Today (January 4 2021), on World Braille Day, Scotland’s leading sight loss charity is launching its manifesto for the Holyrood elections in May with a call for the next parliament to focus on better support for thousands of Scots affected by sight loss.
Every hour someone in Scotland starts to lose their sight, and by 2030 there will be over 200,000 blind and partially sighted people in the country. 2
As the charity launches its manifesto, Sight Scotland is publishing new findings from a survey of over 400 visually impaired people which shows that 90% believe there is not enough awareness about visual impairment among the general public. Only 15% believe there is enough support for people with sight loss other than that provided by Sight Scotland and its sister charity Sight Scotland Veterans, and only 7% that there is enough support for their families and carers. 3
Sight Scotland’s manifesto calls for a new national low vision service to link people with the support they need quickly after they have received a diagnosis of a sight loss condition. The charity is also calling for better access to specialist support for children and young people with visual impairment, action to tackle high levels of unemployment among blind and partially sighted people, more community support and increased provision of information in accessible formats including braille.
Launching the manifesto Mark O’Donnell, the Chief Executive of Sight Scotland and Sight Scotland, said: “These are crucial elections for blind and partially sighted people in Scotland. The number of people affected by sight loss is set to increase significantly in the coming years. It is vital MSPs in the next parliament realise more support is required to ensure blind and partially sighted people are not left isolated but are included in our communities and have the support they need.
“Too often blind and partially sighted people aren’t being given the chances they should have in education and employment. Too often there is not enough support available to them and their families to deal with the impacts of sight loss, including on mental health. For too long blind and partially sighted people have not had equal opportunities in our country, a situation which has been thrown into sharp relief by their experience of the pandemic, and that is why we are asking candidates in this election to recognise it is time for our parliament to focus on sight loss.”
Army veteran John Baptie, 72, of Ardersier, Inverness. John is registered as sight impaired and receives support from Sight Scotland Veterans.
“If it wasn’t for charities like Sight Scotland and Sight Scotland Veterans, I feel there would be little other support for people with sight loss. The support they can provide is just the most important thing. Sight loss can stop you from getting out, so it has been a great boost to me and given me confidence and independence.
"I think there's definitely a lack of public awareness about sight loss. The majority of people fend for themselves and you get put into the background. When I first started losing my sight I was in shell shock. I was completely confused and didn’t know what was going on. Through Sight Scotland Veterans I’ve been able to speak to others going through the same experiences and the charity has been with me through all stages as my sight loss has become worse.”