Some of the winners of the RNIB See Differently Awards 2022 on stage with their trophies

At an evening of sparkle and stars, hosted by presenter, Celebrity Masterchef semi-finalist and award-winning entrepreneur Amar Latif, See Differently Award winners celebrated their achievements at a ceremony on Tuesday 29 March 2022.

Through presentations, speeches and a series of unique nominees’ films, their stories were brought to life for the audience, which was entertained by a performance from Andrea Begley, the singer and The Voice UK winner.

Winners, including Claire Sisk, who uses social media to challenge myths about sight loss, Nuneaton Signs, who provide training and employment to people with disabilities, and Nathan Geering, who is pioneering accessible dance and theatre, made moving speeches about how much this recognition means. 

There were many memorable moments during the evening and a film of the event will be shared shortly. In the meantime you can find coverage of the event on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


6th Duke of Westminster Lifetime Achievement Award

Noel Duffy accepting his award on stage

Winner: Noel Duffy

Noel has worked in the sight loss sector for 30 years. As CEO of Dolphin Computer Access, he has made it the company’s mission to empower blind, low vision and dyslexic people to succeed in a digital world.

His creative approach to problem-solving is the driving force behind many UK and international initiatives that bring low-cost access technology and reading systems to blind and partially sighted people facing digital exclusion and financial barriers.

 


Campaigner of the Year sponsored by Mastercard

Sarah Leadbetter accepting her award on stage

Winner: Sarah Leadbetter

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Sarah Leadbetter was shocked when the UK government sent her health information that couldn't be read by someone with sight loss.

Sarah, who is registered blind, has been campaigning on behalf of blind and partially sighted people for many years. She argues that this inaccessibility contravenes the 2010 Equalities Act and is in breach of her human rights. 

Sarah challenged the UK government by way of judicial review and secured fundamental promises of change. The government is now considering how it can ensure all health information is sent in a person’s preferred format, and whether this can be extended to other government health-related communications.

Sarah's not done yet. She plans to continue campaigning until all government and NHS communications are sent out by email as well as post.

Judges' comments:

Sarah’s commitment to making the world a better place for blind and partially sighted people is extraordinary. Even during the toughest weeks of the pandemic she was advocating for others. She should be really proud that she has achieved so much change. 

Abi Fitzgibbon, Head of Campaigns, RNIB

Highly commended: Brian Butcher

Brian campaigns to make the lives of blind and partially sighted people in Worthing and West Sussex better. Through his lobbying and awareness raising, Brian has helped change the way transport companies, business owners and local politicians consider the needs of the blind and partially sighted community.

Special acknowledgement: Sekha Hall

Sekha has campaigned tirelessly to improve train station safety after his partner fell from a train platform without tactile paving. As a result, train stations across the UK will use audio announcements to warn blind and partially sighted people of the lack of tactile paving until this vital safety feature is installed.


Community Contributor of the Year sponsored by Santen

Nathan Geering accepting his award on stage

Winner: Nathan Geering

Nathan Geering strives to make the arts accessible to blind and partially sighted people. He worked with the playwright Kaite O'Reilly to find out why blind and partially sighted people don’t go to the theatre as much as their sighted counterparts. The answer was clear, audio descriptions just didn't make the experience engaging.

Working with the sight loss community, Nathan developed the "Rationale Method of Audio Description", which assigns beatbox sounds to specific dance moves. He works with a poet to add emotion to audio descriptions.

Following the method's success, he now partners with arts organisations and film production companies to improve their audio description and make their output more accessible.

Nathan’s Injury Prevention Programme uses breakdancing to help blind and partially sighted people develop their spatial awareness and prevent injuries.

He works to make social activism available to everyone and has teamed up with the University of York to research the effect of watching dance for people with sight loss.

Judges' comments:

Nathan is a dynamic force in the creative arena. His innovative methods have helped and still helping blind and partially sighted audience to enjoy full effect of performances. His approach encourages visually impaired people to become involved in community activism and also helping with injury prevention.

Rasheed Bello, Treasurer, OBAC and RNIB Service User


Best Social Media Impact of the Year sponsored by Pantene

Claire Sisk accepting her award on stage

Winner: Claire Sisk

Claire Sisk uses social media to challenge misconceptions about sight loss and to share tips for navigating life as a blind or partially sighted person. She uses humour to educate and to break down barriers.

Claire started posting on social media when an incident in a supermarket made her realise how badly awareness needs to be raised about what sight loss really means.

She shares fun and entertaining videos on TikTok, Facebook and Instagram, often using humour to educate. She asks her followers to contact her if they need support and holds one-to-one video calls with people who need her help.

Claire now has over 162,000 followers on TikTok and has taken part in Channel 4’s Altogether Different campaign. SnapChat has even created a microdocumentary about her and she recently appeared on Steph's Packed Lunch.

Judges' comments:

While all the finalists for this category were fantastic, Claire stood out to us in particular. Her following on TikTok demonstrates the significant reach and impact she is having on people's perceptions of visual impairment. As an influencer, we were very entertained by her positive and engaging content.

Charlotte Bateman, Journalist, Sky News

Highly commended: Kimberley Burrows

Kimberley graduated from Leeds University with a 2.1 in Fine Art. She is blind and uses a variety of media to create abstract expressionist pieces which show the world how, through her art, she can share her experiences with blindness. She shows that art is something that anyone can make, even without sight.


Team of the Year

The VocalEyes team accepting their award on stage

Winner: VocalEyes

The charity VocalEyes is led by the belief that blind and partially sighted people should have the best possible opportunities to experience and enjoy art and heritage.

The team provides audio descriptions and training for theatres, museums, galleries and heritage sites, including audio-described performances and tours. They research how to improve access to the arts for people with sight loss and translate this into training on how best to support blind and partially sighted visitors.

Through their newsletter, surveys and telephone calls, VocalEyes gave blind and partially sighted people access to the arts throughout the pandemic.

Judges' comments:

Congratulations to VocalEyes who have demonstrated great teamwork, collaboration and also innovation to help individuals with sight loss access and enjoy the arts and heritage, esp. important during the pandemic.

Bernie Chang, President, the Royal College of Ophthalmologists

Special Acknowledgement: Cardiff VI Rugby Team

As the first rugby team in Wales for people with sight loss, the Cardiff VI Rugby Team successfully challenges public preconceptions about what blind and partially sighted people are capable of. Team members have found the game not only benefits them physically, but it has also boosted their mental health and helped curb social isolation.


Employer of the Year sponsored by Thomas Pocklington Trust

The Nuneaton Signs team accepting their award on stage

Winner: Nuneaton Signs

Nuneaton Signs was established in 1982 to provide meaningful training and employment to people with disabilities. Today, 70% of its workforce has a disability including three members of staff with sight loss.

By making sure everyone in the company has the equipment and working environment they need to do their job, the company helps promote independence. This includes providing funding for transport to get to and from work, and providing software options and gadgets. The views of its blind and partially sighted staff members are sought out whenever a potential change is discussed.

Judges' comments:

Nuneaton Signs displayed a culture of inclusion and commitment to disabled staff. Their nomination shone through in a highly competitively challenged category due to their dedication to equality.

Sean Dilley, Specialist and General News Correspondent and Project Lead for Reframing Disability, BBC


Volunteer of the Year sponsored by Bayer

Nina Chesworth accepting her award on stage

Winner: Nina Chesworth

Nina Chesworth describes raising awareness of Charles Bonnet syndrome (CBS) as her "life's mission". She not only hosts a monthly support group, but she also works with other Esme's Umbrella group leaders to encourage everyone to share ideas on how best to support people affected by CBS.

Nina offers her expertise to eye health professionals, including social workers and Eye Clinic Liaison Coordinators, to help them offer the best possible care to people experiencing CBS. She's developed training materials for the Sight Loss Council and visits schools to give talks about the syndrome. Nina has even been sought out by Coronation Street to help with a CBS storyline!

Last year, Nina raised over £3,800 for CBS research by walking 100 miles in just 10 days.

Judges' comments:

Nina is an energetic, determined and passionate ambassador for the visually impaired community living with Charles Bonnet Syndrome (CBS) who is on a mission to raise awareness of CBS and engage in peer support. Her achievement has been inspirational and life-changing for those who have the privilege of meeting her. A great fundraiser and educator.

Rasheed Bello, Treasurer, OBAC and RNIB Service User


Design for Everyone Award sponsored by Kellogg’s

The LEGO team accepting their award on stage

Winner: LEGO® Braille Bricks

In 2020, the LEGO® Foundation launched a new product to help children learn braille through play. LEGO® Braille Bricks feature letters, numbers and symbols which can form words, sentences, maths equations, or whatever the child playing wants them to say!

The LEGO® Foundation chose to include both braille and letters to help break down barriers between blind and partially sighted children and their peers. This also means the bricks can be introduced by teachers who don't personally have any knowledge of braille.

LEGO® Braille Bricks are now available in 11 languages across 20 countries. The LEGO® Foundation hopes to increase that number in the future.

Judges' comments:

This is a lovely example of inclusive design and co-creation. By making the bricks universal i.e. with letters, numbers and symbols in braille and print, it makes play accessible for all. Great to see this iconic brand leading by example.

Minnie Moll, Chief Executive, Design Council 

Highly commended: Synapptic

Synapptic’s "all-in-one" software package is designed to be simple and intuitive for people with sight loss. A range of nominees tell us it’s opened up their world and enabled independence by giving access to books, media and communications tools.