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RNIB meets with Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting MP

Eleanor and Maqsood in grey tops, Wes Streeting in a dark suit and overcoat, Gen in a red top and Vivienne in a black and white patterned dress standing in a group in the corner of a bright coffee shop looking happy

Eleanor and Maqsood from RNIB in grey tops, Wes Streeting MP in a dark suit and overcoat, Labour candidate Gen Kitchen in a red top and Vivienne from RNIB in a black and white patterned dress. They are standing in a group in the corner of a bright coffee shop looking happy

RNIB staff, including Chief Social Change Officer Vivienne Francis, took Wes Streeting MP on a guided walk to demonstrate the barriers blind and partially sighted people face getting from A to B. Alongside this, Mr Streeting heard about our priorities for vision rehabilitation, eye health and accessible health information over a coffee in his remit as Shadow Health and Care Secretary.

Mr Streeting said,

“It’s been great to spend time with the RNIB here in Wellingborough and gain a better understanding of how decisions around our local environments, from street design features to leaving bins in the pavement, can adversely affect blind and partially sighted people.

“While incredibly frustrating to hear from the RNIB about the impact of delays on patients with avoidable sight loss I’m grateful to them for sharing suggestions for the reforms we could pursue within our health and social care systems to allow more blind and partially sighted people to thrive.

“We are committed to delivering more routine outpatient care in high street opticians. There are 6,000 high street opticians in England, equipped with specialist staff and kit that can get patients seen faster. We will put them to work to beat the backlog, and free up hospital specialists to treat the patients in serious need. All at greater convenience to patients and better value for the taxpayer."

We led Mr Streeting and the Labour Party parliamentary candidate for Wellingborough, Gen Kitchen, on a walk along a section of high street, demonstrating the problems that obstacles and street infrastructure pose for blind and partially sighted people. Mr Streeting and Ms Kitchen also had the opportunity to wear SimSpecs (glasses that simulate eye conditions) to get a sense of the difficulties people with sight loss have navigating independently and safely.

In the discussion about what needs to change in the health system, RNIB's Chief Social Change Officer, Vivienne, stressed the need for blind and partially sighted people to receive healthcare information in their preferred format, and for the updated Accessible Information Standard (AIS) to be published by NHS England without further delay; we spoke about the current postcode lottery of provision when it comes to vision rehabilitation services,; and shared our key asks for improving eye care across Englandwith the number of people living with sight loss set to rise by an estimated 1.5 million in the next 25 years.

In a general election year we’re also impressing upon MPs and candidates from all parties the importance of accessible campaigning. We shared information from our online resources page, including how taking the simple steps of including alt text on images and capitalising the first letter of words in a hashtag can make social media content more inclusive.

RNIB regularly hosts guided walks with MPs, councillors and other decision makers to increase awareness of the challenges that people with sight loss face when out in the built environment, and this invite was extended to all the candidates for the forthcoming by-election in Wellingborough.

Blind and partially sighted people often encounter street obstacles such as A-boards, bins, street furniture, and cars parked on pavements, in all areas of the country. These obstacles can often prevent people with sight loss from getting around independently, and can also lead to injury.