Header for 'I need information on living independently' image shows people standing at bus stop. Orange border.

I need information on living independently

Living independently can involve specialist training, the use of assistive aids, technologies and support services.  Some options work better for some people and it might take trial and error to find the most suitable approach for you.

This section will signpost you to potential useful resources and sources of advice or information to help explore independent living opportunities.  Please select a link to browse a specific area:

Equipment and Technology

Thomas Pocklington Trust has produced a guide to assistive and inclusive technology that can help with daily activities in and around the home (AIT guide 2016). Find it here.

Computer Room Services provides technologies to assist with everyday communication and access to independent living: http://www.comproom.co.uk/

The RNIB online shop provides a wide range of equipment designed for living independently: http://shop.rnib.org.uk/

Many people with sight loss use smartphone apps for a variety of independent living tasks; for example, object identification and navigation assistance. Several identification apps such as BeSpecular, provide virtually immediate human answers in response to almost any conceivable practical identification question, while BlindSquare is one of several GPS apps that have been specifically designed to offer visually impaired people enhanced mobility orientation information when out and about. There are a number of useful online listings and reviews of accessible apps, including this App Advice Guide, the AppleVIS iOS Apps Directory and this Henshaws Apps eBook.

Support for Independent Living

Social services in each local authority may be able to offer some support for independent living.  Although this can vary, the areas covered normally include:

  • Free rehabilitation including mobility training and life skills
  • Aids and adaptations to your home
  • Help with personal care, such as bathing, getting up and going to bed
  • Help with shopping
  • Answering correspondence
  • Cleaning
  • Help with cooking

Your eligibility for support is decided by a Needs Assessment (also often known as a care and support assessment).  For queries concerning this process, you can contact The RNIB helpline on 0303 123 9999 and ask to speak to the Advice Service, or email helpline@rnib.org.uk

The RNIB explain the benefits of registering your visual impairment with your local authority and the process at the following link: http://www.rnib.org.uk/eye-health/registering-your-sight-loss

Preparation for your Needs Assessment is important.  There are differences across the UK regarding Needs Assessments.  Carers UK provide fact sheets that explain the processes in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.


Independent Living Courses

Young girl sat on park bench with white cane, smiling

Local Sensory Centres and Sensory Impairment Teams

Your visual impairment does not need to be registered with a local authority in order to use a local sensory centre or sensory impairment team.  These services can be useful to approach for advice, support or local social opportunities.  Below are links to sensory centres and sensory impairment teams across the UK.  If you are aware of any not listed here, please feel free to contact us.


Bedford Borough Council Visual Impairment Team https://www.bedford.gov.uk/health_and_social_care/help_for_adults/information_and_advice/directory_of_services/sensory_impairments/visual_impairment_team.aspx

Shropshire Council Sensory Impairment Team http://new.shropshire.gov.uk/disability-information/sensory-impairment/

Oxfordshire County Council Sensory Impairment Team https://www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/cms/content/contact-sensory-impairment-team

Worcestershire County Council Sensory Impairment Team


Southwark (London) Borough County Council Sensory Impairment Team


West Sussex County Council Sensory Support Team


Plymouth City Council Sensory Advisory Team for Sensory Support


East Sussex CC Sensory Impairment Team


Leeds Visual Impairment Team (up to age 25 years)


Salford County Council Sensory Impairment Team


Durham Adult Sensory Support Team


Devon Sensory Impairment Team


Islington Council Visual and Hearing Impairments Team



North Highland: Hearing and Sight Loss Care http://www.sensorycentre.org.uk/index.htm

Argyll and Bute Council Sensory Impairment Services http://www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/social-care-and-health/sensory-impairment-service

Forth Valley Sensory Centre http://forthvalleysensorycentre.org/

Fife Sensory Impairment Centre http://www.scdc.org.uk/what/community-led-action-research/scarf/equalities-accessibility/fife-sensory-impairment-centre/

Glasgow Centre for Sensory Impaired People http://www.describe-online.com/glasgow/gullanestreet/index.html


Conwy County Borough Council Sensory Impairment Team


Swansea Adults with a Sensory Loss Team



Cooking with sight loss can take time and practice.  An online resource that talks about sight loss with ageing, has video demonstrations and useful tips about how to cook safely.


There is a personal account of cooking as a visually impaired individual: good tips about cooking preparation, labelling and the challenges:


A guide to choosing well-designed cookers, ovens, hobs and microwaves has been produced by Rica (Cookers guide, 2015). Read it here

Reading Mail

People with sight loss can use various methods to read mail and correspondence.  Sometimes, this support can be provided by your support worker funded by your local authority as part of a Needs Assessment (often called a care and support assessment). The Equality Act 2010 (or the Disability Discrimination Act in Northern Ireland) states that you should be able to request bank statement or letters in a reading format that suits your needs.  For example, you can ask your bank to provide a statement in braille or a utility bill in large print.

There is a free RNIB Medicine Leaflet Line on 0800 198 5000 to help read any medicine information.  You will need to quote the 8 or 9 digit product licence (PL) or code number from the leaflet in your medication.  If you are not sure what the product number is, ask your pharmacist.

You can either listen to the Patient Information Leaflet (PIL) over the phone or order a copy in Braille, large print or audio CD format to be sent to your home.  You don’t even have to register.

The Computer Room Services and RNIB list magnifiers http://shop.rnib.org.uk/magnification.html and accessible technologies http://www.comproom.co.uk/ that can be used to read mail.

iPhone apps also exist that can assist with the reading of print materials.

KNFB Reader – this uses the camera so that the phone can scan and read back mail/menus http://www.knfbreader.com

Tap Tap See – uses the camera so that a person can take a picture and the app verbalises what you are looking at.  A video of a demonstration can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cd4SPDUfJ-A



Effective lighting can assist people with deteriorating sight loss or with existing eye conditions.  Depending upon your eye condition, lighting can affect individuals in different ways.  You may need to test out what levels of light or positions of lights work for you.  Visibility has produced a useful article as an introduction to the aspects you can consider when using light for living independently:


They have also produced further detail on types of lamps, prevention of glare and effective use of colour contrast:


The Thomas Pocklington Trust has a video that presents the views of older people with sight loss and the impact of effective lighting upon their ability to live independently.  The website also has links to other useful publications and sources of information:


A range of lighting products can be purchased from the RNIB online shop:



Where do you want to go next?