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Barnet Borough Sight Impaired – bringing meetings and events to members during the pandemic

Barnet Borough Sight Impaired group (BBSI) is a visually impaired people’s organisation based in Barnet. It runs meetings and events year-round for blind and partially sighted people living in and around the borough. The meetings and events have a variety of themes – from regular general meetings about group business, to exercise classes, discussion groups, raffles, musical events and talks. Members can join the group on up to three outings spread throughout the year, these might be canal trips, visits to stately homes, communal dinners or trips to the theatre.

Lockdown in March
Understandably, the lockdown in March 2020 meant that we had to put all these regular activities on hold. Unable to hold in-person meetings, we made the bold step towards the virtual world, embracing the Zoom video conferencing platform for our first online monthly meeting, with success! Trying as much as possible to replicate the format of our in-person meetings, we divide the meeting into three sections; in the first part members are split into breakout rooms for discussions and in the second for gentle exercises. Then, all members are brought together for a group activity.

Despite the restrictions of Zoom, we have managed to continue with many of the same sorts of activities we would do in meetings normally over Zoom. We have featured Zoom talks, musical performances and musical afternoons, creative sessions – where members might recite their poems or skits, or request that they be read on their behalf – and managed to include time for notices and the fond farewell.

The fact that Zoom has a provision for landline connection has meant that members without access to laptops or smartphones have been able to join these sessions. However, some members have still found it too difficult to join the virtual meetings, so BBSI has made contact with the membership on a monthly basis by phoning them.

Post-pandemic hopes
When the pandemic ends, BBSI hopes to return to physical meetings and outings, but we do understand that some members may be reluctant to attend. In anticipation of the post pandemic era we are seriously considering how to accommodate meetings with both physical and virtual attendance simultaneously. While the current switch to virtual meetings has unfortunately meant that some members have been excluded, it’s also enabled some members to attend more events than they might have normally. We are keen to make sure that people who may prefer to continue attending virtually are able to do so. However, we appreciate that it may take some time and additional funds for BBSI to achieve this.

If you would like to learn more about Barnet Borough Sight Impaired group, you can visit our website or Facebook page. We have continued publishing our newsletter during the pandemic in large print, email and audio versions, please get in touch if you would like to receive it in your preferred format.

Michael Henriques, vice chair of BBSI

Get in touch with Barnet Borough Sight Impaired group
Email: barnetbsi@yahoo.co.uk
Telephone: 020 8200 5462

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