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2023 year in review: A year of campaign successes

Thanks to your support and the relentless activity of campaigners from across the country, 2023 has been packed with campaign achievements. But there’s still plenty of work to do. Read about the change you’ve helped achieve in 2023 and our plans for 2024.

We saved train station ticket offices!

RNIB staff and volunteers gather outside the Department of Transport to oppose plans to close train ticket offices.

In July a consultation was launched on the future of train station ticket offices across England and Glasgow Central, which would have seen over 800 ticket offices close. We leapt into expressing our grave concern about this by:

  • Supporting campaigners to respond to the consultation.
  • Successfully campaigning for the consultation period to be extended with our disability sector allies.
  • Sharing what ticket offices enable you to do with MPs, and  encouraging campaigners to email their MP and local newspaper. Together we reached over 90 per cent of MPs!
  • Appearing on national and regional media.
  • Taking your stories to the Department for Transport.

On Halloween it was announced that the Secretary of State for Transport  Mark Harper had advised rail operators to scrap the plans and in a letter to RNIB he said he was “struck by the volume of contributions made in particular by sight loss groups” in the conversations he had. While we remain alert to many ways in which we need to keep pushing for better accessibility of the railway network, it’s clear that on this your campaigning efforts made a huge difference!

Accessible buses

After years of campaigning, in March the Department for Transport announced that it will require almost every local bus or coach service in Britain to provide audio visual announcements by October 2026.

#RailSafe campaign for tactile paving

A train at a station platform, with people walking down the platform.

In February it was confirmed that funding has been awarded to complete the installation of tactile paving at all stations in Britain by 2025. This news followed our #RailSafe campaign, which began after the tragic death of Cleveland Gervais, a partially sighted man who fell from a platform without tactile paving in 2020. We were originally told by Network Rail that the rollout of tactile paving would not be completed until 2029.

My Info, My Way

In May, the #MyInfoMyWay campaign was launched, calling for blind and partially sighted people to receive NHS and social care information in a format which they can read and understand as is their legal right. NHS England was meant to publish an updated Accessible Information Standard in April to help ensure people receive accessible formats, but since then it has been delayed four times. In November we called on the new Health Secretary Victoria Atkins MP to do everything she can to get the updated Standard over the finish line by Christmas. You can find out more here.

Accessible voting solutions tested

A sign pointing to a polling station with a wheelchair symbol.

We trialled four different accessible voting solutions with blind and partially sighted voters, at an event supported by the UK Government and the Electoral Commission. The trial was attended by voters with sight loss as well as delegates from the Electoral Commission and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. The results of the trial, and the experiences of those who took part, will play an important role in helping to make elections accessible for all, by providing a stronger evidence base for the roll out of solutions.

Cost of living

Throughout the year we know that blind and partially sighted people have been hit hard by the cost of living with food, heating and transport costs remaining historically high. In April, we held a cost of living parliamentary drop-in event. Nearly 60 MPs attended including: Tom Pursglove MP, Minister for Disabled People; and Sir Stephen Timms MP, Chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee.

Campaigners discussed with MPs how the rising cost of living is impacting on them, and MPs got a chance to talk with our Employment and Sight Loss Advice Service teams about the support we offer. We used a range of activities to get MPs thinking about the additional costs of living with sight loss – including demonstrating a screen reader and playing a giant  board game!

Tom Pursglove, MP and Vivienne Francis talking to three members of RNIB staff at an employment stall.

This year we also organised three social media days of action alongside over 80 charities to tell the UK Government that #SupportCantWait. Millions of people saw our posts on social media, calling for additional targeted financial support.

Vision rehabilitation the focus at party conferences

RNIB stand designed to look like a studio flat, crowded with curious people.

In autumn, we took a stand designed to look like a studio flat to the Liberal Democrat, Conservative, and Labour Party conferences to show how daily activities can be carried out with the right training and equipment. The stand demonstrated to MPs, Councillors and party members the importance of properly resourced vision rehabilitation services.  Almost 70 MPs, including Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey, Work and Pensions Secretary, Mel Stride, and Shadow Minister for Social Care, Andrew Gwynne, took the opportunity to wear a pink RNIB apron and test out a liquid level indicator.  Our stand won the award for best charity stand at the Lib Dem conference, and received over 650 visitors over the course of all three conferences.

Access to Work delays

Too many people are waiting too long to get the support they need to start or stay in work after a sight loss diagnosis. We’ve helped train Access to Work case managers to improve their understanding of sight loss to help reduce waiting times for support. We continued to call on the UK Government to better resource the service, and supported people experiencing delays to make official complaints if necessary. In November, we joined with sector partners to write to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Mel Stride, outlining that, while we acknowledge average waiting times have halved since the start of the year, people are still waiting too long for the support they need to thrive in employment. This is something we’ll keep speaking up about until waiting times improve.

Wins in your area

Our team of Regional Campaigns Officers have worked hard to secure wins that simply wouldn’t have happened without them. Read about just some of the impact campaigners have had in their local areas.

  • This year saw the start of a working relationship with AECOM, a US-based company advising on the design of infrastructure. We have taken their engineers and staff on guided walks in the North East, North West, South West and Yorkshire.
  • We’ve worked with over 70 upper tier local authorities and combined authorities. This has included encouraging highway teams to adopt our Key Principles of Inclusive Street Design, which has already seen positive results.
  • We've also ensured that detrimental plans are paused or halted, such as the installation of electric vehicle charging points in Norwich.
  • Campaigners secured the installation of a puffin crossing in Dipton, Co Durham, after two years of campaigning alongside local residents.
  • We worked with the Rail Delivery Group to produce the disabled person’s railcards with embossed Braille.
  • Our work with e-scooter and e-bike operators such as Lime, Beryl, Neuron, and Voi, has focussed on making sure the needs of pedestrians with sight loss are addressed.
  • We were an official partner of Natural England for a report on the accessibility of green spaces, and also secured improved signage in three libraries across the South West.
  • We delivered training to volunteers and supporters on topics such as campaign skills training and working with your local authority. Look out for new courses in 2024.
  • Our exhibition stand at the Local Government Association conference enabled council officials to hear our calls for inclusive street design.  We also shared examples of tactile maps, demonstrated an audio voting device and shared our concerns about the impact of the cost of living.

Thank you

These campaign successes would not have happened without your support. By adding your voice to our campaigns, signing our petitions, contacting your MPs, speaking up on social media, and campaigning in your local area, you have made decision-makers rethink choices which would have a negative impact on blind and partially sighted people.

Join us in 2024 as we continue to campaign for targeted support during the cost-of-living crisis, more accessible transport, more widely available vision rehabilitation services, accessible health information, and much more.

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