A two-year battle for accessible information

Post date: 
Friday, 11 January 2019
Bills and official letters on a table

When Sheila Townsend asked for a letter to be sent to her in large print, she didn’t realise it would take two years and support from RNIB to make it happen.

For Sheila Townsend it was a simple request. She needed some important information in large print. What she didn’t expect was to wait two years for it to be actioned.

Sheila who lives in a leasehold property in Essex receives financial information about the property twice a year. She wanted her service provider to provide this information in a format that was suitable for her.

She tells Connect: “I was just totally unsuccessful, no notice was taken, documents kept arriving in ordinary, normal print and I couldn’t make head or tail of them. And in the end I was really banging my head against a brick wall.”

Sheila volunteers for Essex Sight and somebody there told her to contact RNIB for support.

Useful toolkit

RNIB provided Sheila with a useful toolkit that provided advice on how to write a letter to the company asking for a reasonable adjustment and if that didn’t work, RNIB would provide further support.

The provider responded with what she describes as a complete lack of understanding. “They said they would send someone here to put something on my computer and I could just zoom in on it - wouldn’t that be lovely if everybody who had sight loss could do something like that? It doesn’t work and I explained that to them and that was when I went back to RNIB.”

RNIB’s legal rights service wrote to the company and within weeks they responded. “I had a reply that they would deal with my correspondence for me in a format that would suit me.

“I was absolutely delighted, I wish that I had gone to RNIB before, they are just absolutely brilliant, they dealt with it so swiftly, and it was just amazing. I think once they heard that from RNIB, they realised I was being serious about my complaint.”

Equality Act explained

It is not uncommon for blind and partially sighted people to experience situations where they are refused entry to a restaurant or a hotel with their guide dog, or are given inaccessible information by their bank.

The Equality Act 2010 is designed to protect you from unfair treatment and to create a more equal society; in short, no one should face discrimination because of their sight loss.

If you believe that you’ve been treated unfairly because of your sight loss, then you can challenge the service provider using the Act.

RNIB has a toolkit that can help. Or, if you need help with making a complaint or using the toolkit, please contact RNIB’s Helpline on 0303 123 9999.

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2019 edition of Connect Magazine.