Helping children and young people with sight loss realise their potential

A group shot of people on the realise project

Over the last five years more than 300 blind and partially sighted young people, between the ages of eight and 25, have been supported to build their confidence and skills through RNIB’s ‘Realise project’, funded by the Big Lottery Reaching Out Empowering Young People’s programme.

The young people crafted new skills, made new friendships and grew in independence through activities such as participation in the Duke of Edinburgh Awards Scheme, technology workshops, residentials and work placements - helping them realise their potential as they approach critical transitional stages in their lives such as starting secondary school, further education or getting into employment.

As part of the Realise project legacy we have compiled this comprehensive list of ongoing support available from RNIB, recommended services, organisations and products that you as a young person, parent/carer, or professional can use to continue building the aspirations, confidence, and skills of young people with sight loss.

Support from RNIB

RNIB’s Children, Young People and Families team in Northern Ireland will continue to provide ongoing support to children and young people up to age 25. You can contact the team with any queries at [email protected]

Resources for parents and professionals

Our resources for parents of blind and partially sighted children includes information to help parents understand their child's sight condition, financial support, other parents stories, a who's who guide for parents and more.

In RNIB’s Education and Learning pages you'll find information about how to support children's education, from the early years to transition into adulthood and life beyond school.

We also have a large amount of advice and guidance about teaching blind and partially sighted pupils from the early years to secondary education in our Education Professionals section.

Sign up to Insight Online: The essential read for families and education professionals who support children and young people with vision impairment.

Resources for young people

Our pages for young people offer advice and guidance for blind and partially sighted young people aged from 14 to 25 on all stages of their transition from school, to college, university and into employment.

In Northern Ireland, RNIB’s Eye Work Too project team support blind or partially sighted people to develop the skills and experience necessary to gain employment – from interview technique, to gaining qualifications in IT, and securing work placements.

Contact the team on [email protected]

In our Employment and Work pages you’ll find further information on getting into and staying in employment, successfully employed people with sight loss, and support available from RNIB, other voluntary organisations and the government.

Useful Technology and Products

At RNIB, we believe in the power of technology to assist people with sight loss to be independent, access information, grasp opportunities and to b​e creativ​e. Check out the latest technology facts, tips and guides in our Technology Hub.

You can also download our recommended apps, specially collated by the Realise project team in partnership with parents and young people.

RNIB Bookshare: UK education collection (formerly known as Load2Learn) provides curriculum materials to students who are unable to read standard print, including those with vision impairment or dyslexia. 

The new platform offers an increased number of book titles as well as new features such as reading apps and reading lists. Resources available include books, images and advice on how to adapt classroom materials.

Our online shop has a great range of useful and practical items – from thicker lined paper and pens, to talking calculator, braille items and watches etc – many of which can be tried at our Belfast Showroom. Call 028 9032 9373 to speak to our Products for Life Coordinator and arrange a visit.

Sport and leisure activities

Disability Sport NI run activities and groups across NI, such as taster sessions in blind golf, tennis, or goalball.

Find out what’s happening in your area through the Blind Sports Network – including VI football in Lisburn with the IFA.

We’ve also created a list of Disability Club Hubs and contact details for borrowing equipment which can be downloaded:

Stay at RNIB’s Chalet at Share Village, Lisnaskea

A variety of onsite land and water based activities and a multitude of fascinating nearby heritage sites and walks make this a great choice for any youth group or family getaway. Find out more and book.

Duke of Edinburgh Award support

The Duke of Edinburgh Award has been a very popular and successful aspect of the Realise project. We are delighted to inform you that this will still be available through the Belfast Activity Centre.

The ‘Duke of Edinburgh’s Open Award’ is a volunteer led initiative supported by BAC for over 20 years. The Open Award programme offers open access to young people who do not have access to, or may find difficulty accessing the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award programme through other providers.

The BAC Open Award offers programmes for Bronze, Silver and Gold levels. It also includes additional BAC equipment and staff support for expeditions locally and internationally.

For further information contact Nicola Campbell at Belfast Activity Centre on 028 9060 0132 or email [email protected]

One to one tuition – specialist support

There is a wide range of organisations and private tutors available to assist your child in developing skills in areas such as music and swimming. A list of one to one suppliers for music and swimming lessons and recommended leisure centres we’ve worked with in the past is available on request – email [email protected].

Grants for children with visual impairment

There are multiple agencies and funders supplying grants to support children with visual impairment and their families – from support in purchasing useful technology, mobility aids, sensory toys, to family breaks. Download our list of Grant Opportunities

Visual Awareness Training - for Youth Groups, Youth leaders, and teachers

Youth Inclusion Hub project

The Youth Inclusion Hub project offers information and advice on how to be inclusive of all disabilities, as well as recognised qualifications. Their website features their Digital Inclusion Toolkit and a free inclusive resources library. 

The Dark Experience

Based at Belfast Activity Centre, RNIB’s Dark Experience has been specifically designed to increase people’s awareness of what it means to live with sight loss.

Participants are blindfolded and taken on a guided tour, with various everyday tasks encountered along the way, such as going to the shops, navigating with a long cane, everyday tasks about the house.

Contact [email protected] to enquire about booking.

Other specialised voluntary/statutory organisations 

  • Guide dogs NI
  • AngelEyes NI
  • Education Authority QTVI Service and Transition Service
  • Sensory support – contact your local sensory support office

Contact us

If you have any queries, contact RNIB’s Children, Young People and Families team in Northern Ireland through the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or email [email protected]