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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.


Self-directed Support is a UK wide approach towards social care. Self-directed Support was introduced in order to help reform the ways that we arrange social care. A user-led organisation called In Control describes Self-directed Support as:

‘People being in control of the support they need to live the life they choose’

You may have heard it being referred to as ‘personalisation’ or ‘personal budgets’. There are different ways to describe it, but whatever name’s given to it – it’s about giving people real power and control over their lives.

There are 4 options under Self-directed Support from which an individual can choose the social care arrangement that suits their needs:

Option 1: I get the money to spend on the support I choose (also called a Direct Payment)

Option 2: I choose the support I want and somebody else arranges it (also called an Individual Service Fund)

Option 3: The council arrange my support

Option 4: Some of the above options combined

Advocacy or peer support may be beneficial if you are considering applying for Self-directed Support for the first time or even if you’re an existing SDS user. Guidance or re-assurance from other Self-directed Support users or individuals with specialist knowledge can strengthen your confidence concerning your rights and processes.

Here are some useful actions to consider:

  • If you are a social housing tenant, contact your social landlord as there may be a member of staff who specialises in welfare and social care issues
  • Contact your council to find out whether they have a specific member of staff trained around Self-directed Support
  • Contact your nearest Centre for Inclusive Living for advice and guidance
  • Contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau for advice or sign-posting

Support for Carers

The Care Act 2014 sets out the entitlement of individuals participating in a caring role to a needs assessment. This needs assessment may identify that some carers, for instance due to a long-term health condition, require assistance and support with caring duties. Information on key messages from the Care Act 2014 are provided by In Control from this link: http://www.in-control.org.uk/resources/the-care-act-2014/things-your-local-authority-should-have-told-you-about-the-care-act.aspx

Carers UK have specific branches for the different parts of Great Britain that can be accessed from their website: https://www.carersuk.org/

Listed below are useful national organisations in each part of Great Britain that actively provide information, advice and/or advocacy on Self-direct Support:


RNIB have a Self-directed Support Manager and contact details/further information can be found at: https://www.rnib.org.uk/scotland-how-we-can-help/self-directed-support

England and Wales:

In Control is a charity which works for an inclusive society where everyone has the support they need to live a good life: http://in-control.org.uk/support/support-for-individuals,-family-members-carers/what-is-self-directed-support.aspx


Self Directed Support Scotland has local Independent Support organisations which provide advice and support on Self-directed Support: https://www.sdsscotland.org.uk/

Inclusion Scotland is a Disabled People’s Organisation led by disabled people which strives to make sure disabled people are fully included throughout Scottish society as equal citizens: http://inclusionscotland.org/

Scottish Personal Assistance Employment Network (SPAEN) supports disabled people and/or people with long term conditions/impairments to use a Direct Payment to employ Personal Assistants: https://www.spaen.co.uk/what-is-self-directed-support/


The ALLIANCE in Scotland is a wide ranging group of health and social care organisations, as well as small local volunteer-led groups and people who are disabled. It seeks to ensure that disabled people are kept at the centre of support and services, therefore promoting human rights, self-management, co-production and independent living. On its website, there are many short stories available to read showing case studies of the people it engages with.

People give their experiences of being disabled in Scotland, and how they are supported in different ways by various organisations which are part of The ALLIANCE: https://www.alliance-scotland.org.uk/blog/case_studies/

These stories may inspire you to become more involved in the decisions which affect you, or even become a member of The Alliance yourself. If you are interested in joining, there are details about how to do this and a description of the benefits involved if you follow this link: https://www.alliance-scotland.org.uk/membership/benefits/

Independent Living Courses

Young girl sat on park bench with white cane, smiling

Guide Dogs

Listed below are a range of Guide Dog services which you may find useful:

My Guide Service

The My Guide service aims to match a visually impaired individual with a local volunteer in order to increase independence. The My Guide service is run by Guide Dogs but you don’t need to be a Guide Dog Owner to apply. My Guide users can work on goals, such as increasing their participation in leisure activities, building up knowledge of local routes or developing confidence. You may find this service useful if you are moving to a new home and need to learn new routes. Information about My Guide can also be found in the ‘I need information on the moving process’ section of this guide. To contact Guide Dogs for details please follow this link: https://www.guidedogs.org.uk/services-we-provide/my-guide/

Friend and Family Sighted Guide Training

Guide Dogs provide training for friends or family concerning how to safely guide a visually impaired person. As well as covering practical issues on sighted-guiding technique, the training also shares learning on different types of eye conditions. The Friend and Family Sighted Guide training involves opportunities for participants to connect with peer support networks. For further details please follow this link, and scroll half way down the page to ‘Friends and family sighted guiding training’: https://www.guidedogs.org.uk/services-we-provide/my-guide/

Buddy Dog Scheme for Children

Guide Dogs match working Guide Dogs to children and young people. However, some children and young people might benefit from an experience with a buddy dog first. The Buddy Dog scheme uses dogs that have not qualified as working Guide Dogs but who are trained to a standard that they can enhance the sensory interaction and deliver a companionship relationship. Caring for a dog has many responsibilities. The Buddy Dog scheme can introduce children and young people to the experience of dog owner duties for the first time, as well as providing emotional support especially while the Buddy partnership are in social settings. For further details click here: https://www.guidedogs.org.uk/services-we-provide/children-and-young-peoples-services/buddy-dogs-for-children/

Movement Matters for Children

Guide Dogs deliver a scheme called Movement Matters to visually impaired children and young people. The mobility service is person-centred. The aim is to increase the orientation, mobility and independent living skills of service users. Activities that the training may cover include budgeting, route training and food preparation for meals. For further information please follow: https://www.guidedogs.org.uk/services-we-provide/children-and-young-peoples-services/movement-matters/

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


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 have produced information about types of lamps, prevention of glare, and effective use of colour contrast:


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:



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