Leading charity wants 2016 to be the year for people with sight loss
A wish list of practical asks to make life better for people with sight loss has been compiled by a leading charity.
RNIB Scotland says it wants to see accessible public transport, less cluttered streets, disability benefits that recognise the extra costs involved in being blind and support for people coming to terms with sight loss made a reality in 2016.
The charity is warning the number of Scots who are blind or partially sighted will inevitably increase due to our ageing population and persistently poor health record. Already over 180,000 people in the country have a significant degree of sight loss.
But RNIB says that Scotland can lead the way towards becoming a more inclusive society.
In 2016 it will increase its efforts to persuade local authorities to control the number of obstacles that block streets. A third of blind and partially sighted people surveyed by RNIB said they had been injured by pavement obstacles when walking.
The costs are relatively modest, but the gains for some of the most vulnerable in our society are profound
Advertising boards, bollards, bins and cars parked on pavements were the most common obstacles encountered.
Ross MacFadyen, interim director of RNIB Scotland, said: "We know it's impossible for streets to always be free of clutter. But we can all do more to make them accessible."
Likewise, the charity will engage further with bus operators to ensure drivers better understand the needs of passengers with sight loss, who are often more dependent on public transport.
"Little things like not moving off until someone finds a seat, or telling them when their stop has been reached can make a tremendous difference," said MacFadyen.
Already major operators such as Stagecoach and Lothian Buses have signed up to the RNIB Bus Charter.
In 2016, the additional powers promised to the Scottish Parliament over disability benefits could also make the welfare system more sensitive to the needs of people who can't see.
A major aim of RNIB Scotland, however, remains its work to ensure everyone in Scotland who is diagnosed with a sight loss condition receives the emotional as well as practical support they need.
MacFadyen added: "If we can make progress with these things in 2016 we will have made Scotland a kinder, safer and more inclusive place for anyone living with sight loss.
“The costs are relatively modest, but the gains for some of the most vulnerable in our society are profound."
As well as this, RNIB Scotland works to reduce preventable sight loss, and provides rehabilitation services to train people in how to use mobility aids, screen-reading software and other devices.
The RNIB Talking Books service is also available, free of charge, to anyone qualified to join. This service alone opens up a library of over 21,000 titles in a variety of formats. But the charity is heavily dependent on fundraising and donations to continue all of this work.