I first encountered Barnet Borough Sight Impaired in 2017 when I became the then CEO of London Vision West. From the outset they struck me as a group simply determined to support themselves and others with any issues they might have with their sight.
BBSI describe themselves as ‘your local voluntary organisation for people who are blind, partially sighted or experiencing problems with their sight’. They were very welcoming and supportive of London Vision’s aims to support blind and partially sighted people who live, work and study in London.
Barnet is a huge borough with over 2,105 registered as blind or partially sighted with the local authority. But there are 10,700 living with sight loss which is severe enough to affect their daily lives – so BBSI have a big task!
To help meet their outcomes, BBSI have an open meeting on the first Tuesday of every month (13:30-14:30), where they ask people to come and “meet other visually impaired people, limber up, have a chat, cup of tea, listen to an informative talk, and enjoy social activities’. The meetings usually begin with a session of ‘joyful movement’ where the aim is to perform some gentle exercises to music where each movement is fully audio described.
Last year, I was asked to give one of their ‘informative talks’ about the progress of London Vision, but to add my own personal experiences of living with glaucoma. After my talk I realised how much a group like BBSI would’ve been helpful to me years before when I was first diagnosed with an eye condition. At this meeting they also invited an Eye Clinic Liaison Officer (ECLO) to speak about the service they offered at Royal Free and Barnet hospitals. The information the ECLO gave was invaluable, ranging from the Certificate of Vision impairment process, sensory services in the borough, and sport.
BBSI has certainly informed my work in West London; this connection reinforced that my passion to help others with sight loss comes from my own experience of inadequate treatment and lack of information when I was first diagnosed with glaucoma. I’ve since written an article for BBSI newsletter about my work at London Vision and given a talk for Black History Month in Battersea to raise awareness about the prevalence of glaucoma in the African-Caribbean community.
Since my connections with BBSI, members have participated in local consultations, ran a bucket collection to raise funds at Brent Cross, and were recently awarded £398 from the Community Matters scheme from Waitrose. I was thrilled when two members of BBSI attended the last Networking Tea and wrote a glowing report about the event. In April one of the members said ‘they really valued my input’ over the last 18 months.
Let’s hope BBSI have many more years of helping Barnet residents.