RNIB Scotland actively campaigns on matters of interest or concern to blind and partially sighted people, engaging with MSPs, MPs, councillors, civil servants, media, and commercial, public and other third sector bodies.
During the coronavirus situation and now, as we face a mounting cost of living crisis, we have worked actively alongside RNIB colleagues across the UK and other bodies to ensure the needs of people with sight loss were met.
The coronavirus pandemic underlined more than ever the need for people with sight loss to receive communications and information from healthcare providers in a format that is accessible to them. But our report, ‘Communication Failure? Review of the accessibility of healthcare information for blind and partially sighted', reveals this is still a problem.
We've put together an Accessible Healthcare Toolkit to help people with sight loss get health information in their required format. It includes information on the Patient Rights (Scotland) Act, a guide to requesting accessible information from your GP or hospital and template request letters, and what to do if you continue to receive inaccessible information. Download the Accessible Health Information Toolkit.
We're urging everyone communicating to the public to ensure that their communications are clearly readable, and that alternative versions – such as audio, braille and large-print – are available as well.
For people who use screen-reading software, which reads out text from websites or email attachments, this might not seem a problem. But some graphics can still confuse screen readers, such as text superimposed on images, photos that don't have alt-tags, text that is justified on both sides, or even just sentences that don't end with a full-stop.
Constant changes to our street layouts pose challenges to people with sight loss. Scotland’s streetscapes are being transformed with new claims on public space.
We support promoting healthy activity such as walking and cycling and the move to zero-emission transport. However, our town centres must be accessible to all. Our streets and pavements can be an obstacle course for people with sight loss. Advertising boards, street café furniture, dustbins, cars parked on pavements are just some of the hazards.
Bus-stop designs requiring passengers to either cross a cycle-track to access a bus-stop, or to stand on a cycle-track to get on or off a bus, make public transport less accessible. Infrastructure developments without physical delineation and controlled crossings also risk creating 'no-go areas' for people with sight loss and other disabilities.
Our manifesto for the 2022 Scottish local authority elections, 'Local Vision', sets out asks that would make a difference:
Maintain a minimum 60mm kerb with intermittent dropped kerbs; controlled crossings across roads and, where applicable, cycle-lanes; and ensure bus-stop design allows safe access.
Halt the building of 'shared space' schemes where pedestrians, cycles and vehicle traffic occupy the same levelled area.
Reserve pavements for pedestrians and use road space for new cycle-lanes.
A number of disability benefits are being devolved to the Scottish Government. We're pressing to make the new system fairer and better attuned to the needs and circumstances of people with sight loss. We want to ensure those carrying out assessments have a clear understanding of how different types of sight loss impact on what people can and can't do.
We are members of the Scottish Government's Ill Health and Disability Reference Group which informs policy-making on a range of issues, including disability benefits.
We have been actively campaigning to improve accessibility of public transport for blind and partially sighted passengers, by working with transport providers to deliver disability awareness training to their staff, and by ensuring that information is available in accessible formats.
Blind and partially sighted school children may not receive the additional support they need if there is a shortage of specialist teachers.
We're calling on local authorities to invest in more Qualified Teachers of Visual Impairment (QTVIs) by providing greater incentives to complete the required training. We're also pressing the Scottish Government to report annually on educational attainment by school pupils with a visual impairment.
Voting is a fundamental democratic right, but the current system relies on sight and simply does not work for many blind and partially sighted people.
RNIB's 'Turned Out 2021' report found that only 19 per cent of blind voters and 46 per cent of partially sighted voters felt they could vote independently and in secret under the current voting system.
We are working with the relevant electoral authorities to establish voting options that are fully accessible to all people with sight loss.
You can find out more on our dedicated voting page.
Our manifesto for the 2022 Scottish local authority elections, 'Local Vision', sets out practical steps that councils can take to support blind and partially sighted people. Local authorities play a vital role in helping them to live as independently and inclusively as possible.
Inaccessible public information, the attainment gap between schoolchildren with sight loss and their peers, increasing street clutter and obstacles, and a national shortage of trained rehabilitation workers are among the issues our manifesto highlights.
Likewise, our manifesto for the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections, 'A Vision for the 2020s', has outlined areas which the Scottish Government and MSPs could help to significantly improve life for people in Scotland who are blind or partially sighted.
Our proposals – including more emphasis on sight loss prevention and emotional and practical support for those newly diagnosed – can make Scotland a kinder, safer and more inclusive place. The costs are relatively modest, but the gains could be far-reaching and profound.
RNIB Scotland also acts as the secretariat for the Scottish Parliament’s Cross-Party Group on Visual Impairment. Its membership includes backbench MSPs from all parties, other sight loss organisations and sight loss professionals.
At UK level, we work alongside RNIB's wider campaigns to ensure that public transport services are accessible, ensuring emotional support and counselling is available to people newly diagnosed with sight loss, and pressing for all welfare benefits to be better attuned to the needs and circumstances of people with sight loss, especially as the cost of living crisis threatens to exacerbate the financial pressures faced by blind and partially sighted people.
We also engage with RNIB Scotland’s Connect community in identifying issues we might campaign on.