A century of NB - RNIB’s flagship publication, NB Online, is this year being recognised for reaching 100 years in circulation. Each month throughout the year, we look in the archives to find out what issues blind and partially sighted people have faced since the magazine started in 1917.
In September 1993, NB magazine interviewed Simon Birtles of RNIB’s former Small Business Unit about how people with sight loss could train as massage therapists.
For hundreds of years the occupation of massage has been a reserved one for blind and partially-sighted people in the Far East. In countries such as Japan and China, the many benefits of such treatments have long been appreciated.
In the Small Business Unit we have watched with interest the development of courses which come under a general heading of ‘Remedial therapy’. These courses include treatments such as:
The general public’s interest in ‘alternative therapies’ is at an all-time high. People are finding that modern medicine is unable to treat many conditions, such as stress, poor circulation and many other disorders associated with modern living.
People are looking for proven alternatives without side-effects, such as massage and aromatherapy. In response to this demand, courses have been set up in many parts of the country to train people in these ancient skills, which date back thousands of years.
Whilst there are courses run especially for blind and partially sighted people, it has been pleasing to witness at first-hand the willingness of mainstream courses to incorporate blind and partially sighted students on their courses.
Organisers of mainstream courses have seen the involvement of students with sight loss as adding a positive dimension to their courses. Certainly this integration has the effect of bringing trainees closer together.
One aromatherapy school in North London successfully trained a deaf-blind lady who had been a physiotherapist before her hearing failed. With the support of her family she has built up a part-time business, treating people at her home, at a local sports centre and a Turkish bath!
Most of the therapists we [RNIB] work with have received financial support from schemes such as the Homeworkers Scheme, Enterprise Allowance Scheme, or from various grant trusts. This financial support is particularly important in the first year, since it takes time to build up income from patients.
The Special Aids to Employment Scheme may be able to offer equipment on loan to blind and partially sighted people to help with the administration of the business. Likewise, the Personal Reader Service may be available to help with reading needs.
Remedial therapy offers a visually impaired people an opportunity to work on relatively equal terms with a sighted counterpart. This – coupled to the fact that there are so many potential customers – gives people with the necessary skills a very real opportunity to succeed.
The Small business Unit expects to see an increase in the number of people wanting to set up as remedial therapists, on a part-time or full-time basis. For those people with the necessary skills, it can be a rewarding and well-paid occupation.
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