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Vision Buddy – new tech from Sight and Sound Technology

What is a Vision Buddy? It’s a wearable device for people with low vision. You can learn a bit more by watching the Blind Life review on YouTube. Imagine a scuba face mask which has a collection of tactile buttons on the outside and under edge. The Vision Buddy will let you magnify texts at a normal reading distance. Sight & Sound Technology loaned me the Vision Buddy for this review. 

It has Optical Character Recognition capability. This means it can read texts aloud, and it can connect to a TV Box so you watch TV with it. The device can also connect to a computer to provide a heads-up display. Both the TV and Computer inputs can be magnified.

About me

I’ve had central vision loss for the best part of 50 years, which is due to a macular condition. As a result, I am used to eccentric fixation and the use of magnifiers and telescopes. 50 years of central vision loss also means I am quite stuck in my own ways. Trialling the Vision Buddy is a chance to shake things up!

To use the Vision Buddy, or more accurately, to benefit from it you do need usable amounts of low vision. My level of vision prevented me from reading any of the prompts or information in in the display. For example, I could not see the battery or magnification level. Once on, the Vision Buddy robs me of my usable peripheral vision. This did feel a little claustrophobic at times.

First impressions of the Vision Buddy

I pulled the device from the box and thought: so many wires! Wires to connect to the TV, computer, power and external camera. They are all helpfully labelled and there’s only one port into the device. So, the wires weren’t as bad as I thought. The other thing is with a bit of fiddling the device is simple to use. I didn’t look at any instructions (because I couldn’t see them) just fiddled until it started working. The buttons are easy to feel, even though I’m not that sensitive. The feeling of claustrophobia due to loss of peripheral vision still nags away at me though.

The units are also a little heavy and I’ve got a big face! It also gets a little hot with prolonged use. I found that wriggling the unit on my face to get the exact distance of image to eye makes a considerable difference to image clarity.

Magnifier mode

Looking out into the distance is exciting! From my vantage point I could see the colour of ships well out into the middle of the English Channel. I have also used it to read a magazine at normal distance. But the magnification does pixilate at higher levels of magnification.

Optical magnification has greater clarity for the user. The field of view and ease of use makes the magnification option very attractive indeed. When my children were smaller the Vision Buddy would have made it simpler to keep an eye on them, especially out in the garden. The large field of view would have allowed me to watch them from much further away.

The magnification also helped me read street signs and video display boards at stations. It’s a not a discreet device for using in public though. I would be interested to trial the Vision Buddy at a sporting event such as a football match.

Optical Character Recognition

This works fairly well, but I am more likely to reach for an app on my phone than use Vision Buddy OCR. More voice prompts would help me use the Vision Buddy better. Sometimes I had to guess what the visual heads-up display wanted me to do. I could scan and read text within moments using the Vision Buddy though.

Connecting the Vision Buddy to the computer

The Vision Buddy can connect to your computer using an HDMI cable. When connected, it feels a bit like you are inside the monitor, which is a bit strange. Looking up and down allows you to look at enlarged sections of your screen. Text and images can be enlarged, and colour filters and inverse settings applied at the flick of a button.

The Vision Buddy can allow quick and easy access to visual images and text on computers. This means that some people with low vision may be able to use the computer without changing the settings. This also means that Vision Buddy could negate the need for specialist software for some people.

What I did experience was an immediate loss of my keyboard and mouse. I usually cannot see them clearly, but I can see where they are on my desk along with other useful items like my phone. Once the goggles go on, all you see is the computer screen. My vision loss means that I still needed to use magnification software in addition to the Vision Buddy magnification.

I would be interested to experiment with e-books and the Vision Buddy. The heads-up display could prove an interesting format for reading texts, particularly if they scrolled.

TV watching

Vision Buddy comes with a box which you connect to your TV set top box. It then transmits the TV signal straight to the goggles. It’s like you are in the programme, particularly when the image is magnified.  At times, I felt like I was actually in a jungle, with David Attenborough chatting away in my ear. The downside for me was that there wasn’t enough magnification to read text or menus on the screen. This means that it still ruled out using the Vision Buddy for family TV watching. You become isolated in your TV viewing.

Also, if you are used to using the remote control partly visually you do lose the ability to do this once the goggles are on. Again, simple to set up – HDMI cable from the transmitter into the box and away. Getting the sound to work a little trickier. If the Vision Buddy gave me a live feed at a sporting event or concert we would really be in business!

External Camera

I’ve experimented less with the Vision Buddy’s external camera.  I did find that plugging an external camera into it created a better-quality experience. The magnification improved and I could read newsprint-sized text and smaller without difficulty. The external camera was straight forward to set up. I intend to explore this functionality further. The Vision Buddy and attachments are portable enough to take along to a meeting or into education.

Final thoughts on the Vision Buddy

The Vision Buddy is simple to use and simple to setup. But you do need some useful vision, and to think carefully about when you would use it. I like the idea of the Vision Buddy and can see definite potential for use at the cinema and theatre. It would likewise be great at a sporting event, especially if accompanied with a live feed. I also value the field of view offered at high magnification. As an aid though, it is not discreet, so, you might have to be thick skinned to wear it in busy environments.

Jonathan Ward

Thanks go to Antony Thomas from Sight & Sound Technology for loaning me the Vision Buddy

Greenwich Transport Forum

Easy read version

On Wednesday 8 June, London Vision was back at the hub in the Clockhouse Community Centre to hold the first Greenwich Transport forum. A key part of London Vision’s new engagement strategy in the Royal London Borough of Greenwich involves gaining a better understanding of blind and partially sighted residents’ experiences of public transport and infrastructure in the borough. This initial meeting, attended by Greenwich Council’s Head of Highways Andrew Burton and Transport for London’s Local Community and Partnerships Lead – City Planning, Rob Varney, was primarily focussed on buses, and public transport infrastructure in Greenwich.

We were joined by local residents – including representatives from the social group Blind in Greenwich – and other stakeholders, to discuss experiences of travel in the borough.

Experiences of travelling on buses in the area

The forum was divided into two, with the first half focussed specifically on bus travel, and the second examining transport infrastructure and elements of the built environment such as dropped kerbs and tactile paving.

Attendees were invited to put their concerns to Andrew Burton and Rob Varney. Some of the specific issues raised were:

Audible announcements on the buses – several attendees complained that frequently these are not loud enough, and it was asked whether the volume of these announcements can be controlled by the driver in the cab. Mention was made of an incorrect audio announcement on some buses: while attendees welcomed announcements advising that, upon alighting, pedestrians would be entering a cycle lane, attendees noted that on occasion these announcements were made at the wrong stops.

Bus diversions – when buses are on diversion, not enough audible information is given to blind or partially sighted passengers. When diverted buses stop in unfamiliar places, blind and partially sighted passengers sometimes struggle to continue their onward journeys or make connections.

Driver training – according to the Red Book, upon seeing passengers waiting at a bus stop with a cane or a guide dog, drivers should always stop and announce the bus number. This does not always happen. Additionally, some of the pandemic safety controls – such as plastic barrier screens around the driver’s cab – mean that it can be difficult to ask drivers questions, or hear drivers’ responses. It was also pointed out that often bus drivers nod their heads in assent – clearly blind and partially sighted passengers would struggle with this kind of communication.  However, it was noted that drivers are much more helpful than they have been in the past, and this is due to TfL’s training.

Road and bus infrastructure

The second half of the meeting focussed on infrastructure and the impact of the built environment on ease of travel.

Bus stops – many bus stops in Greenwich utilise the bus countdown display, however, this is largely inaccessible for blind and partially sighted travellers. Attendees requested that audible bus countdown announcements be incorporated to help blind and partially sighted travellers know when and which next bus will be arriving.

Traffic lights – attendees highlighted some controlled crossings in the area which are perceived as particularly dangerous for disabled pedestrians. One controlled crossing – Beresford Road, outside Woolwich station – was highlighted as posing particular problems and causing confusion for some blind and partially sighted pedestrians. While the green person signal is lit for 18 seconds – three times the length of a normal signal – crossing four lanes of traffic can be difficult for some pedestrians.

Furthermore, a perceived ‘refuge’ between the four lanes has been a source of confusion because there is no kerb or traffic light button. According to Andrew Burton, it is not an actual pedestrian refuge because pedestrians are supposed to cross all four lanes in one crossing. It has no kerbs or button for this reason. This style of crossing is now preferred to the former style – wherein a pedestrian would cross four lanes in two stages, waiting at a refuge in between – which makes pedestrians subservient to traffic.

Crossing four lanes of traffic also brings up the issue of veering off course, something that can happen easily for blind and partially sighted pedestrians when there is a lack of audio or tactile information. This is particularly acute on longer distances, and when a crossing is silent (such as the one at Beresford Road). Attendees requested that TfL and Greenwich look into making the controlled crossing audible to help blind and partially sighted pedestrians navigate from one side to the other. Audible cues could also help pedestrians know when the lights were likely to change.

Tactile paving – attendees noted that there was on occasion a lack of appropriate or enough tactile and blister paving in areas of the borough. In some cases, dropped kerbs are missing tactile paving, meaning that blind and partially sighted pedestrians are not provided with enough information about potentially stepping from a footway into a carriageway.

Tactile paving (or lack thereof) was also highlighted around shared spaces, and particularly cycle paths. More tactile paving would help blind and partially sighted pedestrians recognise and avoid walking into some cycle paths, for example.

Going forwards

Issues were raised and actions agreed by both TfL and Greenwich Council’s representatives at the meeting. One key takeaway is that Rob Varney and Andrew Burton now have a primary contact in the Greenwich area, through which information about ongoing work and consultations will be communicated. This was the inaugural forum, and there is a tentative agreement to hold these meetings quarterly going forward, or when a major consultation or programme of work is about to be initiated.

Would you like to attend the next forum? Get in touch with Bhavini Makwana on info@londonvision.org.

Make sure you are following London Vision on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn) to keep up to date with what’s happening.

London Vision community engagement survey

Eye health and sight loss are often overlooked but we at London Vision are here to support you and your family.

We know that people at risk of developing sight loss don’t always receive the information they need. They lack advice or help to manage their condition to prevent sight loss occurring. This issue can be more pronounced within different ethnic communities. People from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities are more likely to develop diabetes, for example. This increases their chances of developing Diabetic Retinopathy, an eye condition causing blindness.

London Vision wants to understand the eye health situation in your local area better. This is so that the team can improve information in your community. And to help share knowledge about services and support.

We need your help to do this. Please fill in our short Community Engagement Survey, it will only take a few minutes.

You can also contact a member of the London Vision team to help you, should you need any help. Call 020 3761 3651 or send an email to info@londonvision.org

We appreciate your help in supporting us to make a difference in your local area.

Fill in the survey by following this link: Community Engagement Survey

Blind in Greenwich – local community organisation

Easy read version

London Vision is excited to be doing more work in Greenwich going forward, and working closer with groups like Blind in Greenwich (BiG), a peer support and social activity group for blind and partially sighted people and others affected by vision loss, based in the Royal Borough of Greenwich. BiG came to London Vision’s Information Day in April – read on to learn more:

 

Blind in Greenwich

Blind in Greenwich (BiG) saw the London Vision Information Day on April 13th as an opportunity to increase our membership and provide assistance and peer support to more blind and partially sighted Greenwich residents. We are only a small voluntary organisation and find it difficult to get information about who we are and what we do to the people who might need it. We had been talking about getting some flyers to help with recruitment for a while, and this was the ideal opportunity to use them.

Four of our committee members, Wayne Holmes, Sue Mitchell, Sajida Shah and me, Steven Reed arrived armed with our new flyers, willing to talk to the borough’s visually impaired community. There was a good turnout and for the first couple of hours the room was busy, buzzing with activity. We did a lot of talking and I’m surprised we didn’t leave hoarse, but we had a good time and picked up some potential new members.

Making contacts in the borough

I had a fantastic conversation with Peta Cubberley, VCS Stakeholder Relationship Officer for the borough. She provided me with numerous contacts within the council and around the borough who we may be able to work with. As a small voluntary organisation, I’m sure these contacts will prove invaluable. To be honest, I didn’t see this as a networking event in this way however, Peta overwhelmed me with emails after the event, which I am truly grateful for.

It was also great to see some of our current members there. Some enjoyed learning about the tech that Optelec and Sight and Sound Technology had to offer, whereas others had a good chat with the Eye Clinic Liaison Officer, Kerry about what she does and the services that RNIB provides. We also had a good chat with the London Vision team about their plans for helping the visually impaired of Greenwich. I believe the biggest thing that came out of these discussions was how London Vision and BiG can work together to improve the provision of services for Greenwich’s VIPs.

Steven Reed, Blind in Greenwich

Blind Ambition takes over the Working Age Forum (WAF)

Update from colleagues at Blind Ambition:

Blind Ambition is pleased to announce that it will be taking over the running of the Working Age Forum (WAF) for Visually Impaired People endorsed by the RNIB. The forum is a relaxed, sociable space for visually impaired people to meet, learn and inspire each other to achieve their best lives.

The forum has been run for many years by London Vision but recent strategic changes have required a new home. Blind Ambition is extremely grateful to London Vision for its dedication in running this valuable support network and is honoured by the opportunity to continue this work and broaden it to cover the entire UK.

Blind Ambition has been working with the RNIB, Shaw Trust and other leading disability empowerment organisations over the last two years to help blind and partially sighted people get into work with a series of employment webinars aimed at every aspect of the employment journey, from CV writing, to interview techniques and harnessing government support available. Alongside Blind Ambition offers one  to one coaching to help people with their employment journey. Each month there will also be a 5 minute slot in which we put the limelight upon an “VIP of the month” to share their story and success as well as, tips on technologies and other topics of interest for the forum.

The WAF builds on this existing partnership to further help support blind and partially sighted people. It will continue every second Wednesday each month from 6-7pm on Zoom while we consult with members on how best to develop the concept.  We will be looking to develop the WAF further to enhance skills with rebuilding, revitalising, reskilling, redirecting and recruitment in your employment journey.

The next event will be on the 11th of May from 6-7pm.

 

London Vision Information Day in Woolwich

On Wednesday 13 April London Vision held its Information Day event at the Clockhouse Community Centre in Woolwich.

London Vision will be using the Clockhouse Community Centre in Woolwich as a local hub for providing services to Greenwich residents. Alongside our ongoing online offerings – CBS Support, Managing Sight Loss and now Let’s Talk – we will be offering in person activities in the centre.

The event was an opportunity to meet local residents, to make connections with other organisations working in the area, and to let blind and partially sighted people know about services locally available to them.

Sight loss organisations in attendance

We welcomed the Macular Society, Blind in Greenwich, Sight and Sound Technology, Optolec, RNIB and Deafblind UK to the event.

Sight and Sound Technology and Optolec brought many examples of assistive technology along to the event to demonstrate. Attendees were able to try out and learn more about a variety of bits of tech, including magnifiers and wearable technology. We intend to incorporate some of these new and traditional technology products into our technology sessions in the future.

The Macular Society is in the process of creating a new branch in the Greenwich area. The Information Day event was a great opportunity to make connections with local residents and lay the groundwork for the new branch.

Blind in Greenwich is a social group for blind and partially sighted people that meets monthly in Greenwich. The Information Day gave many event attendees the opportunity to sign up to the Blind in Greenwich mailing list so they can be the first to know about social events happening in the area.

 

Kevin McBrien, Manager of the Clockhouse Community Centre said this about the event:

“It was fantastic to have the London Vision team and other sight loss organisations at the Clockhouse for the information day. The Clockhouse is a hub for people in the Woolwich area and I’m pleased that people in the community with visual impairment will be able to attend London Vision’s events in the centre for support, to learn new skills and to make connections with other blind and partially sighted people.”

 

New work in Woolwich

As mentioned, London Vision will be delivering in person training and sessions in the Clockhouse Centre in Woolwich. These will form part of the new Vision Confident work, and will include a return to the longer-form, in person, Managing Sight Loss course that London Vision was delivering prior to the pandemic.

We are continuing to offer online sessions and training that is accessible for blind and partially sighted people across the capital. This includes the regular CBS Support Group, ongoing Managing Sight Loss sessions and the new Let’s Talk groups. Make sure you stay tuned to our events page to stay up to date with the latest London Vision events.

Former intern Renu Walia becomes RNIB’s 100th ECLO

In March 2021, Renu Walia joined London Vision on a three-month placement which extended to a further three months in May 2021, as part of the Thomas Pocklington Trust internship programme. The internship programme provides support, development opportunities and experience in evaluation methods used across the charity sector for blind and partially sighted applicants.

Internship roles

Part of Renu’s role was working with Jonathan Ward on the Managing Sight Loss programme. Renu helped prepare sessions, researched additional content, and helped facilitate the sessions. Renu led a brand-new Managing Sight Loss session focussed on Accessible TVs – it looked at how to make the very best of your TV from sitting a little closer to using binoculars, audio description and voice guidance on smart TVs.

Renu was also instrumental in monitoring the Managing Sight Loss course, creating surveys, and collating data to evaluate the impact of the programme. This data fed into key reports and helped London Vision better understand how the course. Renu provided key support to many members of the team, performing admin and research functions, and contributing to general London Vision operations.

In her own words:

“The Virtual Intern role provided me with a great opportunity to express my passion for the sight loss sector and the opportunity to make a positive impact in the lives of blind and partially sighted people.

 

“I have been working in various admin roles for the past 17 years, but never in the sight loss sector. I always felt something was missing in my professional roles, and when the Virtual Intern position came up, I jumped at the chance to learn more about sight loss sector. Working with colleagues at London Vision taught me about the variety of roles relating to sight loss.

“It was through working with London Vision that I learnt more about Eye Clinic Liaison Officer role (ECLOs). ECLOs offer dedicated individual care to people with sight impairment or sight loss and offer advice on how to lessen the impact the eye condition may have. The ECLO role is designed to act as a bridge between health and social services and provide a key source of support to patients in eye clinics.

“The internship with London Vision opened my eyes to the variety of roles in and adjacent to the sight loss sector, as well as dramatically increasing my confidence. It meant that when the ECLO role came up in June 2021, I jumped at the chance to apply. My own lived experience of sight impairment means that I am able to draw on my own knowledge and use that to support other people with sight loss to live as independently as possible.

“The London Vision internship gave me the opportunity grow and develop myself in the sight loss sector, I probably would not have as much if I did not take up this wonderful opportunity.”

Becoming the RNIB’s 100th ECLO

Renu became RNIB’s 100th ECLO and is now based in Chase Farm Hospital in North London. She also provides support and advice to patients in Barnet Hospital and Edgware Community Hospital. You can learn more about Renu and her new role in this RNIB press release.

Accessible gaming tips from Natalie Doig!

I don’t know about you but sometimes being visually impaired feels like an extremely dull, real-life version of a computer game like Fall Guys. Just walking down the street is an obstacle course as you attempt to avoid parked cars on pavements, e-scooters and wheelie bins. Don’t go down that side quest navigating shared space; you’re doomed to get lost or nearly run over.

Thankfully video games actually bring me some much-needed escapism from the puzzle that is trying to be an independent visually impaired person in the 21st Century.

Getting into gaming or learning how to play anew with a visual impairment can seem daunting. It’s worth the effort though, in my experience. I find that playing computer games helps me to relax, take on new challenges and make new friends. During the last two years of the pandemic gaming has been a lifeline that has helped me feel less isolated.

I’ve learnt a few tips and tricks along the way, that have helped me get the most out of gaming and I’m going to share a few with you. I would also love to hear any tips you have in the comments.

Some hints and tips for making gaming more accessible

Find the right set up for you

I personally prefer playing on the Nintendo Switch because of the versatility of swapping between a handheld console and using a big screen. The Switch also has a neat zoom feature which is great for when I need to see some extra detail. Handheld is generally more accessible for me. Though PC gaming is another great option because I can sit close to the screen.

The new generation big consoles, like PlayStation and Xbox have some great access features like voice over for menus. I’ve linked below to their accessibility web pages.

Xbox accessibility information

PlayStation 4 and 5 accessibility information

Do your research

Not all games are created equal however, the Can I Play that? website is a great resource for reading accessibility reviews for games. It is written by disabled people for disabled people and you can search games and reviews by impairment.

Watch others play and become part of the community

Another tip is to watch other gamers stream games you are interested in. Whether it’s on Twitch or YouTube there are some great streamers some of whom are visually impaired. I have linked to some below including my own streaming channel. There are some great communities that have built up around streamers and gaming organisations.  You can’t go wrong checking out Eurogamer’s website, their YouTube channel or Outside Xbox and Outside Xtra

Game with someone else

My final top tip is to play with someone else if you’re able to. It’s how I started gaming and it helped me develop confidence. I really got into gaming after playing Pokémon Go on my phone with my husband and a group of friends.

Some games I’ve enjoyed playing and others with reportedly good accessibility

Some of my favourite games are:

Pokémon Go

Animal Crossing

Life is Strange series

Zelda Breath of the Wild

Some games that reportedly have good access for visually impaired people

The Last of Us 2

Forza Horizon 5

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy

Spider-Man Miles Morales

Visually impaired streamers to look out for:

Blind Gamer with Steve Salyor on YouTube

Sightless Kombat on Twitch

And then there’s little old me on Twitch N­at­_Doig

By Natalie Doig

 

Want more useful tips for everyday activities? Check out the Managing Sight Loss resources page. 

Blue Monday

The third Monday of January is Blue Monday: said to be the most depressing of the year according to a concept first published in 2005, which claimed to have calculated the date using an equation. The equation considers weather conditions, debt level (the difference between debt accumulated and ability to pay), time since Christmas, and the time since New Year’s resolutions have been broken.

Despite the equation, Blue Monday is largely dismissed as pseudoscience (and an invention to sell more holidays…) but it’s as good a day as any to take stock of any changes you might have decided to make for 2022. Maybe you have been feeling down – January can be a gloomy month – or you need a bit of inspiration or extra impetus to commit to resolutions, or changes for 2022. The team at London Vision has put together some ideas of things to try for 2022, some that might lift your mood or inspire you!

Want to make new friends or try new things?

Joining an activity group can be a great way of getting out and about, while also making new friends. If you live in Tower Hamlets in East London, local charity Beyond Sight Loss regularly puts on events and outings with blind and partially sighted people in the area.

In Newham, Enabled Living holds a regular coffee morning (currently virtual) on the second Monday of every month. The coffee morning often features guest speakers, and is a great way to meet new people, share experiences and form friendships.

In north London, the Barnet Borough Sight Impaired group regularly holds meeting and events – you can find out more on the BBSI website. VIEW is a new group that has started in Wandsworth which is also holding regular meetings on a variety of topics. Get in touch on info@londonvision.org to learn more about the VIEW events on offer.  Middlesex Association for the Blind runs Eye Matter groups in Hampstead and Edgware, with a range of different activities to take part in – including, quizzes, fitness sessions, and musical performances. Get in touch with the Eye Matter team on 07523266421 or email eyemattervi@gmail.com.

If you fancy organising your own cultural outing, be sure to check out the Vocaleyes website to learn about the latest shows and events.

Made a resolution to get fit?

If you have made a decision to get into running for 2022, British Blind Sport has a database of people who can act as guides even for those who have never run a step. Download the Couch to 5K programme and get pounding the pavements. Once you have got to 5K, try a Park Run! They are happening in a park near you on a Saturday morning at 9am. Start your weekend off right with a 5K before breakfast. Find out more on the Park Run website.

Maybe running isn’t your thing? Try a team sport with Metro Blind Sport! There are regular tennis, football, or cricket sessions for people with sight loss happening all over London. And if you prefer a more solitary sporting pursuit, Metro is running climbing sessions right up until April 2022. Also remember – if you prefer working out at the gym, sight impaired and severely sight impaired people have access to GLL leisure centres free of charge. You can find more ideas for keeping fit and trying new activities on this sports and leisure resource page.

Something more sedate?

Lifestyle changes don’t have to be all about grand plans to get fit or make new friends. You could make a commitment to meditating, or to cooking a new recipe every week. You can find some tips for cooking with sight loss on the Life Hacks: in the kitchen resource page. If you would like to try some meditation, the Eye Matter group runs regular sessions. Get in touch with the Eye Matter team on 07523266421 or email eyemattervi@gmail.com. Insight Mind runs mindfulness sessions, poetry courses and meditation. All the courses are specifically designed to be inclusive for people with sight loss. Learn more on the Insight Mind website.

Career or role change!

Maybe 2022 is the year you take the first step towards your next role? The thought of changing roles, or even securing your first ever role, can be daunting. The Thomas Pocklington Trust employment service supports blind and partially sighted people wanting to start, restart or progress their careers. The service offers one-to-one employment advice and coaching through the Works for Me programme, as well as an internship scheme. Plus, the website has a wealth of useful resources, with advice on how to complete application forms, CV templates and interview tips. New year, new career!

Have you had a poor experience visiting your eye hospital?

Blind and partially sighted people often have to visit their eye hospital for examinations and treatment, however, on occasion these visits are not as accessible or inclusive as they could be. London Vision’s Engagement Manager Bhavini Makwana regularly visits Moorfields Eye Hospital for check-ups, and unfortunately suffered several shocking and poor experiences as a patient.

Bhavini wrote about these experiences in a blog, which led to an invite to speak to the board of Moorfields Eye Hospital. She used this opportunity to advocate for blind and partially sighted people, sharing her own experience, and those of other patients who are outpatients at the hospital. This meeting led to the formation of a stakeholder, staff and patient representative group, which has been meeting to improve the patient experience at Moorfields, and contribute to appropriate training.

Moorfields Eye Hospital stakeholder group

One of key functions of the group has been to shift the view of seeing patients just as an eye, but instead, seeing them as a whole patient. Switching the focus helps to ensure that diagnoses, news and other information is delivered with empathy, dignity and compassion. Practices such as calling out patients’ names and then walking off, not offering sighted guiding or delivering it poorly; or even talking to the patients partner, family or friend instead of the patient themselves are just some of the things the group has been addressing.

Moorfields Eye Hospital is the leading eye hospital of excellence in the country, and its status as a world leader in treatment was underlined by the speed at which an action plan to tackle service delivery was put together. This strategy has long term goals for improvement, and which aims to address the current disparity in patient service provision. The strategy aims to ensure that the poor experiences faced by new and existing patients do not reoccur.

Training programme

As a result, a training programme has been put together, using patients’ voices and input. It covers topics such as approaching and interacting with someone with a vision impairment, both Guide Dog and white cane etiquette, the importance and impact of not directly speaking to the patient and much more. The group is also working on bridging the gap between the consultants and the Eye Clinic Liaison Officers and other pathways for emotional and practical support.

In addition, the stakeholder group is working to tackle the problem of patients receiving their communications in inaccessible formats. The Accessible Standard was established in 2016, but all too frequently Moorfields Eye Hospital patients receive information in formats that they are unable to read. In line with this, the group is also helping Moorfields develop a stronger service in leading and guiding both using technology and with physical guidance.

Going forwards

London Vision is committed to helping ensure Moorfields Eye Hospital patient care is delivered to a high standard. London Vision’s Bhavini Makwana continues to work closely with the stakeholder group and Moorfields to provide a better service for patients and their families by making sight loss awareness and its impact the highest priority. The Hospital is undergoing a strategy and culture shift which will be long lasting, and will be carried through to the new Moorfields site as part of the ORIEL project.

London Vision is fully aware of the negative impact a poor diagnosis, lack of sign posting or relevant information, or even not being treated with compassion or empathy can have on a patient’s well-being, therefore, highlighting the importance of the continuing partnership with Moorfields.

Whether you have had a good or poor experience, share them with us, so that we can feed them directly to the relevant teams within Moorfields Eye Hospital. London Vision is here to support Moorfields Eye Hospital in delivering excellent care, but this care can only improve by hearing your experiences. Read more about London Vision’s work with Moorfields on the Campaigns page.

Share your experiences by emailing bhavini.makwana@londonvision.org or by calling 07976448824

Equally, if it is another eye clinic or hospital you visit and would like to share your feedback, then please also get in touch.

If you are concerned about attending a face to face appointment, please contact your clinic to get up to date guidance and support.