Vital for an ‘inclusive’ Scotland to take account of needs of visually impaired people - Craig Spalding
As Scotland’s leading sight loss organisation, it is of paramount importance that the voices of visually impaired people shape every element of our work, from our service provision to our campaigning.
When it comes to our policy work, we believe it is vital that decision-makers at every level of government are aware of the needs and experiences of people who are affected by vision impairment when they make key decisions on issues like reform of public services or healthcare.
Earlier this year, our manifesto for the May Scottish local authority elections outlined key calls highlighted to us by blind and partially sighted people, including involvement in planning processes to ensure community spaces are accessible, increasing the number of specialist teachers and resources in schools and creating an inclusive Scotland for visually impaired people with accessible and affordable local transport networks.
In our March 2022 report, The Impact of Covid-19 on Blind and Partially Sighted People, we shared lived experiences of the pandemic from visually impaired service users and colleagues – from challenges with social distancing to difficulties with using lateral flow tests – as we put forward recommendations for actions to be taken to better help people with sight loss should future pandemic restrictions be necessary.
This summer, we are excited to launch our new policy group – our latest initiative placing visually impaired people’s voices at the heart of all we do as we strive to secure positive change for people with sight loss in Scotland. The group consists of blind and partially sighted people of various ages and backgrounds who will take on the voluntary roles of Sight Loss Champions. It will meet regularly with our policy colleagues to discuss issues impacting visually impaired people in Scotland.
Our Sight Loss Champions will drive the charities’ future campaigns, taking on a leading role in shaping Sight Scotland and Sight Scotland Veterans’ advocacy and campaigning work. From meetings with MSPs, Scottish MPs and councillors to media engagement, the group will take the lead in championing the voices of blind and partially sighted people across Scotland and ensuring that their lived experience informs future policies and legislation impacting people with sight loss.
Colette Walker, Co-chair of the Sight Scotland and Sight Scotland Veterans policy group, said: “I’m delighted to co-chair the brand-new policy group. It’s vital that policies and legislation at all levels are informed by the lived experienced of blind and partially sighted people and that’s exactly what we aim to achieve.
"As someone with sight loss it was great to hear from others with a visual impairment about their views on some of the challenges they face in their day to day lives. Over the next year we’ll continue to look at a host of policy areas including health, transport, human rights and accessibility to suggest actions that can be taken improve the lives of blind and partially sighted people across Scotland.”
Sight Scotland and Sight Scotland Veterans would welcome enquiries from anyone in Scotland who has sight loss and has an interest in getting involved with the charities’ policy work. To find out more, please contact [email protected]
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