Making life easier for blind people, should be a priority. However, a recent petition to the government asked it to reconsider the notion that blind people were not in the ‘vulnerable groups’ to get online shopping priority, during COVID-19 (this is stupid, as obviously blind people have more trouble navigating aisles, at risk of bumping into people). No doubt certain Ministers would tell blind people to ‘use their common sense’. RNIB’s ‘sight advice’ site can help blind people navigate concerns.
One of the oddest laws in England is that if you’re blind, you don’t qualify for a free TV license. Many blind people are very isolated and although a close-knit community is better – TV is good company. People can apply to get a 50% discount (no discount if you’re partially sighted) and get this – they give a discount if the set is black-and-white?! So we have a BBC that does not charge a 90-year millionaire living in a mansion for his TV license – but some poor blind pensioner with no money, having to pay to watch his favourite programs on TV. Mad world.
There are over 2 million people (including children) who can’t see, in the UK. Sight loss may be something a person is born with, or due to disease, an accident or cataracts. But there is no doubt that helping through small inventions & ideas, is more effective than just throwing money at big charities.
Free Help for Blind People
- Ask your GP for a Certificate of Vision Impairment. This entitled you to many benefits including a bus pass) and you can also ensure you receive your Blind Person’s Allowance.
- If you use computers, Moon & Elia Frames are easier to learn than Braille. NV Access is a screen reader, created by and for blind people.
- Access to Work offers grants for Braille keyboards etc.
- If you like sending letters, Articles for the Blind sends all post for free from Royal Mail.
- You can get free directory enquiries (& priority repair).
- Most libraries offer large-print & audio books on free loan. And British Wireless for the Blind Fund sells digital radios, on free loan to people on low incomes.
- Some local councils offer free Radar keys (to access public disabled toilets nationwide). Even if they don’t it’s only a fiver, and worth the cost, as you can bypass queues.
- Blind Veterans offers free help and support
- Remap is an army of volunteer ‘tinkerers’ (one invented a headset to let a blind boy ‘watch’ football). Another made a set of guide rails for a blind bowling team (to stop them wandering into the wrong lane).
- Be My Eyes is a free app with hundreds of thousands of worldwide volunteers. Invented by a Danish craftsman (who is visually impaired himself), just look up someone for free help to read instructions, read recipes, distinguish colours etc. This is one rare area where supply exceeds demand: they can’t help enough, as not enough people know about the app.
- Listening Books & Calibre Audio offer affordable book subscriptions. Choose from hundreds of titles to either download. Or if you prefer the printed word, you can order them with free postage and returns.
- Seeing Ear is a charity that offers books in many formats for free, to anyone with visual problems. Choose from giant print, Braille or synthetic speech.
- Clearvision is a postal lending library that works in a similar way, for blind children.
- Advent 4 Change offers the first charity advent calendar in Braille.
Help with Mobility for Blind People
- Blue Badges give free parking (obviously a designated driver for a blind person) in disabled bays (some shops & councils still charge). There is a government ‘grace period’ period of around 10 minutes if you are getting a disabled person (or dog) back to the car. So if you are late back, it’s worth challenging). Keep disable badges at home when not in use, as some people steal them to get free parking spaces.
- WeWALK is a ‘white cane’ detects obstacles & approaching buses. Smart Stick was invented by a 9-year old!
- Need a break but can’t afford it? Get one half-price, to be the guide to a blind person on TravelEyes holidays.
- Trimet (Portland) has the world’s best public transit system. It has a fantastic set-up for blind people, which we could emulate here. Most public transport is free, all the signs have Braille alternatives, and a local army of volunteers ride with blind (and disabled) passengers, until they feel comfortable travelling alone.
Free & Low-Cost Help for Carers
- Find free & low-cost help for carers
- Turn 2 Us offers an online benefits check (be sure to ask for backdated money, as it’s not usually offered by default – often you can claim up to 3 months backpay)
- Helping Hands at Home for help with care & chores
- Cinnamon Trust & PAPAS offer dog-walking volunteers
Switch Charity Donations to Find Cures
- We all want a cure for blindness. But vivisection is unkind and inefficient. Donate to humane medical research charities (that don’t use animals and have better chance of finding cures). Humane Research Trust is presently finding cures for age-related eye conditions.