Charity calls for greater awareness of blindness in Northern Ireland

Post date: 
Tuesday, 16 October 2018
Dr Jackie Witherow
  • RNIB research reveals that the biggest barrier facing blind and partially sighted people is the lack of knowledge and understanding of sight loss and outdated attitudes of the people around them1.
  • A poll of the general public backed up the charity’s research, with one fifth (20 per cent) of people in Northern Ireland thinking that someone with sight loss cannot enjoy TV and film, and 42 per cent admitting that they thought people with sight loss would struggle to find and hold down a job.    
  • The findings have been released by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) as the charity marks its 150th anniversary.

A survey of people in Northern Ireland has today [16 October] revealed a widespread lack of awareness and understanding of sight loss.

The poll2, conducted by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), found that 42 per cent of people surveyed in Northern Ireland believe that blind and partially sighted people would struggle to find and hold down a job. One fifth (20 per cent) of those surveyed said blind and partially sighted people cannot enjoy TV and film, and 42 per cent did not think that blind and partially sighted people can read books.

The survey also suggested that people in Northern Ireland lack confidence when it comes to providing assistance. Almost two thirds (62 per cent) of people surveyed admitted that they would not always help a blind or partially sighted person, with 15 per cent saying they would be afraid of causing offence, and a further 15 per cent feeling unsure of how to help.

The findings back up research carried out by the charity amongst the blind and partially sighted community, which revealed that the biggest barrier they face is other people’s limited knowledge and understanding of sight loss1

Poor societal attitudes and lack of awareness were judged to be a bigger barrier to inclusion than practical challenges including finding and keeping a job, navigating streets and using public transport.  

The findings have been released by RNIB to mark its 150th anniversary and launch of the charity’s new vision: a world without barriers for blind and partially sighted people.

Jackie Witherow, Director of RNIB for Northern Ireland, said: “We’ve come a long way since RNIB was formed in 1868, but as our research shows, there’s still work to be done, particularly around improving society’s understanding of the experience and spectrum of sight loss.

“One example is around offering assistance – something which people in Northern Ireland are reluctant to do for fear of causing offence, being unsure of how to help or finding the situation awkward. Our message is simple – just ask. Like anyone, blind and partially sighted people appreciate an offer of help. It’s just about working out the best way to do it.

“Looking to the future, our vision is a world free of barriers for people with sight loss, where we can live the lives we want to lead and are valued for who we are, not defined by the disabilities we have.

“It’s an ambitious vision but one I’m confident we can achieve by working with our partners as we move into an exciting new chapter of our story.”   

The charity recently unveiled a new brand supported by a series of adverts and short films which use everyday scenarios and humour to urge people to see the person, not the sight loss.

To find out more about RNIB’s 150th anniversary and to be part of the charity’s vision of the future, visit the RNIB website.

Notes to editors

1RNIB research which collected the views of over 600 blind and partially sighted people around the barriers they face in order to inform planning in our 150th year.

2The research for RNIB was carried out by Research Without Barriers (RWB) between 05/10/2018 and 08/10/2018 amongst a panel resulting in 1,013 respondents, of whom 26 live in Northern Ireland. All research conducted adheres to the MRS Codes of Conduct (2010) in the UK and ICC/ESOMAR World Research Guidelines.

UK-wide figures

  • Nearly half (44 per cent) of people surveyed admitted that they would not always help a blind or partially sighted person, with 8 per cent saying they would be afraid of causing offence, and a further 8 per cent feeling unsure of how to help.
  • 50 per cent believe that blind and partially sighted people would struggle to find and hold down a job. 
  • 31 per cent said blind and partially sighted people cannot enjoy TV and film.
  • 28 per cent did not think that blind and partially sighted people can read books.

Two short films are available as follows:

High resolution images, interviews with RNIB spokespeople and case studies and other content available on request.

Media enquiries to Robert Shilliday at RNIB NI on 028 9033 4118 or 07849 079597.

About RNIB

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.

Call the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or visit www.rnib.org.uk