Since then, the Group has gone from strength to strength, and its meetings are attended by a wide range of key stakeholders within the sight loss sector in Northern Ireland, including RNIB NI, Guide Dogs NI, The Albinism Fellowship, Angel Eyes, Jordanstown School for the Blind, the Inclusive Mobility and Transport Advisory Committee and the Campaigners' Active Network.
The All Party Group on Visual Impairment engages Ministers of the Northern Ireland Executive, civil servants and other key decision makers on issues relevant to blind and partially sighted people in Northern Ireland.
Whilst focusing on all aspects of the lives of blind and partially sighted people in Northern Ireland, the Group acts as a focal point for MLAs' to scrutinise the following devolved matters:
Services provided by the Executive and public agencies
In particular, it monitors the implementation of the Vision Strategy NI, a cross sectoral initiative aimed at preventing sight loss and improving the lives of blind and partially sighted people in Northern Ireland.
The composition of the Group means that all five parties within the Northern Ireland Executive are represented, and indeed eight of the nine political parties at the Assembly are represented within the All Party Group.
The current membership of the Group stands at 18 MLAs – almost a fifth of the Assembly, and therefore makes the All Party Group on Visual Impairment one of the most effective All Party Groups within the Assembly.
The All Party Group has enabled VI Sector organisations to present evidence to various scrutiny committees at the Assembly, which has resulted in very real changes being made to services and legislation to the benefit of blind and partially sighted people in Northern Ireland.
Examples of this have seen the concerns of blind and partially sighted people in Northern reflected in The Pavement Cafes Bill and The Welfare Reform Bill. This can also be seen through an investment by the Department of Finance and Personnel into training blind and partially sighted people in Information and Computer Technology.
For information on our campaigning and ways to get involved, or to share your successes or frustrations with us, ring the Campaigns Team on 0303 123 9999 or email [email protected].