On Saturday 21 May, 20 families were brought together by sight loss charity RNIB at Belfast’s W5 for a day out with a difference.
The Children, Young People and Family Team from RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People) in Northern Ireland was the first to be able to host the charity’s popular Shape and Share events in a face-to-face setting since the start of the Covid 19 pandemic.
Prior to this, RNIB’s Shape and Share events – which aim to encourage children and young people with vision impairment to make new friends, try new things, and engage in some much-needed fun, had been held virtually across the UK.
The Rainey family from Moira have been supported by RNIB for seven years and went along to W5 on Saturday.
Mum Lynsey had this to say:
“We were there for six hours! the kids are a great age for W5 and didn’t want to leave. They had a ball.
“We loved that the RNIB had booked the entire soft play area for the Shape and Share which gave the children a chance to make friends while the parents chatted.”
Lynsey’s daughter Fern is 8-years-old and has unilateral anopthalmia, which means she was born without her left eye.
“We’ve been in contact with RNIB since Fern was about six months. We would go to the toddler groups to let Fern and my son Ted, aged 6, meet lots of other kids that have visual impairments.
“We have been lucky enough to attend lots of RNIB face-to-face meet ups in the past in the hopes we would meet someone with a similar condition to Fern.
“Kids get bored over FaceTime, there’s no substitute for real life connections. Ten minutes speaking to another mum who understands the struggles of hospital appointments and the social worries having a child with additional needs can bring, is the best kind of therapy.
“And when kids are exposed to any kind of disability it can only be a positive thing. They don’t think twice if someone uses a cane or looks a bit different to them now. They know everyone needs a friend and we should always smile and say hello.”
Donna McNicholl, on behalf of RNIB’s Children, Young People and Family team, said:
“We were so excited to see our families for the first time face-to-face after two long years of covid restrictions. We were thrilled to see 20 families from across Northern Ireland book on to our very first Shape and Share face-to-face event at W5 in Belfast.
“Our families had the opportunity to meet new people, chat and catch up with other families they may not have seen for quite some time, as well exploring and discovering all of what W5 had to offer.
“If you would like more information about the RNIB Children Young People and Family Service, please email: [email protected] or call the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999.”
There will be a further nine Shape and Share events from now until the end of the year in other parts of the UK, with four more planned as face-to-face gatherings, and the other five to be held virtually.
All media enquiries can be directed to: [email protected], or by phoning: 07763 579 141
We are the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).
Every six minutes, someone in the UK begins to lose their sight. RNIB is taking a stand against exclusion, inequality and isolation to create a world without barriers where people with sight loss can lead full lives. A different world where society values blind and partially sighted people not for the disabilities they’ve overcome, but for the people they are.
RNIB. See differently.
Call the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or visit www.rnib.org.uk
There are over 25,000 visually impaired children aged 0-16 in the UK, and around 15,000 aged 17 to 25 (9). Around half of these children will have additional disabilities and special educational needs. This figure includes:
children who are registered blind or partially sighted
children who are living with sight loss but who are not registered blind or partially sighted.
In Northern Ireland, there are an estimated:
840 blind and partially sighted children aged 0-16.
400 blind and partially sighted young people aged 17-25.