For Claire, wanting to do a first aid course was not out of the ordinary. She is a full-time student in health and social care with the intention of becoming an alternative therapist. She is also doing an aromatherapy course on the side and volunteers on Tech Talk for RNIB Connect Radio every Tuesday.
Growing up, Claire was used to people telling her what she could and couldn’t do because of her visual impairment. But when a Facebook friend who is also blind said that she had just become a certified first aider, Claire felt empowered to do the same.
“I know a lot of alternative therapists have first aid qualifications just in case something happens, it’s always good to have knowledge of what to do in an emergency.”
Claire was not without some self-doubt initially – she questioned if her sight loss meant she wouldn’t be able to the first aid course.
“How on earth would I see if somebody is bleeding or collapsed? However my family were very supportive of me and said, ‘Look, if you want to do it, go for it. We’re here to support you.’ They were really key in me going ahead.”
Committed to learning first aid, the main barrier turned out to be finding a course willing to teach Claire.
“St John Ambulance said that they wouldn’t be able to support me unless I had a support worker, which I find very difficult to access.
“British Red Cross also required me to have a support worker in order to gain certification. The other option they gave me if I didn’t come with a support worker was a smaller class so I’d get more attention, but I would only get training, not the certificate. You’ve got the knowledge but you’ve got nothing to prove it.”
By this point Claire was getting desperate, as she really wanted to do the training but there seemed to be no hope with the major training centres. She then contacted the RNIB Connect team who said that they’d get a local representative to call her back.
“I thought that they would probably just forget about it because there’s nothing they can do. But within four days I got an email from the local facilitator based in Leeds with the email address of a first aid trainer who is visually impaired himself!”
Claire contacted Alan North and her private training session was set for the week after. The fact that Alan is visually impaired and had taught people with visual impairment gave Claire the confidence to know that he’d understand her training needs better.
“Alan understood what sort of barriers a blind student would encounter and most importantly how I’d overcome these barriers.”
Even though the course is just four hours, Claire found it very practical and enjoyed Alan’s hands-on approach to training.
“I got out of the course more than I wanted. I loved the way it was taught and demonstrated on me so I knew exactly what he was talking about, as we covered so many different health conditions and strategies to help people. I felt like it was so worth it.
“We covered how to assess the casualty and CPR, so if someone is having a heart attack, making sure you do things like chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth breathing.
“Alan was using my hands to show me exactly where on the mannequins I needed to work. As a blind person, I rely on other senses more and on the mannequins you can feel exactly where you need to do the chest compressions. Having the trainer physically guide me and explain it properly ensured I understood it well. It’s also about teamwork and communication, making sure anyone else who’s there gets involved to help.”
Claire wants to be an alternative therapist specialising in disability, and intends to do more courses to further her education in that area.
“As a person of disability myself, I’d like to empower other disabled people with knowledge – and I think this will help change perceptions of what we can do. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t achieve anything!”