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VI Lives Report - An in-depth understanding of the experiences of people living with vision impairment (VI) in the UK

Produced jointly by Guide Dogs, Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), and Thomas Pocklington Trust, the VI Lives research study provides new insight into the experiences of people living with a vision impairment. It is based on hundreds of conversations with people who live with a vision impairment and provides one of the richest and most in-depth pictures yet of the varied experiences and challenges that affect their day-to-day lives.

The research study identifies a number of important areas where the charity and sight loss sectors and beyond need to think creatively to ensure the needs of blind and partially sighted people are being fully met. It found that:

  • Improving public awareness, understanding and empathy is considered by blind and partially sighted people to be a priority for improving their quality of life. It was felt that public understanding of sight loss is poor, and that general ignorance has led to negative encounters.
  • Diagnosis of sight loss is a critical moment for most, but there’s not enough information, guidance and empathy. More practical and emotional support, better signposting and quicker referrals are needed.
  • Better accessibility to transport and public places is the most important factor to improve quality of life. A quarter of people affected by sight loss feel they are not getting out as much as they would like.
  • People affected by sight loss often feel cut off from employment opportunities and that little support is offered to them and nearly a third have difficulty stretching their household budget.
  • ‘Smart technology’ such as smart speakers, smart watches and virtual assistants is a key enabler, helping blind and partially sighted people to access information and digital services. However there are disparities in awareness and access. Many are unaware of the available apps, specialist equipment and technology that can make their lives easier.

The insight provided by this report gives us a deeper and richer understanding of the lives of the two million people who are blind and partially sighted, and what we need to do as a sector to enable them to live life in the way they choose. We are building these findings into our five-year strategy and using them to help shape our current service design and delivery.

Impact of vehicles parked on pavements

This study explored the frequency of encounters with, and the impact of, pavement parked vehicles on people with sight loss. Over 95% of participants with vision impairment reported parked cars on the pavement were a regularly experienced problem.

Participants with vision impairment and assistance dog owners consistently reported greater impacts on their use of public spaces than those without vision impairment. Self-reported quality of life and emotional impacts were negatively affected by pavement parked vehicles for ≥ 40% of participants. Those with vision impairment encountered vehicles on the pavement more frequently than those without vision impairment and were more likely to sustain an injury as a result, although the frequency of injuries reported was low.

Over 90% of participants from all groups reported having to walk into the road to navigate around vehicles parked on the pavement, highlighting the scale of the issue and the need to review legislation nationally. Participants who lived in London consistently reported fewer problems due to vehicles parked on the pavement compared with the rest of England. This study provided evidence to support our Streets Ahead Campaign. 

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