Sight Village in Birmingham is a huge annual event covering everything from technology to a number of VI-related charities for people involved at all levels with VI.
Sixth formers from a local school were on hand, armed with maps showing the different stalls and to guide and explain. The venue was buzzing with visitors and exhibits.
I was helping out on the Macular Society stall, talking to people and handing out information leaflets. All information provided is free and can be obtained from their website – www.macularsociety.org or by phoning the helpline on 0300 3030 111. The Macular Society is a charity which provides information and support and funds research. Among the staff and volunteers are many people themselves with different forms of Macular conditions. Their knowledge of the subject was exceptional and their communication with the members of the public was very relaxed and warm.
As usual, the main gripe about the exhibits was the lack of space and poor signage. Why do many of the manufacturers of sophisticated and expensive computer technology give their representatives so little training in the face-to-face issues of people with VI? I was looking for hand-held magnifiers and the salesman kept pointing at various exhibits some feet away and asking if that was what I wanted. He did this repeatedly although I told him I could not see that far. Some of the technology is extremely expensive, which is understandable in view of the development costs but to me, as a layperson, I would like to have understood it better in, for instance, comparison with the cheaper iPad and other facilities I have.
Of course, any experience like this brings its own rewards and I came away with a heavy bag of useful information and a comforting sense of community.
Useful information and a few niggles:
Network West Midlands Getting About Access Guide
This is an excellent compendium listing all aspects of specific disability accessibility to public and community transport in the West Midlands. Plus much more! It comes in different formats: large print. Braille, audio and can be ordered from firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephoning 0121 214 7214.
But although it is easy to imagine all the enthusiastic and expensive planning meetings, where is the implementation? Patchy at best and non existent at worst. Transport for people with VI and other disabilities is still poor in the West Midlands.
The magnifier Solutions guide from the RNIB ( helpline 0303 123 9999 or http://RNIB.org.uk/magnifiers ) is clear and helpful.
Barclays Bank is aiming to become the most accessible and inclusive service in the UK. Its brochure “Making Banking Easier” can be obtained in large print, Braille or audio by calling 0800 400 100 (via Text Relay) or http://www.barclays.co.uk/accessibility. Most people will have seen recent advertisements to this effect but their attention to the needs of VI again reflect careful planning.
BUT, following their advice, I made an appointment with my nearest branch with a view to changing accounts to Barclays. After a 20 minute bus ride I arrived at my local Barclays to be advised that my appointment was cancelled, the Manager was not available and I could make an appointment to come back another day. Very poor implementation. You have lost my business, Barclays. Other people with VI be warned. I phoned their customer service line to ask for an explanation and simply received a rather bland apology and no follow up.
This blog sounds as if it is somewhat negative. There are plenty of committed and creative companies and organisations out there to help people with VI and I suppose events like Sight Village demonstrates this at all levels. Because there seems to be so much useful support it is all the more disappointing when the execution doesn’t live up to the advertising.
Has anyone else had experience of this gap between marketing and implementation?
Listening: Hard Choices by Hilary Clinton on Audible. So smug and disappointing I gave up on it.
DVD: le Weekend directed by Robert Michell with Jim Broadbent, Lindsay Duncan and Jeff Goldblum. Loved this two-hander of a middle-aged couple from Birmingham and their life changing weekend in Paris.