Blind and partially sighted people urged to email Scottish Parliament election candidates
Over 8,500 blind and partially sighted people and their supporters across Scotland have been urged to join a concerted drive to contact their local candidates for the Scottish Parliament election in May.
The move comes after a year of lockdowns, which RNIB Scotland says has exacerbated the issues that have made life more difficult for those with sight loss.
It is linking people on its database to an online system that will let them quickly find and email the election candidates standing in their area.
"The coronavirus pandemic highlighted some serious gaps in our services last year," said Director of RNIB Scotland, James Adams. "Gaps that were troubling enough in normal times but very alarming during a period of crisis.
"Vital information that sometimes wasn't available initially in formats like audio and braille includes access to online shopping, confusion over social distancing and guiding – not priorities for most people, perhaps, but absolutely essential to those who are blind and partially sighted.
"We want to mobilise our members and supporters to push their concerns onto the political agenda."
In its own manifesto for the election, RNIB Scotland is calling for sight loss concerns to be given more priority – not least a commitment that voting itself will be made more accessible for blind and partially sighted people.
Research by RNIB in 2020 found that only 13 per cent of blind voters across the UK, and less than half of partially sighted voters (44 per cent), said they were able to vote independently and in private in the last General Election. A legal ruling in 2019 criticised existing arrangements for voters with sight loss as 'a parody of the electoral process.
The RNIB Scotland manifesto also calls for emotional support for people first diagnosed with sight loss, more specialist teachers in schools, disability benefits that better recognise the needs of blind and partially sighted people and support in finding employment. The charity wants an assurance, too, that the new post-coronavirus emphasis on 'active travel' – which could see the legalisation of rented e-scooters – doesn't infringe on the rights of people with disabilities to go safely outdoors.
"After the shock that was coronavirus in 2020, we need to make our society safer and more resilient," said James Adams. "But let's grab this opportunity to make it fairer, too. Coronavirus gave us all a sense of what it's like to feel more vulnerable and unsure; more dependent on each other.
"Scotland should plan for more than just a return to yesterday in 2021 but aim towards a better tomorrow. Let's make sure that society and structures that we do at last come back to being open and inclusive for everyone."
The RNIB Helpline can be called on 0303 123 9999.