By My Side - March 2019

People who are blind and partially sighted are being shut out of society, but members of the public could help end this isolation if they understood more about everyday life with sight loss.

Our new report, ‘By My Side’, reveals that over 42% of people with sight loss feel they are ‘left out’ of everyday moments that others might take for granted, such as socialising, dating, family life or work. This feeling of isolation is compounded as six in ten people who are blind or vision impaired (VI), believe that society has ‘little understanding’ of the challenges they face in their daily lives.

‘By My Side’ shares insights from the VI community - currently two million people in the UK - asking about experiences of their local communities, family life, parenting, love and friendships.

Our Guide Dogs report also reveals:

  • 69% suggest more people could be trained as sighted guides
  • 27% of people with vision impairments say they feel left out from socialising with friends
  • 23% say they feel left out of work or education
  • 27% feel they have been left out of milestone moments such as births or marriages
  • People with sight loss say travel is their biggest challenge in daily life

Alex Pepper, 28, from London, developed cancer as a baby and as a result had an eye removed when he was 14-months-old. Further complications as an adult have left him with only light perception in his remaining eye.

When you have sight loss, it'll always be a factor in how you live your life, but you also just want to get on with things like having a job, a family, a social life, going to the gym or on holiday, the same as everyone else.
But there are days when I'm really reminded I'm blind, and that's because of a hundred small things which just make me feel like I'm on the outside. I think the more people understand what it actually means to live a modern life with sight loss, the less often these small things will happen, and I'll feel more included.

The time to change is now – whilst most of the public do want to understand more about life with sight loss, 23% would not be comfortable offering help.

To create greater understanding, we are calling on people to sign up to My Sighted Guide - a guiding service that matches trained sighted volunteers to people with sight loss who need support getting out and about.

A My Sighted Guide partnership focuses on achieving a set goal – this could be around building confidence, increasing physical fitness, working towards a guide dog partnership, or tackling social isolation by accessing local communities, hobbies or pastimes.

Guide Dogs currently helps more than 1,000 people with sight loss through its My Sighted Guide service. This year, the charity is hoping to recruit a further 1,200 volunteers to support even more vision impaired people through the life-changing scheme.

Jo Milligan, Head of Volunteer Led Services at Guide Dogs, said:

”Our report clearly shows that far too many people with sight loss are feeling shut out of everyday life. With the number of people with a vision impairment set to skyrocket in the coming years, we need to make changes.”

”We need to work together to understand the realities of life with sight loss and help overcome the challenges that lead to people feeling excluded.”

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