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Provost praises "resilience" of people with sensory loss during pandemic

Falkirk Provost Billy Buchanan has praised the resilience of people with sensory conditions as he helped bury a time capsule at Forth Valley Sensory Centre (FVSC).

The 10-year metal capsule contained a number of items relating to the pandemic which has gripped the world for the past 18 months, including face masks and stories from people who have sight or hearing conditions about their experience of lockdown.

Provost Buchanan, assisted by Jenn Pow, Audiology Services Manager at NHS Forth Valley, Margaret Jackson of RNIB Scotland and Linsey Stocks of FVSC, buried the capsule under an Acer tree donated by Falkirk Soroptimists. The spot will also be marked by a plaque providing details of the burial.

The event was supported by the national sight loss charity, RNIB Scotland. Margaret Jackson, RNIB's Third Sector Co-ordinator, said: “RNIB Scotland has worked hard to support blind and partially sighted people during the coronavirus pandemic, but the most impressive thing is how people have simply got on with the job. Even in lockdown, we've seen people engaging with new activities over the phone as well as online, like our Connect Groups and of course here at the centre with our partners.

“We were lucky enough to secure a donation of Amazon Fire Tablets and these have been a big help in getting people online so they could access services like Talking Books and stay in touch with friends they were unable to meet up with.”

Speaking about the reason behind the creation of the time capsule, Linsey Stocks said: “Lockdown has been hard on everyone but for disabled people, it has been even worse. The deaf and hard-of-hearing members of our community struggled horrendously with masks and communication, leaving many isolated. Similarly, for people with sight conditions, social distancing was impossible, and many opted to shield themselves, avoiding public places and, again, increasing their isolation from society.

“We wanted to recognise just how hard it has been for people with sensory conditions over the last 18 months and record just what it's been like not being able to get out and having to live with all the different rules and restrictions. The time capsule includes several personal stories and experiences as well as common items associated with the pandemic and a thank you to our NHS Forth Valley partners.”

The event also thanked NHS Forth Valley staff who continued to provide vital services at the centre and in facilities across the community throughout the lockdown. This included vaccinations for babies and paediatric audiology services.

Jenn Pow said: “Continuing to deliver audiology treatment has been a significant challenge but thanks to the innovation of the team, we've been able to continue with vital services, albeit in different ways than before.”

The event also provided an opportunity for attendees to hear more about the Making Sense of Climate Change Project at the Centre in Camelon. Project leader Sara Burns said: “Planting trees is one of the best carbon conscious things we can do to help stop climate change so it seemed fitting, while we're looking at the impact dramatic changes have on our lives, to also consider the future and the dramatic changes we are bringing on ourselves.

“Our project aims to help people with a sensory background understand what climate change is, what it might mean for them, the changes they can make to help stop it and, most importantly, why those changes are needed.

“If lockdown has had one benefit it's that the number of car journeys dropped significantly: people cycle, and they worked from home. Our skies were clear and pollution levels dropped. It shows that we can adapt our way of living to help the environment, but we should not need a pandemic to make us change.”

Provost Buchanan said: “It has been a difficult time for everyone, but it was humbling to hear how the pandemic affected disabled people, especially those already isolated through sensory loss. I have the greatest of respect for the resilience of these members of our community who have battled through with the unwavering support of charities like Forth Valley Sensory Centre and RNIB Scotland, as well as the heroic work of NHS Forth Valley.”

The overall objective of Forth Valley Sensory Centre is to help people who have a sensory impairment live as independently as possible. The Centre is owned and run by Forth Valley Sensory Centre Trust, a partnership of RNIB Scotland, Action on Hearing Loss, NHS Forth Valley, Falkirk Council and Stirling Council.