Yorkshire’s blind are being ‘left out of everyday life’

Guide Dogs is calling for volunteers. Picture shows Angie Flake and Guide Dog Nick. 'Picture: Guide Dogs
Guide Dogs is calling for volunteers. Picture shows Angie Flake and Guide Dog Nick. 'Picture: Guide Dogs
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Blind and partially sighted people in Yorkshire are being “left out of everyday life”, with almost seven out of 10 saying they feel socially isolated, a new report says.

National charity Guide Dogs said people sight loss are being “shut out of society” and has called on the public to help end this isolation by making efforts to understand more about everyday life with the condition.

Across Yorkshire, 69 per cent of blind and partially sighted people feel socially isolated. Four out of ten said they feel they are “left out” of everyday moments that others might take for granted, such as socialising, dating, family life or work. This feeling of isolation is compounded as six in ten blind or VI (vision impaired) people in the region believe that society has “little understanding” of the challenges they face in their daily lives.

Nearly a third say feel they have been left out of milestone moments such as births or marriages, while nearly a quarter say they feel left out from socialising with friends, “leaving them feeling on the side lines of life”, the charity said. In the region, 23 per cent said travel was one of their biggest challenges in daily life, while a fifth said they felt left out of work or education.

According to the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) 172,000 people in Yorkshire are living with sight loss.

Mother-of-one Sarah Bennett, 42, from High Green in Sheffield, suffers from the degenerative condition Retinitis Pigmentosa, and struggled to accept her sight loss.

When the condition began to worsen, she heavily relied upon the support of her mother, but when she died 10 years ago, she found it difficult to leave the house.

“Even simple tasks were more and more difficult and I hit rock bottom,” she said. “I couldn’t get out my own front door.”

Eventually with the support of her GP and a friend, she sought help from Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind, who recommended the Rotherham Sight and Sound group.

She also went on a waiting list for a Guide Dog, and received golden retriever Hannah in August 2017.

Mrs Bennett said: “It was so liberating. Suddenly nothing was out of reach.”

Guide Dogs is calling on the public to sign up for the My Guide initiative, which matches trained sighted volunteers to people with sight loss who need support getting out and about.

Head of Volunteer Led Services Jo Milligan, said: “Far too many people with sight loss are feeling shut out of everyday life. With the number of people with a vision impairment set to skyrocket in the coming years, we need to make changes. We need to work together to understand the realities of life with sight loss and help overcome the challenges that lead to people feeling excluded.”

The Yorkshire Post has been campaigning to raise awareness of loneliness and social isolation since 2014.

Visit yorkshirepost.co.uk/loneliness.

Fundraising challenge

A blind grandfather from Yeadon is to take on his latest fundraising challenge to raise money for Guide Dogs.

Kevin Beesting, 67, will be accompanied by his two sons during the Over the Hills challenge, which will see him take part in a series of three walks around West Yorkshire in June. In 2017, Mr Beesting completed the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge to raise money to thank the charity for providing his Guide Dog Spencer, who has been with him for around four years.

His motivation for the latest challenge is to raise money to help pay for the training of a guide dog so that “someone else can enjoy the same freedom that I have,” he said.