'Sight Loss Councils' set up to improve accessibility

People with visual impairments are gathering to discuss how to create 'positive change' within their communities.

Groups have been set up to help advocate for people with visual impairments and ensure their communities are as accessible as possible.

Sight Loss Scotland has teamed up with a number of other organisations to create “Sight Loss Councils”.

Every month a small group of blind and partially sighted volunteers give their views on what issues they think should be improved – by discussing their own experiences.

With the scheme already being rolled out in England, the aim is to help as many people living with sight loss as possible, so they can live full and independent lives.

Bilal Iqbal, who is visually impaired, says there’s room for improvement when it comes to accessibility around Edinburgh.

Bilal says he hopes the groups will help 'reach out' to more visually impaired people in the community

He told STV News: “People want to come and see concerts – we want more accessibility in venues, maybe staff being trained to do sighted guide.

“Another idea is braille on more products, like theatre programmes – or one big app for every theatre so you wouldn’t have to have different apps.

“It’s really important we’re having this event. It’s a chance to find out what the Sight Loss Council is all about.

“It’s a way to reach out to people.”

Callum has a visual impairment. He says it often goes unnoticed by others – but he feels the impact of it everyday.

Callum is visually impaired and says he wants 'the same opportunities' for everyone

Callum said: “I don’t look like I’ve got visual impairment – but I struggle with reading, distance and I’ve not got much central vision. I struggle when I’m out, especially in venues.

“I want the same opportunities for everyone. We should be able to go everywhere everyone else can.

“We’re going to make a lot of change – it’s going to be a lot of work but it’s going to be exciting.”

The groups will examine healthcare, transport and built environment in their local communities, working with the councils, NHS and the government.

Charities are hoping to encourage more people with sight loss to join the sessions and ensure their towns and cities are more inclusive.

Sight Loss Scotland chief Craig Spalding said: “It’s an opportunity for people to speak up for themselves and guide change in society.

“It can be extremely isolating and impact their confidence. It can be grinding on people’s mental health.”

Emma Scott, head of operations at Disability Scotland, added: “This is the first time we’re bringing Sight Loss Councils to Scotland. It’s not a talking shop – it’s for action and positive change.

“We work with service users every day. We know what we think the challenges are, but we really want to hear from them.

“We want to hear about employability, arts and culture, and what they think the solutions are.”

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