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See Dining Differently in Derry this World Sight Day

On World Sight Day, Thursday 12 October, Northwest Regional College in Derry/Londonderry, played host to a special ‘Dining in the Dark’ experience for invited guests from local council, Chamber of Commerce, Health and Social Care, and local business.

The event was organised by community volunteers from the Royal National Institute of Blind People in Northern Ireland (RNIB NI) to mark World Sight Day 2023.

The novel dining event invited guests to enjoy a four-course meal whilst completely blindfolded to gain some understanding of the challenges of living life without the sense of sight.

The key take-away for guests was to stimulate conversations about social inclusion and to ignite fresh thinking on how guests might affect change in their own business or service practice.

During the event, diners heard from representatives from RNIB on support provided by the charity and some practical ways they can start to make their business or service more accessible and inclusive of people with sight loss.

Simple adjustments can really make a difference, such as QR codes on menus or brochures, or ensuring customer-facing staff have visual awareness training.

Rory McCartney is partially sighted and lives in the Derry/Londonderry area. Rory volunteers with RNIB as a Visual Awareness Facilitator and played a crucial role in the organising of this event.

Rory said: “It’s wonderful to be able to arrange an event like this and have so many people genuinely interested in coming along and learning more about living with sight loss.

“I’ve been volunteering for RNIB for a few years now, providing visual awareness training to businesses and services throughout the Foyle area and I find it so rewarding. I know through my own lived experience and from others I know with sight loss, a lot of the challenges and barriers we face to equal access to society, can be overcome by raising awareness and educating those who provide services and the wider public, on what it’s really like to live with sight loss.

“Whether it’s access to transport, getting around your local area safely or being able to get health and other information in a format that works for you. We’ve come a long way but we’ve still so much to do. I hope those who attended this awareness raising event for World Sight Day, will remember their experience and I know that I, and the sight loss community as a whole, look forward to working closely with them to improve the society we all live in, for people who are blind or partially sighted.”

Speaking ahead of the event, Deputy Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Cllr Jason Barr said he was honoured to represent the Council at the RNIB NI event to mark World Sight Day. “I am very much looking forward to being part of this event and to find out what it is like to live with sight loss. To experience it in real terms will be a very interesting experience and will give me an idea of the challenges people living with sight loss face everyday. From a Council point of view we are very supportive of the work being done by RNIB NI and are keen to take forward any steps we can to improve life and help promote a better understanding of the challenges faced by those living with sight loss.”

Sight loss charity, RNIB is passionate about campaigning for change and breaking down the barriers people with sight loss face.

Engagement events such as ‘Dining in the Dark’, are a great way for the public to gain a deeper understanding of living life with sight loss and to work with the blind and partially sighted community and broader society, to bring about attitudinal change and ensure disabilities such as sight loss, remain central to public policy planning.

Robert Shilliday, Country Director for RNIB in Northern Ireland, said: “If you were to ask someone to eat a meal whilst blindfolded, I’m sure most people would find it extremely challenging. They might worry about missing their mouth with their food or creating mess or spillages. But this is why we really value this kind of engagement event. It gets people talking and if people are talking about sight loss, then they are a step closer to understanding what needs to change in our society to remove barriers for blind and partially sighted people.

“I hope that the guests enjoyed the experience and gained a greater understanding of sight loss and its impact. I’d like to extend my thanks to our volunteer Rory McCartney who organised the event and for bringing the idea to fruition. I’d also like to sincerely thank all the staff at the Northwest Regional College for kindly hosting such a terrific event to mark World Sight Day.

“There are an estimated 57,500 people living with sight loss in Northern Ireland and the reality is that half of all sight loss is avoidable. World Sight Day is an opportunity to actively think about sight loss differently, to emphasise the importance of having our eyes tested regularly and highlighting ways that we can all work together to improve the quality of life for people who are blind or partially sighted.

“We at RNIB, strive to remove barriers for people with sight loss; barriers to safe streets, employment, education, transport, healthcare and to promote equality overall.

“We hope that this event will give everyone who attended, an insight into living with sight loss, dispell some myths and misconceptions and help increase understanding that we all see differently.”

To access practical and emotional support or to find out more about the work of RNIB in Northern Ireland, call the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or visit our website