My Voice research

Post date: 
Thursday, 12 May 2016
Image of older people on park bench

RNIB have recently published My Voice, the largest ever survey of its kind. The report provides a much needed update on the realities of life as a blind or partially sighted person in the UK today.

Clare Conley, Managing Editor spoke to Rose Edwards, Research Officer at RNIB who co-wrote the report.

What was the most important issue for blind and partially sighted people you spoke to?

When we asked people what makes the biggest difference in their everyday life, travel, transport and mobility were by far the most frequent answers. We found that 40 per cent of registered blind and partially sighted people weren’t able to make every journey they wanted or needed to. Considering the impact this must have on other areas of their lives – on employment, the ability to go out and socialise or even to access healthcare – this is a very disappointing finding.

Are there any other issues affecting people’s mobility?

As well as the difficulty of travelling, even walking down the street was a huge issue for too many people. Two-thirds of working age people and a third of pension age people had collided with an obstacle on the pavement in the last three months alone. One in three of these incidents led to injury.

Is access to information still a key issue?

Absolutely. A huge majority – nine out of ten people – told us that information on medication or food packaging was difficult or even impossible to read. A large amount of important financial and medical information is also not being provided in accessible formats. Forty per cent of those surveyed said that information from health providers was never accessible, while 28 per cent said they could never access information from banks.

Are many people relying on a sighted person to read for them?

Yes, nearly half of blind and partially sighted people said that they always or frequently needed support to read written information. This is clearly a problem, both in terms of privacy and people’s right to live as independently as possible.

What about emotional support?

This can come from a variety of sources, including sight loss advisers, or any other type of emotional support, advice or counselling. Sadly, the majority of people said they didn’t receive any emotional support in relation to their sight loss. Only 17 per cent of registered blind and partially sighted people received any emotional support at all.

How are blind and partially sighted people coping financially?

We found that one in five people surveyed said they had some or great difficulty in making ends meet. This was more pronounced for those of working age, as sight loss often disrupts their job.

How many people with sight loss are in work?

Twenty seven per cent of people with sight loss of working age are in either paid employment or self-employment. Unfortunately this is a decrease from 10 years ago, when the last study of this kind was carried out.

How are people coping with benefits?

More than a quarter of the people we spoke to, of all ages, said that their disability benefits were barely or never enough to meet the extra costs as a result of their sight loss. Examples of these costs include specialist adaptations or gadgets, or reliance on taxis.

Were there any other interesting research findings?

Other than transport, the biggest issue raised was public awareness and attitudes, which we found are really poor. More than a third of people said they had experienced negative attitudes from the general public.
Technology was also a key area. Less than one in three people felt they could take advantage of new technology, particularly older people. Overall lots of people said that they don’t feel like they’re making the most of technology available to them now, but they would be keen to if barriers were removed.
Another important point is that we found that many people continue to experience deterioration in their sight over time. This is important for service providers to note when planning, but also for blind and partially sighted people, to make sure that you continue to monitor your sight and receive any ongoing support if you need it.

It’s an in-depth report, and we’ve only touched on the key findings. What’s next for the information that’s been gathered?

It’s a very thorough report, and we’d like to thank everyone who took part. RNIB are committed to supporting our members to face the challenges that blind and partially sighted people are experiencing. We will use the findings from the report to influence our strategy and to make sure we’re providing the best and most
appropriate services.
We’re also holding sessions across the UK, speaking to local sight loss charities and groups about this research and how it can be used to help them.

Find out more

To read the full report, visit the My Voice page or call the Helpline on 0303 123 9999 to request an alternative format.
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