The Birmingham Sight Loss Council (BSLC) aim to improve services for people living with sight loss across a number of key policy areas.
The BSLC are working with the West Midlands Combined Authority and local bus operators to improve bus travel for people with sight loss. Issues we have found include passengers not being picked up, poor placement of card readers, busses moving off before passengers have found a seat, faulty audio stop announcements, poor colour contrast on the interior of the bus, passengers missing stops amongst other issues. Members of the Sight Loss Council attended an RNIB Swap With Me Event where National Express West Midlands signed the Bus Charter, showing their commitment to improved services for people with sight loss. We have also met with staff from National Express West Midlands to express concerns and the issues we mentioned are currently being investigated.
Image of Sight Loss Council Members at an RNIB Swap With Me Event
The Built Environment
BSLC members currently sit on a number of forums that aim to improve access for disabled people across Birmingham. These include Access Birmingham, New Street Access Forum and Birmingham Hippodrome’s Access Forum. Access Birmingham is consulted by the council when developments are planned to ensure that the needs of disabled people are taken into consideration. Suggestions we have made include a moratorium on new shared space developments until government guidance has been updated, higher visibility on street furniture, keeping as much as possible at eye level, amongst other suggestions.
Volunteers at the BSLC recently took part in an oral evidence session as part of the Women and Equalities Select committee report into Disability and the Built Environment to help shape future government policies. We have also invited a local District Engineer from Birmingham City Council to meet with our group and discuss issues. As a result of this meeting, we will be further consulted on issues concerning blind and partially sighted people when developments are being planned.
We are looking to work in other areas as the Birmingham Sight Loss Council grows and builds its reputation. We are particularly keen to work with organisations in areas such as Health, Employment and Education. We have made contact with the Local Eye Health Network, Healthwatch Birmingham and the People’s Health Panel as we feel it is important that people with sight loss have their voices heard. Employment is an area we are very keen to work in as according to the most recent data from RNIB, there are over 6000 people of working age living with sight loss in Birmingham. Our aim is to engage with employers to educate them about Access to Work and encourage them to learn more about sight loss.
We are also looking to build relationships with local Universities and other education establishments to improve understanding and improve the student journey for blind and partially sighted learners. We have recently connected with Queen Alexandra College in Birmingham to find out more about their experiences with students with sight loss.
Since launching the Birmingham Sight Loss Council the group has experienced a number of successes. These include changes to the dog spend pen at New Street Station, we advised on the visibility of bollards near New Street Station, improved footpath quality on Navigation Street, Birmingham, advised on a new card reader being installed on local buses, took part in an Oral Evidence session for the Women & Equalities Select Committee, joined forums including Access Birmingham and the New Street Access Forum, advised the NHS on the accessibility of their leaflets, fed into the RNIB’s response to the Government’s Green Paper on Work, Health and Disability and met with the candidates for the recent Mayoral Election in the West Midlands.
How Can You Get Involved?
We are keen to hear from anyone who would like to support the Birmingham Sight Loss Council. We are actively looking for more volunteers so please get in touch if you would like to be involved. Alternatively, you can still support the work we do by joining our Facebook group or by following us on Twitter and signing up to our email mailing list using the links below.