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How our local heroes have had a real impact in 2021

RNIB campaigners have worked hard to change their local areas for the better, so we want to highlight some of their achievements.

Image: A group of people with canes on the Taunton blindfold walk

Speaking about the efforts of local RNIB campaigners, Head of RNIB Social Change, Abigail Fitzgibbon, said:

"From campaigning for accessible streets to challenging inaccessible health information, it’s never been more important for blind and partially sighted people to work together for change. A big thank you to all, and to everyone else who has taken action over the past year to remove barriers to inclusion for blind and partially sighted people."

Here are just some of the successes over the past year.

Accessible streets

One of the biggest issues local campaigners took action on in 2021. Recent – and often sudden – changes to street design and the way we travel have had a big impact on the ability of blind and partially sighted people to get around safely and independently.

In October 2021 we launched our Seeing streets differently report, which our campaigners are now sharing with local authorities, designers and transport operators.

  • Preston: Denise Wilkinson, Chair of Lancashire VI Forum, worked alongside our Regional Campaigns Officer Terri Balon to campaign for a local street charter, agreed upon by the local authority. The charter is a list of public commitments to put accessible streets at the heart of local decision-making.
  • County Durham: blind and partially sighted residents in Dipton campaigned for the installation of a safe and accessible pedestrian crossing. Durham Council has now confirmed funding for the new crossing.
  • Durham: a family raised concerns about tactile paving at a local pedestrian crossing. They used national guidance from the Department for Transport to convince the local authority to replace the tactile paving, to help make the crossing detectable.
  • Wigan: North West volunteer campaigners Erik Matthies and Pete Forrester did an excellent job supporting our guided walk in November with Wigan Council Chief Executive Officer, Lead on Equality and other senior officers. The officers gave great feedback, showing increased insight into accessible street issues.

Accessible health information

  • Lancashire: Michael Tupper has campaigned for accessible health information within his local NHS Trust; he has been instrumental in the setting up of a working group on the implementation of the NHS Accessible Information Standard. We were delighted that Michael’s many years of campaigning were recognised in the Queen’s New Year Honours list 2022, where he was awarded a British Empire Medal.

Health services

  • Essex: Samantha Fox has delivered sensory awareness training and provided written guidance on assistance dogs for Mid and South Essex NHS trust, which covers nine hospitals in the area.
  • Essex: Annette Bodsworth has worked with Healthwatch Essex, which has won a national award for its awareness-raising video about sensory impairment and COVID-19.
  • Manchester: Erik Matthies is part of the Manchester Engagement group, providing information on the impact of COVID-19 and restrictions on blind and partially sighted people in Manchester.


  • Manchester: Erik Matthies was interviewed by ITV news about his experiences of voting, in support of our campaign to make voting accessible.


  • London: Pardy Gill took part in the Health and Disability Green Paper consultation, by the Department for Work and Pensions. The Green Paper considers how the welfare system can better meet the needs of disabled people and people with health conditions, so people can live independently, and stay in or move into work.

Venue accessibility

  • Liverpool: Julie Bennett, an RNIB Connect volunteer, took part in a visit to St George’s Hall where accessibility of the building and exhibits were discussed.

Police services

  • East Yorkshire: Vivienne Wilkes won a Sheriff’s award for working with her local police service to make it more accessible.

Working together

  • Loughborough: Steve Springthorpe chairs our Campaigns Discussion Group, for local RNIB campaigners across England to share experiences and ideas. In May 2021 Steve also became a local councillor, aiming to improve awareness of accessibility and focus on issues such as his town centre’s redevelopment.
  • London: Ray Spiteri chairs the RNIB London Action Group (LAG), which has fed into developments at Moorfields Eye Hospital. LAG members have also taken part in Department for Transport e-scooter research.

Find out more about RNIB community events and training sessions on the RNIB Events Calendar. You can also stay up to date with our campaigning by signing up to receive our e-mail news and updates.