Working for People with Sight Loss

NCBI manifesto 2020 – What we want from the next Government

 

NCBI has identified a number of issues that are of concern to the majority of people who are blind and vision impaired. These issues are listed below.

We would appreciate it if you could raise them with General Election candidates when they visit your door or if you are attending local hustings. We would also ask you to like, comment and share NCBI’s posts on our social media around these issues.

Health

Stop people needlessly losing their sight

There are currently 41,243 people waiting on outpatient eye care services. This figure includes 6,838 children. Almost half of all patients have been waiting over a year for their first appointment. This is worsened by the fact that staff have little time to sit with patients at the point of diagnosis of an eye condition to explain things more fully. Patients who are experiencing sight loss are also not always being referred in a timely fashion to support organisations. This can really make an impact on the well-being of patients and their families.
 

What the next Government needs to do

Like Northern Ireland, ensure all major eye clinics in the Republic of Ireland have a dedicated Eye Clinic Liaison Officer in each of their eye clinics to support patients to understand the impact of their diagnosis and to link them in with support
organisations as needed.
 

Stop the removal of essential “outside the home” services once a person reaches 66

When a person who is blind or vision impaired reaches 66 years of age, the HSE Physical and Sensory Services that the person was receiving are removed and the person is transferred over to the HSE Older Person’s Services. This means that the person can only avail of home help services and can no longer avail of other essential services outside the home such as assistance with food shopping or assistance to use public transport to get to vital outpatient eye care services.
 

What the next Government needs to do

The next Government needs to ensure that when people who are blind and vision impaired turn 66, they are allowed to continue to avail of the services that they received under the Physical and Sensory Services as well as home help services which fall under the Older Person’s Services.
 

Stop the postcode lottery and allow people to get the assistive technology that they need

Despite the clear importance of assistive technology to people who are blind and vision impaired, the Technical Aids Grant is only available, if a person’s local Health Service Executive has funding available to put towards the grant. This makes the system totally unfair.
 

What the next Government needs to do

The next Government needs to provide funding to the Health Service Executive, so that the Technical Aids Grant is adequately resourced ensuring consistency across the country. People who are blind and vision impaired should also be allowed to apply for smartphones under the Technical Aids Grant.
 

Funding for disability services needs to be increased as a matter of urgency

There needs to be vital extra funding given to the disability sector so that support organisations can continue to provide services for people with disabilities, including people who are blind and vision impaired.
 

What the next Government needs to do

  • Cover the shortfall in funding currently faced by the disability sector,
  • Carry out a complete reform of how Health Service Executive budgets for the sector are decided and
  • Ensure that disability sector workers are paid the same as Health Service
  • Executive workers for doing the same job.

 


Transport

 

Make public transport accessible

Make Ireland’s bus and passenger rail services equally accessible to people who are blind and vision impaired by delivering on the Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport Report on the “Accessibility of Public Transport for People with Disabilities” in November 2018.
 

What the next Government needs to do

  • Ensure that the transport needs of people who are blind and vision impaired are central to public transport planning and development.
  • Provide passenger information in accessible formats, both visual and audible,
    at all stages of a journey.

 

End being out of pocket for essential transport

In rural areas, there may be no public transport options, or if there is, it is a taxi journey away, making taxis the only realistic option for many people who are blind and vision impaired. In many other countries, taxi subsidies are available to people with sight loss because it is recognised that people can’t drive and, therefore, their need to use taxis is legitimate.
 

What the next Government needs to do

The next Government needs to provide funding to introduce a subsidised taxi transport scheme for people who are blind and vision impaired.
 

Give people with low vision access to free travel

Alarmingly, 700 people with sight loss are not eligible for a free travel pass because they do not have sufficient vision to drive a car but their vision is not “low” enough to be eligible for the free travel pass. People have no other option but to pay for each journey on public transport.
 

What the next Government needs to do

The eligibility criteria for the free travel pass needs to be changed to include those with a long-term eye condition and who do not have adequate vision to get a driver’s licence.

 


Employment

 

Enable people to get into employment

Alarmingly, statistics from the last Census showed that the labour force participation rate amongst people who are blind and vision impaired in Ireland is as low as 24%.
 

What the next Government needs to do

  • Ensure children who are blind and vision impaired have access to the Expanded Core Curriculum and all relevant learning materials placing them on an equal par with their sighted peers.
  • Fund a national awareness campaign that proactively promotes the Employe Retention Grant Scheme and Workplace Adaptation Grant to employers and
  • Extend the Workplace Adaptation Grant to those on Community Employment Schemes to allow people gain vital experience.

 


Local Government

 

Make our public spaces safe by banning the use of shared space

NCBI does not recommend the use of shared space. It is essential to provide footpaths with kerbs, for the safety of pedestrians who are blind and vision impaired. In the UK, local authorities are u-turning and re-installing pedestrian crossings and kerbs.
 

What the next Government needs to do

The next Government must inform local authorities of the risk associated with shared space and ensure improved consultation that provides for safety and accessibility for all.

 

More information
For more information call us on Tel: 01 830 70 33