A SIGHT loss charity is running training sessions for schools, doctor’s surgeries and shops so that they are comfortable and confident interacting with blind and visually impaired people.

The ethnic diversity of the area means that the prevalence of certain eye conditions – such as glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy – are disproportionately high with 9,420 people currently living with some degree of sight loss in Croydon which is estimated to increase by 14 per cent by 2031. 

The workshops are led by visually impaired members of the Croydon Vision team and are needed more than ever as many visually impaired people have been isolating since the onset of Covid-19 and are excited as well as apprehensive at the thought of rejoining the outside world after over a year. 

Croydon Vision’s Community dynamo Odette Battarel said: “Our local ethnic diversity means that the prevalence of certain eye conditions such as glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy are disproportionately high. Quite simply we cannot afford to leave these people behind as the world reopens.”

Croydon Vision’s campaign aims to make the borough a Centre of Excellence for the visually Impaired and will recognise visually impaired friendly businesses with awards and inclusion in its business directory. 

From dentists to nail technicians, librarians to receptionists the charity is already working with doctors surgeries and schools but says there’s a lot to be done with businesses in the area.

During the two-hour online sessions conditions covered by the term visually impaired are discussed along with the emotional and practical challenges faced. Tips and tricks are provided to make shops and businesses better for the visually impaired community to use.

Those participating also take part in hands-on activities putting you in the shoes of visually impaired and blind people. The course finishes with a Q&A and a certificate. 

Odette, who herself is visually impaired and runs some of the workshops said: “It’s all too easy to feel awkward or potentially patronising around visually impaired people, so I tend to kick off by asking what questions people have always wanted to ask a blind person but have felt too uncomfortable to do so. 

“People usually ask whether our other senses are enhanced, how we choose outfits and even how we meet people romantically without being able to make eye contact in a bar! Living with visual impairment isn’t always easy but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun.”

Croydon Visions wants to continue to encourage independence, confidence and personal development for those of all ages living with sight loss in the community.

To enrol for the Visual Impairment Awareness Training Workshop
email info@croydonvision.org.uk or
call 020 8688 2486

The sight loss charity has also launched a £5,500 fundraising appeal for tech friendly features to help clients at its Bedford Hall centre on Wellesley Road with audible notice boards and tactile ground lights.

Croydon Vision Will be holding cake auction and a fancy dress Go Ape event over summer to work towards it.
To contribute visit: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/croydon-vision


Odette’s top tips to ensure visually impaired customers feel welcome and comfortable are:
1. Never attempt to help a visually impaired person by simply grabbing their arm. Even though you have the best intensions it can be pretty alarming for someone without sight.

2. Always introduce yourself by name when talking with a visually impaired person, without the ability to acknowledge or connect through eye contact, this is the best substitute. 

3. Visual impairment can be a hidden disability so they might not have a cane or a dog. There are a whole range of different visual impairments so don’t be afraid to ask what help they need, just as you would with any other customer.

4. When interacting with someone who has a guide dog make sure you’re addressing the person and not the dog when you speak to them – it’s amazing how often that happens!

5. Pay attention to whether your shop or space is trip-free, the blind and visually impaired community is incredibly close-knit so word gets around about which places cater to blind people and which aren’t welcoming.