the devices which were fitted behind the retina. Read the full story here. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-17936302

A third of customers with sight loss who took part in visits to Post Offices in Wales reported problems caused by obstacles and trip hazards at the buildings’ entrances. A total of 78 people with sensory loss acting as “mystery shoppers” visited 150 different post offices, with a total of 583 visits in total. Post Office Ltd said the report was an important piece of research and would be fully considering the findings. Read the full story here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-18429777

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David Blunkett calls for equality of access

David Blunket talks to RNIB NB Magazine David Blunkett talks to the RNIB in this months issue of their NB Magazine.  The interview  covers a range of subjects including the decision to scrap Disability Living Allowance (DSA) with Personal Independent Payments (PIP) and the need to maintain Braille as a valid form of communication. David Blunkett is now campaigning for greater attention to sight loss. He says raising the profile of Diabetes has been successful and the same attention now needs to be paid to the challenges of blindness.

Speaking about the future for people with sight loss, he calls for equality.

What we have got to do is to provide equality. Whether it is audio description, accessible buses, a rethink on shared space sensibilities, all these things help to make life equal for people with disabilities. But planners, employers, technology providers – these equalities need to be built in to everything as a given, especially as an ageing population will see more and more people with sight conditions.”

As a blind person with a successful career in politics, David Blunkett is in the ideal position to demonstrate how sight loss need not be an impairment and call for the necessary statutory support to give other people the same opportunities. Lets hope we hear lots more from him and the rhetoric leads to positive change.

Guide Dogs announce the Specsavers Guide Dog of the Year awards

Guide Dogs logo

Guide Dogs have announced the Specsavers Guide Dog of the Year Awards for 2012. These are Guide Dogs’ annual awards event which celebrate the amazing partnerships formed between dogs and their owners as well as the dedicated work of the people who make the partnerships possible.  Family run opticians Specsavers have agreed to sponsor the awards in recognition of the hard work of all the members of the Guide Dogs family.

For the first time this year, Guide Dogs are inviting nominations in seven award categories and nominations can be made online, by email or by post any time from 3 April to 9am on 14 May 2012.

The Awards will be held on Thursday 19 July in central London and finalists will be invited to attend with a guest.  For more information about the seven categories and how you can enter go to the Guide Dogs website at http://www.guidedogs.org.uk/supportus/events/guide-dog-of-the-year-awards/award-categories/

Police forensic techniques recover blind writer’s lost story

When the ink ran out in Trish Vicker’s pen she was unable to see that her words were no longer appearing on the page. After losing her sight through diabetes, Trish had decided to write a story and completed 26 pages before her son told her there was nothing to show for all her hard work.  Forensic experts at the local police force worked during their spare time to read the indentations left on the A4 pages using a system of lights.  It took five months of painstaking work, but the whole text was recovered.

It’s nice to read a good news story where all ends well. Read the full story at the Telegraph website here  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/9197585/Police-save-words-of-blind-author-who-wrote-26-pages-after-pen-ran-out.html

Smoking can cause sight loss

March 14 was no Smoking Day. Did you miss it? It wouldn’t be surprising if you did because the media didn’t pay it much attention. One more lasting outcome is the announcement made on the same day of tough new rules on tobacco companies. The UK is leading the way in promoting stronger health warnings and insisting cigarette packets are plain and unbranded with no colour, logos or graphics. They will only carry text warning of the dangers of smoking and these will include the message that smoking causes blindness. Simon Kelly, a consultant ophthalmologist at the RoyalBoltonHospital has been a campaigner for raising awareness of the link between smoking and sight loss, saying “About 50,000 people in the UKhave suffered sight loss from smoking. It doubles your risk of losing your sight. Tobacco contains chemicals that damage the blood vessels around the eye and increases the risk of age-related macular degeneration.”

The European Commission have agreed to this and the UK is expected to become the first country in Europe to introduce the hard line measure once it is enshrined in law. For more information on links between smoking and sight loss go to the Collegeof Optometristswebsite at  http://www.college-optometrists.org/en/blog/the-historeye-blog.cfm/id/B53133A5-9074-401D-9A52BCED13E616CF

Macular Degeneration in the media

Macular degeneration had some media publicity this month. Actress Judi Dench has revealed she has the disease and can no longer read scripts, but has to have someone read them to her so she can learn her lines.  Macular degeneration is a disease common in people over 60 and is caused by the inflammation of part of the retina. The peripheral vision is maintained but the centre of sight is damaged, making watching television and reading difficult. There is no cure for Age Related Macular Degeneration although there are some medical treatments which can help to slow down the progress of the disease. Judi Dench says she has undergone treatment which she hopes will stop the progression of the condition, which her mother also suffered from, and allow her to continue working. The story can be read in full on the page of The Guardian.

The Macular Disease Society at http://www.maculardisease.org  is a national support group for people with Macular Disease. There is a Hull Branch of the Macular Society which meet regularly at HERIB. For more information please call HERIB on 01482 342297.

BMI-baby being sued for inaccessible website

The RNIB have taken the lead in fighting the inaccessibility of the Internet and are suing the airline compnay BMI-baby for its inaccessible website. Screen reader users are unable to select the dates they want to travel on making it impossible for them to take advantage of cheap flights which are only available by booking online. Radio 4’s In Touch covered this last week and the programme is  available to listen to at this link here http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01bb705 There is also an article on the  ComputerWorldUK website at this link here http://www.computerworlduk.com/news/it-business/3332901/bmibaby-sued-over-inaccessible-website/ Apart from these, the media is largely silent. This is a shame because inspite of the incompatibility between most websites and screen readers, there have only been two cases of digital discrimination which have gone to court. Both were instigated by the RNIB and both settled privately without the company names being revealed.  It would be good to see this new case headlining the BBC News and all the major newspapers too. This would raise awareness of the importance of ensuring digital inclusion for everyone, not just those who can use a mouse and  see the screen, which is the how the vast majority of Internet content is designed.