Welcome to the Spring 2012 edition of the Looking Good newsletter.
Included in This Edition …
- Sight North East Exhibition 2012.
- Sight Service Charity Shop.
- Accessible Computers for just £99.
- Falling through the Cracks, by Claire Parker
- Family Fun Day
- South Tyneside Personalisation Subgroup.
- Sight Service's Creative Writing Competition. The Big Reveal!
- My Guide.
- Men's Group.
- Employment and Support Allowance Support Group.
- Talking Television
- Summary Care Records
- Active Awareness.
The eleventh annual Sight North East Exhibition is being held on Wednesday 12th September 2012.
The venue is St. James' Park Stadium – sorry, the sports Direct Arena, the home of Newcastle United Football Club, in Newcastle upon Tyne city centre. The stadium is in an ideal location, has excellent facilities, is fully accessible and has ample parking.
The event is the largest exhibition in the region of specialist equipment, information, support and services for visually impaired people and is attended by exhibitors from all over the country. It provides an ideal opportunity for visually impaired people and professionals working in the field to find out about the latest technology and services available.
Entry is free. The doors open at 10,00am and close at 4,00pm.
Exhibiters attending the event so far include:
- Aspire Consultancy
- Belmont Hotel
- Calibre Audio Library
- Computer Room Services
- Dolphin Computer Access
- Enhanced Vision
- Macular Disease Society
- Optelec Ltd
- Pamtrad Ltd
- Professional Vision Services
- Royal National College for the Blind,
- Sight and Sound Technology Ltd
- Blind Veterans UK
The following item is written by our Capacity Development Co-ordinator Maxine Munsey.
The Capacity Development Team has been hard at work on a new venture for Sight Service. In the current economic climate Sight Service needs to look at many different ways to bring in funding. It was decided that opening a charity shop in either Gateshead or South Tyneside was a good way forward. After several months of searching a premises was found. Since 1st February myself and fellow Sight Service employee Elaine have been working to turn19 Whitehall Road into a shop worth visiting.
Setting up a shop is not as easy as you think, especially when you need to do it on a very small budget. However, never afraid of a challenge, and with Elaine firmly taking the lead we went to make our first visit. It was at this point we encountered a problem, how to open the metal shutters and actually get in. Admittedly we had to seek help but we did get there!
We realised our first job would be to get a carpet on the floor. Once the carpet was down Elaine set to work painting the stockroom floor. Where to get fixtures and fittings was the next task. Here we were very lucky to get a donation of 4 cabinets, 2 desks, 2 bookcases, 2 chairs and even a couple of plants. A quick raid on the Sight Service Gateshead Resource Centre for a few more bookcases and we were ready to go. At this point Elaine had almost taken up residence in the shop whereas, I confess, I preferred to go home at night!!
We would love to say that everything has gone smoothly but that is not exactly the truth. The furniture has been moved several times; position is very important. The plants, one of which is affectionately known as the Triffid, have been moved even more times. The cash register was almost our undoing. Having read the instructions twice we still could not get it too work. Consideration was given to seeking a volunteer with engineering experience, preferably to degree level. Finally, with a lot of help from a friend we managed to get the till to open. We can now get it to add up and tell you how much change to give. Then there was the problem with the vacuum cleaner. Elaine’s first attempt led to the shop filling with dust. The second attempt was worse with a smell of burning filling the whole place. Sadly we have to report that the vacuum cleaner has now been abandoned and the decision made to buy a new one.
Finally, we could not have done it without the support from our team of dedicated volunteers.
We look forward to seeing you at “Blind Curiosity” 19 Whitehall Road, Gateshead
Are you in need of a computer? Or know someone who desires access to the internet at home? If yes, then you might be interested in a scheme called "get online @ home". The scheme is designed to make computer systems available and accessible.
If you are in receipt of disability living allowance (or other eligible benefits) £99 is all you need to pay in order to be supplied with a refurbished desktop computer with built-in accessibility. The price of the desktop computer for people who do not receive DLA will be £149. Laptops are also available for £169 for those on DLA (or other eligible benefits) or £199 without the benefits-based discount.
You can purchase the computer, or check your eligibility at: www.getonlineathome.org or by calling 0303719 100 100 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.
The computers come with a keyboard, mouse and monitor and are loaded with Windows 7 home premium. As well as the basic magnification and screen reading programmes that come as standard with windows 7, the computers can also be installed with additional accessibility software free of charge. This includes the screen reader NVDA. You can obviously also purchase additional technology for your computer such as JAWS screen reader at a later date.
The scheme has also teamed up with Internet providers to offer cost effective Internet and the ‘Get Online at Home’ website has information regarding Internet deals and about how to get online.
The following item was written by Claire Parker, a volunteer with Sight Service and a campaign leader for the RNIB. Claire is registered blind and was recently involved in a documentary film about disability and government cuts. She takes up the story.
On Wednesday 4th May I travelled to Hartlepool to attend the premiere screening of a documentary produced by Shoot Your Mouth Off (SYMO), a production company specialising in producing a range of work with disabled people including dramas, documentaries, comedies, and music videos. The purpose of the documentary, entitled ‘Falling Through the Cracks’, is to explore the effects of the cuts to frontline services and through Welfare Reform. I took part in the filming of the documentary a number of months earlier so was delighted to have received an invitation to see the completed film.
Through the use of video interviews and participatory research SYMO have produced the documentary film in order to give people with disabilities a platform to tell their side of the story. It is also hoped that the film will influence policy makers.
Karen Sheader, a disabled writer, performer, activist and actor is the founder of SYMO. Karen is the first person to appear in the documentary, and is the commentator and interviewer throughout the film. Karen begins by talking about the start of the disability movement and how disabled people, after many years, had finally begun to acquire the rights and services they had been fighting for such as accessible transport, and the right to work. She points out how disabled people are once again at risk of losing all this due to the drastic and direct cuts to frontline services and Welfare Reforms. ‘Disabled people are scared’, Karen explains, the cuts are going to have a devastating impact on the lives of disabled people, their families and carers. These concerns are represented by the people being interviewed throughout the film.
During my interview I explain to Karen that the major concern is the introduction of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) to replace the current Disability Living Allowance (DLA) which will focus on those with the greatest need. This will result in many people being excluded from receiving vital services and financial support that enables disabled people to live independently such as paying for travel and specialist equipment. The film also joins me at the Hardest Hit event in Newcastle that took place on 22nd October where we held a march and rally to protest against the government’s proposed welfare cuts. The rally included speakers Ian Lavery MP for Wansbeck, disability activist Stuart Bracking and me as the opening speaker. In our words the message was clear; that we need to ensure that the changes aren’t going to make disabled people worse off, that the assessment process is fair and that disabled people can meet the additional cost of living with a disability.
When the film came to a conclusion there was a round of applause from the audience followed by a discussion of people’s thoughts about the film. Many people could relate to the stories told in the film. There was also a lot of agreement that the term ‘Independence’ in the title Personal Independence Payment is a contradiction as rather than supporting independence the new system will punish those who have any independence by taking away the very support that allows them to live independently.
In my opinion it is a very well put together film that needs to be circulated in order to make sure that disabled people’s voices are heard and reaches the ears of those in power; able to make a difference.
There is a Hardest Hit Campaign taking place June 2012 in Newcastle. Find out more
We will be holding a family fun day at Blaydon Rugby Club, Crow Trees, Hexham Road, Swalwell NE16 3BN, on Saturday 21st July. The event will include a DJ, games, stalls, food, raffle and a balloon launch. The event starts at 3.30PM and tickets are just £1.
Peter Bennett, one of Sight Service's trustees, represents us on the personalisation sub-group in South Tyneside. This group has been looking at issues for service users in South Tyneside as the council moves to support for people being more directed by and for themselves.
Peter was one of the first blind and partially sighted people to go through the process. He found it hard to navigate, receiving contradictory messages from the council, and in the end successfully challenged their decision – a decision not to meet his need for a specific piece of equipment so he could read his post and other important documents. Peter contested this decision claiming that this equipment was necessary to help him to continue to live independently. With the support of Sight Service and the RNIB, Peter has now been working with council officers to ensure blind and partially sighted people get a better deal in the future
The council have made a number of commitments which have been welcomed by Peter and the South Tyneside subgroup:
- 1) The council's Adult Social Care Initial Contact Team screening feeds service users details into a Supported Assessment Questionnaire. This now includes a particular prompt giving consideration to equipment or telecare before the allocation of an indicative personal budget.
- 2) Although the council do hold stock of commonly used equipment each persons equipment needs are assessed on an individual basis. If this existing stock does not meet a person's need, they would consider the most appropriate alternative.
Peter Bennett will be continuing to work to ensure South Tyneside council does provide all blind and partially sighted people with significant or critical need - the appropriate type of support. Although Peter has got the equipment he needs, he hopes the changes made by the council to their approach will help others living in the area with sight loss to get the right support to maximise their independence.
For more information about the South Tyneside personalisation subgroup call Henri Murison on 0191234 5409.
Thank you to everyone who contributed items to this year’s creative writing competition. The theme this year was ‘the thing that I can’t live without’. The judges have made their decision and the results are in. Feel free to build your own tension and then join me on the next paragraph for the great reveal.
OK, here are the results. Oh, I liked the tension building by the way, very good. In third place it’s Val Jobbling who wrote about her relationship with her church. In second place it’s Muriel Falkenberg who composed a piece all about radio. But the winner this year is … Sophie Fawcus. You can read Sophie’s piece below.
Thank you to the Royal Victoria Trust who are kindly donating the prize money which is £25 for third place, £50 for second and £100 for the winner.
Again, thank you to everyone who entered; now for that winning piece.
The thing that I could not live without by Sophie Fawcus
I could not live without my family and friends because I feel safe with them wherever I go because they will help me cross road and go down steps and tell me how to learn Braille and using a cane to get around. I sometimes get worried about little things and my mum or my personal assistant Ellie will make me realise nothing is that bad and find a way to sort things out. I have lots of memories of happy times with my family like holidays in Spain or Centre Parcs and laughing at my dad when he forgets how to ride a bike after so many years, just sitting watching x factor and all sitting together with my dog Rocco on my knee. My memories make me feel warm and happy and remind me how lucky I am to have a nice life and people who love me. All families have sad times and bad times but that’s when my mum says you have to work as a team and pull together. That’s hard but it’s the best way to feel right again. I cheer and clap for my brother when he swims for British Blind Sport and gets medals in the butterfly and I am so proud of him even though he’s a pain at home I still want him to do well.
One of the things I really couldn’t live without is going on Holiday with my family. One of the best ones is Centre Parcs in Sherwood Forest the lazy river is the best thing ever I like to do. The water is lovely and hot and even when its raining you are lovely and warm. You can see squirrels ducks and swans just outside your villa, it is so cool.
We went to Centre Parcs for my Sam’s birthday. Rocco came with us. he had a great time he tried to climb the tree but couldn’t. We went swimming on the lazy river on my dads back. The weather was lovely, only had one bad day with the weather. Me and Sam and Rocco would of stayed longer but couldn’t we went out for a meal and we could stay in the pool till 10.00 at night. my Sam went out to watch the football as. Me my mum and Rocco went out of Centre Parcs to look at shops.
When I went to Benalmadena we saw crocodiles and even held one a baby one though and we met Dolphins and were in the water and guido the very very large sea lion who tried to kiss my dad. I then watched the dolphin show which was fab when we went back to the hotel. We got changed and had a lovely meal.
Been to Italy with Cedars School for a week. Went skiing and sledding with young ones. I was in a room with Louise and Anna and had a good time. it was snow and cold. I was helping people. I helped Louise and Anna in the room. The hotel was lovely inside and the magic carpet was good. I took lots of photos. I can ski on my own now. Rocco was in a huff when he saw the suitcase come out but when we came home he was so happy. Was getting his toys and wanted to play with him he helped my mum unpack the suitcase then I put it back in the cupboard.
Read more entries
You can read more submitions to our competition here
Sight Service is now working alongside the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association on an exciting new project called My Guide. This is a wonderful new opportunity for both our service users and volunteers. A volunteer will be paired with a Service user for an agreed period of time to help that person get out and about independently. Anyone who is interested in becoming a guide or would like help from a guide, please contact Luke Quinn on 0191 4785959 (extension 215).
Sight Service is constantly reviewing and developing new social activity groups. We are thinking of starting up a Men’s social group. We are proposing a 6-8 week programme where we are planning to talk about different issues including men’s health, fitness and mobility. As well as this we are thinking of doing some fun activities such as a games week and a movie week. Anyone who would be interested in joining or who would like more information please contact Luke Quinn at Sight Service on 0191 4785959 (extension 215).
The Government have begun the process of moving people with disabilities who are not in employment from their existing out of work benefits and onto Employment and Support Allowance. The benefits affected are Incapacity Benefit; Income Support which is received because you are disabled and Severe Disablement Allowance. Each person will be re-assessed to see which level of Employment and Support Allowance they will receive and some will be required to move to Job Seekers Allowance.
We are receiving reports from around the country of people being caught out by the re-assessment process because they do not know what to expect or do not understand the new criteria. In response to this Sight Service are looking to establish an information and support group to inform people of the impact of moving onto Employment and Support Allowance and to prepare people for the re-assessment process.
We are looking for people who have already gone through the re-assessment process to form part of the information group and share their experiences to benefit others. We are also looking for anyone who is aged between 16 and 65 and currently receiving either Incapacity Benefit, Income Support forreasons of disability or Severe Disablement Allowance who wishes to know more about the process and the impact of changing benefit.
Firstly, a warning: Throughout September the analogue TV signal in the tyne-tees region will be switched off. The analogue signal hosts the five terrestrial channels, BBc 1 and 2 plus ITV, channels 4 and 5. That means if you haven’t switched over to digital by that time then you will no longer hear the news, EastEnders or whatever else you might watch, instead you will receive a monotonous hissing sound. This may in some cases actually be preferable to some of the programmes that are available on television, but in general it is probably not what you are wanting. However, all is not lost. If you switch over to digital then you will once again be able to watch the news, and perhaps more importantly, be able to watch cockneys getting into fights over anything and everything that a team of soap writers could possibly conceive. Aaah, thank goodness.
Switching to digital can be very easy to do and there is help available. The help scheme is a government initiative. The scheme provides easy to use digital equipment, home delivery and installation of digital equipment, and 12 months aftercare and a free helpline. Call the help scheme on 08004085900 or visit www.helpscheme.co.uk.
We have discussed in Looking Good before about products that have in-built speech. We referred to Apple products such as the IPhone, IPad and Mac. There seems to be a few more mainstream products coming out that are installed with speech. This is a big turning point for people with visual impairments. It means that we do not necessarily have to purchase additional software in order to use a mainstream product, or buy a special piece of equipment specifically designed for blind people. The need to purchase additional software and equipment made being visually impaired an expensive business. Nowadays, more and more products are coming out with in-built technology to make the product accessible, meaning we don’t have to spend any more money than a sighted person would in order to use the product. In terms of television there are a few products that offer speech straight out-of-the-box.
The Goodman’s Smart Talk Digital Box speaks all on-screen menus, provides information about the channel you are viewing, and speaks programme guides and television schedules. If you are registered blind or partially sighted then it will only cost you £40. If you are not registered blind or partially sighted then the cost will be £119.
Panasonic are also getting in on the act. They have made 30 of their models speech enabled. The televisions announce current programme and channel information, programme guides, recording and setting reminders of programmes you want to watch, and playing programmes back that you have recorded. The television models range in price from around £440 to £3800. The speech feature is called Voice Guidance.
Additional online content
On the 3rd May 2012 (after the release date of the newsletter) a new range of digital TV recorders from TVonics with in-built speech have become available. Click here to read more about it.
The NHS in England are introducing something called a Summary Care Record. it will give healthcare staff faster, easier access to information about you, in order to help provide you with safe treatment when you need care in an emergency or when your GP practice is closed. The record may contain information about allergies, you might have, bad reactions to certain medicines and information about medication that you are currently taking.
The NHS produced and posted leaflets to let you know about this scheme, but you may not have been aware of this due to not being able to read the leaflet. The leaflet explains that your Summary Care Record will be created automatically for you; however, you can opt out of the scheme should you choose to.
Opt out forms can be obtained from your local GP practise, online at www.nhscarerecords.nhs.uk/options or you can phone 0300 123 3020. More information about the Summary Care Record is available via the aforementioned phone number or online at www.nhscarerecords.nhs.uk.
On Thursday 16th February Sight Service, in partnership with Action for Blind People, launched the Active Awareness programme at Gateshead Leisure Centre.
Inspired by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games Active Awareness aims to provide visually impaired people with the platform to get active and take part in recreational or competitive sport across our region. To do this we intend to deliver awareness training to staff at local sports and fitness groups and organisations to help them make their services accessible to visually impaired people wishing to participate. To create a long-term legacy we hope to work with young people enrolled on Sports Leaders or health and fitness related qualifications to encourage them to think about inclusion in sport. In conjunction with this we aim to visit schools and organisations which currently support visually impaired people in an attempt to inspire them to take up sport and push for greater change and access within this field.
The event was attended by members of local councils across the North East and representatives of local sports groups and organisations with a special appearance from guest speaker Chris Holmes MBE.
Thank you for reading this edition of the Looking Good newsletter.
Congratulations to Andrew Moore, who runs our youth group. He is running two marathons in the space of two weeks. He ran the London Marathon and is planning to run the Marathon of the North. He is running to raise money for Sight Service. You can sponsor him here.
Finally, Thank you to all our volunteers. Our dedicated volunteers are based in both our Gateshead and South Tyneside Resource Centres. They support our work in a number of ways, including:
- Providing transport – Driving our service users to and from Sight Service.
- Assisting with Administration-this includes everything from databases to answering the telephone. In our Gateshead centre we now have a team providing administration support on a daily basis.
- Supporting our social groups. without this help we would not be able to offer the range of activities we currently provide.
- Gardening - our garden at the Bradbury Centre has been transformed in the last few months.
- Providing refreshments- all our groups enjoy a tea or coffee.
- Working in our new Charity Shop- a lot of work has gone into setting up the shop, including cleaning shelves and labelling stock. There has also been a lot of effort put into setting up the systems to ensure the shop runs smoothly.
The support and skills our volunteers bring to Sight Service is greatly appreciated.
We will be back with another newsletter in September. Hopefully we will see many of you at the Sight North East exhibition which, to remind you, takes place on Wednesday 12th September.
Till then, from me David Eagle and everyone at Sight Service, goodbye.
The information in this newsletter is reproduced in good faith and is accurate at the time of publishing. Sight Service cannot accept liability for the quality of services or products provided by other organisations, authorities or suppliers. We link to external websites in good faith, however we cannot assume responsibility for the content of websites outside of Sight Service.