Thank you to everyone who submitted nominations for the RNIB See Differently Awards 2019. We received a huge number of applications and were amazed by the calibre of the nominations. After much consideration, our judging panel managed to create a shortlist of three National Finalists in each category:
Tunde, a partially sighted footballer and personal trainer created the Free the Patch movement to empower young people who are blind or partially sighted to get involved in sport. Tunde began wearing his eye patch regularly because he felt uncomfortable about his visible visual impairment being captured in his football Youtube videos. Backed by surgeons, professional footballers, musicians and comedians, the movement also campaigns for young children and adults across the nation to break boundaries and come out of their comfort zones.
Tunde’s movement has gained 20,000 followers on Instagram and reached 138,000 people through the SEDons Youtube channel. His signature pose and eye patch symbolise confidence and potential, encouraging his blind and partially sighted followers to believe in themselves and what they can do. You can find out more about his movement on his Free the patch website.
Rachael has campaigned tirelessly to change UK voting law and secure a more accessible voting system for blind and partially sighted people across the nation. After successfully filing against her local council for not providing an accessible voting card that enabled her to vote independently, she took her case to the High Court to advocate that all blind and partially sighted people in the UK have mandatory access to accessible voting. The High Court ruled in favour of her campaign in March of this year and when the law comes into effect it will improve voting access for 350,000 blind and partially sighted people in the UK, enabling independence and privacy in the voting booth.
When Dr. Kavanagh, a London-based activist, started using a white cane two years ago she became conscious of society’s problematic attitudes towards blind and partially sighted people who use mobility aids. After a period of being pulled onto trains or grabbed without warning by people who believed they were helping her, she created the #JustAskDontGrab campaign to raise awareness of the challenges people with sight loss continue to face. The campaign gained momentum when others started sharing their experiences with her hashtag, and now she has 12,000 Twitter followers and a blog with regular guest contributors. Additionally, her campaign has been featured on news outlets like Sky News, Huffpost UK and the Metro. You can check out Amy's twitter page here.
After not running for 20 years following the loss of his sight, Tony rediscovered his love of the sport when he started running with a sighted guide. His experience inspired him to create VI Runners and Guide Runners NI, an organisation set up to empower people with sight loss to take up running with confidence with the support of sighted guides. In 2016 he established Running Blind, a fundraising event that allows sighted people to experience what it’s like to run with sight loss and guided assistance. The event occurs annually now and was voted the best 5K in Northern Ireland by the general public earlier this year.
Fraser, who lives in Glasgow and is registered blind, understands how important it is to have access to the right technology if you live with sight loss. He recognises that many blind and partially sighted people do not have access to training in assistive technology, so last year he established Triple Tap Tech with his friend Graham to proactively address this issue. A social enterprise that teaches assistive technology across various platforms, Triple Tap Tech have delivered training sessions to over 100 individuals in their first year of business. By encouraging independence, increased mobility and connectivity, Triple Tech Tap is breaking down barriers and improving quality of life for blind and partially sight people in Scotland.
After experiencing social isolation following a diagnosis with retinitis pigmentosa in her last year of school, Jade’s life changed when she started volunteering with the RNIB in Durham. Volunteering inspired her to create Adventurers, an activity group for blind and partially sighted people aged 18 to 30 that empowers, develops independence, cultivates friendships and raises confidence. Social activities organised by Adventurers have included rock climbing and abseiling, an Outward Bound residential, bowling, spa days and a driving day at a racetrack in North Yorkshire. In addition, she runs a school liaisons project that teaches Key Stage 1 children about living with sight loss and she has delivered the programme to hundreds of students, parents and teachers in Durham.
The Financial Times promotes equitable employment for blind and partially sighted people through initiatives like FT Access. FT Access is an employee-led network that educates staff about disabilities, including sight loss, in the workplace. Collaborating with the FT’s Diversity & Inclusion and Talent teams, the group identifies opportunities to recruit more candidates with disabilities, creates supported internships and work experience and, most recently, have piloted a creative writing workshop for people with sight loss. The FT is building a more equitable work environment for people with sight loss by running diversity programmes, creating accessible employment opportunities and using their global platform to publish regular reports about the value of including blind and partially sighted people in the workplace.
Intelligent Energy, one of the world’s leading fuel cell engineering companies, works hard to ensure their workplace is inclusive for blind and partially sighted people. Their support of Jesse Dufton, an employee with sight loss who joined them as a graduate trainee six years ago, speaks to their commitment to creating an accessible work environment. Because of the assistive technology and support provided by the organisation, Jesse has been able to work his way up and is now their Principal Patent Engineer, a senior technical and legal role with a demanding brief. Intelligent Energy views its support of Jesse as business as usual and are delighted that their assistive provisions enable tangible career progression for employees with sight loss.
The Scottish Government gained the acknowledgement of a Disability Confident Leader in the UK-wide Disability Confident Scheme because of its commitment to employing more people with disabilities, including blind and partially sighted people. Identifying a gap in their processes, they worked closely with RNIB’s Employment Service to make their application and interview procedures more accessible. They demonstrate an ongoing commitment to inclusivity for blind and partially sighted people by regularly reviewing assistive technology and training, carrying out formal assessments to ensure their offices are accessible and implementing Visual Awareness Training to educate employees about welcoming colleagues with sight loss.
Tom invented Ramble Tag, a lightweight harness designed to be worn on the arm of a guide, after he and his neighbour realised that they needed an aid to take the rigidity out of traditional guidance methods. Ramble Tags are designed to create independence, physical boundaries and provide better everyday comfort. After an impressive Kickstarter campaign, the product was launched in October 2018. Since then, Tom's idea has been successfully adopted by UK airports, football clubs, festivals and theatres. At the heart of his concept is the idea that Ramble Tag offers choice, a necessity for inclusivity.
After Steve Holyer lost his sight, using public toilets became a challenge due to differing layouts in every toilet. He found himself relying on others to accompany him to the toilet while out and about, leaving him feeling as though he’d lost some independence. Knowing that others with sight loss could experience similar problems, he and his wife, Helen, formed ADi Access to develop life changing technology. Their first solution is RoomMate, which provides friendly audio assistance in disabled toilets. By accurately describing the location of facilities, the product allows people with sight loss to take back their privacy and independence when using disabled toilets. RoomMate units have now been installed in numerous airports and train stations, and even the Palace of Westminster. Their ambition doesn’t end there, their aim is to make RoomMate available for the 39 million blind or partially sighted people around the world.
The Tactile Collider project, led by Rob Appleby, Chris Edmonds and Robyn Watson, aims to promote a love of science among visually impaired students. Their idea stemmed from the realisation that exhibitions, talks and video aren’t accessible to a blind or partially sighted audience, as they often rely on visual tools of communication. The team worked with people with sight loss to develop a unique, two-hour workshop that educates pupils on particle physics through sound recordings and tactile models. By making science accessible, the team have created an opportunity for children with sight loss to feel excited and empowered to pursue a career in science. The session is also designed to inspire teachers, by sharing ideas on how accessible content can be delivered simply and effectively. The workshop has been in such demand that, so far, the team has visited over 20 schools across the UK, as well as selected museums and festival.
Chloe only started losing her sight two years ago, but she has already made a massive impact through her self-titled blog and Twitter. Combining brutal honesty with a fresh sense of humour, her work challenges stereotypes of living with sight loss and she has become a global spokeswoman for disabled young people. When Chloe tweeted about a positive experience in Fatface clothing store her tweet went viral with 3.1k interactions and reached over 250,000 people as a result. In response, the BBC created a video about her that was hugely successful, reaching over 20 million views and becoming the most-viewed BBC video in the second week of January. Chloe has been named one of the UK’s most influential disabled people in the Shaw Trust Power List 2019 and recently received a Prime Minister’s Point of Light Award for raising awareness around sight loss.
Holly, who has been blind since birth, started her blog Life of a Blind Girl in 2015 to illuminate what it’s like to be a young woman with sight loss. She writes about music, attending university making social media and blogging more accessible, assistive technology, and employment and disability. Her love of music and attending concerts inspired her to co-found a non-profit blog called Access for Us, a forum for disabled concert goers to provide feedback about their accessibility experiences when buying tickets or attending concerts. Holly has received numerous accolades for her work in breaking down barriers for blind and partially sighted people. Earlier this year she was named one of the most influential disabled people in the UK in the Shaw Trust Disability Power List 2019 for the second year in a row, and her content has been featured by the BBC and the Huffington post.
Elin started her blog My Blurred World in 2015 to combat the emotional isolation she was feeling following the loss of her sight when she was twelve years old. Elin shares open and honest accounts of life with retinitis pigmentosa as a young woman, writing about fashion, make-up and music in addition to challenges that can accompany sight loss like chronic illness and anxiety. She shares a new blog post every Sunday at 8pm and her empowering content has reached readers all over the world, with a following of over 9,000 people across her blog and social media. Since starting ‘My Blurred World’, her work has been featured by BBC News Wales, the Huffington Post and ITV. She won two awards in the Teen Blogger Awards 2018, was selected as one of the top 100 most influential disabled people in the UK in Shaw Trust’s Disability Power 100 list 2018 and was shortlisted from over 28,500 nominations in the National Diversity Awards 2019.
Bradbury Fields started Be Active in 2015 to tackle social isolation and loneliness for blind and partially sighted people in and around Liverpool. Be Active is a programme that organises group activities for people with sight loss who struggle to leave their house independently, including walking, tandem cycling, swimming lessons and dance classes. Jamal Abdullah, the Programme Coordinator, leads a team of dedicated volunteers who act as personal guides and advocates for their beneficiaries, helping them build confidence and build friendships while staying active. The programme has notably impacted the lives of blind and partially sighted people in the Liverpool area, as more than 200 people have received assistance from the organisation just this year.
Goalball UK is the national governing body for goalball in the United Kingdom. The sport was developed in 1946 as a rehabilitation programme for visually impaired World War II veterans. Within a few decades' goalball developed into a competitive sport and has been officially included in the Paralympics since 1980. The Goalball UK team works to drive promotion and participation from grassroot to elite level, supporting blind and partially sighted people to improve their physical and mental wellbeing through sport. Over the last 12 months, the team have successfully launched six new clubs nationally, grown participation in their tournaments and created their National Schools Programme (NSP). The NSP scheme delivers afterschool goalball activities and competitive opportunities to blind and partially sighted children, reaching over 1800 young people so far. As Goalball UK continues its upward trajectory it will be transformational for many more people living with sight loss.
Fifty-three percent of blind and partially sighted people have experienced hate crimes due to their disability, highlighting the importance of an organisation like The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety. The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety is a volunteer-run initiative that teaches defence skills to various groups including blind and partially sighted people. Their courses are led by trainers who have sight loss themselves and are tailored to the challenges faced by visually impaired people, accounting for adjustments in sensory teaching. Over the last two years they have trained 450 blind and partially people in personal safety. They have won various awards for their work including, but not limited to, the Pioneering Project Award at the Scottish Charity Awards 2018, Diversity in the Third Sector Award at the Herald Diversity Awards 2018 and the Disability Award at the Charity Awards 2019.