Supporting Parents and Carers of children with a Visual Impairment
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Blind Man Running: Richard Wheatley’s Marathon Journey

February 6th, 2019 / View in own page?

Meet Richard Wheatley, blind comedian and physicist who is taking on the 26.2 mile long London marathon for LOOK. This is the first in a series of blogs Richard is writing all about his marathon journey.

 

My name is Richard Wheatley, Britain’s funniest blind physicist turned award winning radio news reader and stand-up comedian with a blue Peter Badge… well definitely top three.

Since graduating from my Physics degree a couple of years ago I have been on a journey, a long journey that I don’t have space for here but it involves 8 different countries, learning to say thank you in 9 different languages and an uncountable number of moments that can only be described as “the blind literally leading the blind”. All these adventures came from just one simple principle, never say no to an adventure.

One adventure was to go to a nerdy comedy show after which I talked to the comedians. From that I signed up to a comedy course which inspired me to perform my first stand-up gig in October 2017. Friends from that course suggested we take a show to Edinburgh together before they dropped out leaving me the adventure of my first solo show. After a month at the Edinburgh Fringe I knew comedy was my life’s ambition.

I tell you this so that you understand that when an old school friend texted me to ask if I wanted to run the London marathon for Look there was only one answer I could give.

Well, okay, actually there was a thought process:

There’s no way I can run a marathon,

There’s no way I can say no to the opportunity of running the marathon,

It’s a big commitment with all the training,

I am literally walking in to the gym as I read the text so I’m already halfway to the commitment.

As a result, I made the mistake of saying yes and now I am doomed to running in the wind and the rain as I train in January for the April marathon.

On the other hand, there are reasons that this isn’t a mistake, reasons that the charity Look are worth the pain and hard work, reasons that I sincerely hope will make the lives of young blind people better as I inhale rain and feel the puddles seep through my trainers.

A large number of my friends from school are now part of the mentoring program, volunteering to support younger blind students, or working to coordinate networking events that will directly benefit them in ways that are inspiring in themselves. In fact, it’s because Look supports young Blind people and employ young blind people who know young blind people that I am running the marathon. Look is an important part of the development of the VI community.

One difficulty as a blind runner is, well, running. The difficulty is running outside independently, never knowing quite when a casual dog walker may loom out of nowhere, meaning I have to be prepared to stop or swerve at any moment. The best solution is to find someone willing to not only train with me in the park regularly but to actually run 26 miles at my pace while giving directions such as “left turn”, “lamppost on the right”, “please stop singing”. Such a person is surprisingly hard to find, however I think I have found my man.

But finding a guide is not the end of the challenge, I have not been running long distances for very long, only after signing up for the marathon did I achieve 10 KM on a treadmill in the gym, but I have almost never run long distances outside. I am used to the ground whizzing backwards as I run on a treadmill but somehow that doesn’t quite translate in to pavement jogging as new aches and pains open throughout my body. Having built up my stamina in the gym I now have to do it all over again on tracks and paths.

This is the first post I am writing on my journey to the London marathon, if you have enjoyed reading it then please lookout for the next instalment. If you have not enjoyed reading it then sorry, I promise the next post will be better.

If you would like to sponsor me to run the marathon then please follow this link.

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-portal/fundraiserPage?pageId=1001133#stickyAnchor

If you are interested in seeing me perform stand-up comedy then you can:

Every Thursday night I compare Funny Box Live at the Tankard, Walworth road, SW17 1JL.

My solo show, Richard Wheatley Is Blindingly Obvious debuts on the Leicester comedy festival on Sunday 10 February and tickets are available through this link.

http://comedy-festival.co.uk/event/richard-wheatley-is-blindingly-obvious/

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LOOK UK: Who We Are and What We Do

January 21st, 2019 / View in own page?

LOOK UK is a small national charity supporting vision impaired young people and their families to thrive. Since we were founded in 1991, we’ve been championing the potential of blind and partially sighted young people and spreading the vital message that vision impaired people are as capable as anyone else.

Everything we do at LOOK is geared towards boosting young people’s confidence, learning new skills and making new connections.

LOOK Mentoring

“My mentor has given me the confidence to talk about my vision impairment to my friends and teachers.” (LOOK Mentee Harriet)

 

group picture of mentors, all smiling in the sunshine.

We run a free peer to peer mentoring scheme, linking vision impaired 11-29-year-olds with a vision impaired mentor

Our fantastic team of trained mentors are all vision impaired themselves and offer guidance on a range of issues including:

  • Navigating school and friendships
  • accessing fashion
  • Self-esteem and confidence
  • Support at university
  • Working out your employment goals

The programme is online, safe and monitored.

 LOOK Events

I thought this weekend was incredible. As a mum of a vision impaired child, it was amazing to be part of such a supportive community, where families came together to talk and share experiences.” (Jane)

 

Mentors and young people chatting and laughing over lunch

Our dynamic team of mentors help create and lead all LOOK activities. Our events bring young people and families together for workshops on assistive technology, emotional support, cooking, employability, speaking up for yourself and more.

Parent Support

“Everything felt easier when I realised I could talk to people who really understood.”

 

mentors, parents, and young people smiling with the LOOK banner in the background

The journey you are taking with your vision impaired child is sometimes far from easy.  Finding the right information or help can take time and strength.  LOOK is a vital point of contact. We bring parents together for support, a chance to share experiences and learn from our mentors.

We will listen and support you.

We can connect you with others in the same situation; in person at our events, and online via our Parents Facebook group.

LOOK Holiday Flat

image of sunny Scarborough coastline.

We have a cosy, comfortably furnished flat, available to rent for vision impaired people and families in Scarborough.  Walking distance from the sea, the ground floor flat has two bedrooms, sleeps five with space for a cot. Long and short breaks can be booked at very reasonable rates, available to LOOK members.

LOOK Voices

Roving reporters out recording sounds outdoors

The Look Voices project empowers vision impaired young people to tell their stories to the world. We provide media training to our Roving Reporters who create the

Look podcast, newsletter and YouTube channel. Get involved! Have your say!

LOOK Youth Forum

The LOOK youth forum runs on Thursdays after school in Hereford during term-time. It’s a chance for VI young people at secondary school to meet, take part in discussion evenings and try out activities like recording podcasts and cooking!

Employment Schools Workshops

We run Employability Roadshows in schools, designed to prepare vision impaired students for the world of work.  Led by LOOK staff and mentors workshops can focus on discussing career aspirations, practicing mock interviews, disclosing a vision impairment and more.

London Marathon

LOOK director and LOOK runners

Every year we have a team of amazing runners who take on the 26.2-mile London marathon for LOOK.  By running for LOOK, you can make a real difference to the lives of the young people we support.

If you would like to Speak to one of the LOOK team about taking part in any of our services, please email info@look-uk.orgor call 01432376314.

 

 

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Employment Schools Workshops for Vision Impaired Students

December 18th, 2018 / View in own page?

We are delighted to announce that we’ve started running Employability Roadshows in schools, designed to prepare vision impaired students for the world of work.

Why Employment?

Many of the young people we speak to have told us that careers advice at school isn’t tailored enough for them as VI students, which is why we’ve decided to take specialist workshops straight to the schools. If students have the skills and expertise to make informed career choices early on, then it will put them in a stronger position to take on today’s competitive job market.

The Workshops

The first Workshop took place on 23 November, and brought together vision impaired students from Woking High, Oxted School, George Abbott’s and Gordon’s school. Led by LOOK staff and mentors the workshops focused on discussing career aspirations, practicing mock interviews, learning about various methods to overcome potential barriers, with reference to the DWP’s Access to Work scheme, and talking about disclosing a vision impairment to employers.

Ruth Storey, LOOK’s Mentor project Coordinator said:

“According to the RNIB,  only 27% of VI people in the UK are employed. our employability workshops are all about helping more VI young people get work when they finish their education. The young people really enjoyed the interactive parts of the day, especially the role play sessions. Bringing drama into these workshops made the topic of employment engaging and fun.”

How can I take part?

If you are a school with vision impaired students, please get to in touch.

Email events@look-uk.org or call 01432376314.

 

With thanks to the Queen’s Trust, for generously supporting our Employability Road Shows.

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‘It was crazy being on the stage at Wembley’

May 9th, 2018 / View in own page?

Harriet is one of our amazing mentors. Last month, she won our competition to see Arcade Fire perform at Wembley. She blogs about what it was like to get a touch tour of the Wembley stage and she shares how the experience has got her thinking about a career in the music industry.

I’ve always been a great fan of festivals and concerts. I attended Glastonbury in 2016 and saw artists such as Rag’n’Bone Man, Glass Animals, alt-J – I could go on. I’m already planning to go to “Rize” – this summer and am especially excited to see Bastille for the first time! Music is important to me as I’m hearing impaired too but can stream music through my hearing aid, and I think because of my lack of sight, it’s a whole new sense. It’s so nice having the escape after a bad day of just closing my eyes and switching off. Seeing Arcade Fire especially was so special because I’m struggling with A-levels at the minute and really wanted to do something nice.

‘Getting to the venue was hectic’

My mum and I spent the majority of the time rushing across the unknown abyss of North West London and panicked that we’d ended up in the wrong place, only to turn around and see the arena right next to the hill we’d just spent 15 minutes trying to defeat! My heart is beating right now just thinking about it.

‘It was a crazy experience actually being on the stage’

When we finally arrived, we met up with my cousins and Megan, the mentor co-ordinator for LOOK. We were given a tour of the stage from Arcade Fire’s very own tour manager! It was a crazy experience actually being on the stage – it felt so small: the instruments were so close together that I thought I’d knock something over or fall off the stage. We were also shown all the visual graphics and lighting, and this really enhanced the experience as I’d never quite appreciated the extent of work or artistry that went into each song. The technicians were literally performers themselves as they could play every light in time with the beat. The tour manager must have really been studying the night before as he knew all the ins-and-outs of every aspect of the arena, from the equipment to staff. But to have a job like that – following the band to every venue, talking to fans, enthusing about music – must be fantastic!

‘the floor literally shakes with every bass beat’

The music itself, I can’t even begin to describe. Seeing a live show is totally different to listening to it on your phone – the floor literally shakes with every bass beat, everyone around you loves the same music, and all around you – dad-dancing…imagine! I obviously didn’t know every single word to Arcade Fire’s many songs, but even so – it couldn’t stop anyone from enjoying the atmosphere.

‘I’ve always wanted to do something creative’

I have been so inspired by this one experience – it’s given me more insight into things I never knew before, and I’ve even started looking into a future career maybe in the music industry. I’ve always wanted to do something creative and this really opened my eyes to the extent of opportunities out there, and how perhaps any challenges instigated by my sight loss can be worked around. So, despite my partial sight, I don’t let it stop me – if you are visually impaired yourself, don’t feel discouraged. Just because you may be registered “disabled” it doesn’t ever mean you should feel you can’t enjoy things that other people do. At the end of the day, enjoy what you do have! When opportunities present themselves to you, take them. I’m not a fan of corny stuff and I’m cringing slightly now but I honestly believe music is a means of communication – it uncovers things that we may miss in everyday life, and I think it brings people together. Don’t allow any lack of confidence to stop you from enjoying things! If anything, challenge any doubts you or your peers might have and prove yourself to be resilient and determined.

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Employable Me: How Marve got the confidence to find a job

December 5th, 2017 / View in own page?

Marve and guide dog Macy

Marve and guide dog Macy

Meet 29-year-old Marve King. He is visually impaired and was featured on the second series of the BBC 2’ programme ‘Employable Me.’ The show raises awareness of the challenges disabled people can face when looking for work.
We caught up with Marve to find out why he went on the show and to discover what he’s learned from taking part.

Why did you apply for Employable Me?

After I lost My job because of the recession around seven years ago, I’ve found it really difficult to find work. I tried volunteering and look for other sources of assistance, but I wasn’t getting very far. I felt that ‘Employable Me’ were offering something new and interesting that could really help me, so I applied and was lucky to get on the show.

When looking for work, what are some of the challenges you’ve faced?

Many of the application forms I’ve filled in have been inaccessible with my screen reader and magnifying software. I also felt that even though employers are not outwardly allowed to discriminate against you as a visually impaired person, they can find other ways around not giving you the chance. For example, I’ve simply been told that my application wasn’t good enough, or I didn’t give enough information when answering a question. These may have been valid reasons sometimes, but when the same answers kept coming back and I knew I was qualified for the jobs, I couldn’t help assuming that there must be other reasons why I was not being accepted.

How did Employable Me help you?

Being on ‘Employable Me’ helped me build confidence in myself and the employment skills I have. I also got confident doing tasks like cold calling and in meeting employers. This showed me in a way, how to blow my own trumpet, and say to employers ‘I can work for you and I’m a valuable employee’. The experience gave me the skills to go self-employed and I am now working for myself in online sales. Even though I’m not going out and doing a nine to five job, this is work I can do in my own time and I am still making a contribution to society. I’m working with people and hopefully I can be a great example for my son when he grows up.

What advice would you give to blind and partially sighted young people looking for work?

Figure out where your passions lie, look at your skillset and believe that you are employable. It is hard, but don’t let any setbacks knock your confidence.

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What’s it like to live and work abroad when you have a visual impairment?

October 25th, 2017 / View in own page?

We are back with a new blog post for you from one of our fabulous members, Elin. For years, Elin wanted to live and work abroad but didn’t know if it would be possible due to her visual impairment.

In this post, Elin discusses how she’s done exactly that!

If you’d told me last October that within the year I’d be living in a foreign country, I would have laughed with disbelief. Because, I’m blind. And even though living and working abroad has been a life-long dream for me for as long as I can remember, I’ve always told myself to try to be realistic. After all, let’s face it; living abroad is tough for anyone, let alone a visually impaired girl from Wales with a guide dog alongside. Turns out I was wrong though, because here I am… living and working in Belgium and learning French as I go.

Last Autumn I was twiddling my thumbs after graduation wanting to embark on the next great adventure but wasn’t really clear on the details of what that adventure would be. I’d been googling various combinations of the words ‘volunteering’ ‘abroad’ and ‘disability’ for weeks without finding anything that seemed suitable. Trying to find an opportunity that fit my long-term career aspirations, as well as meeting my access needs and being reasonable for my guide dog was a little tricky. In a last-ditch attempt before resigning myself to the job centre I emailed my CV to a handful of European organisations asking about work experience, but never received any replies.

Weeks later I got an out of the blue phone call from a European phone number, that turned out to be an Italian girl called Clara contacting me to tell me all about the volunteering project she was currently participating in. She was at the time working for VIEWS International as part of her adapted European Voluntary Service Programme and after seeing my email had decided to call me to tell me about the EVS programme. She told me all about how the projects in Liege are specifically adapted for visually impaired people to include things like mobility and accessible language courses to suit the individual’s needs. I remember ending that phone call and being absolutely stunned. It sounded so perfect, so right that I almost didn’t believe it. In fact, I proceeded to apply for the programme without telling anyone but my boyfriend. Partly because I thought my parents would freak out, and partly because if it didn’t work out I wouldn’t have to admit it.

Clara told me that to be eligible for the programme I needed a sending association from my own country that would effectively sponsor me to participate in the programme. She said that VIEWS International had collaborated with a charity called Look UK in the past and that they might be the best people to ask about this. Before we hung up she also casually mentioned that I only had a month left to get my application in on time if I wanted to try for the 2017/18 programme.

Amazingly, as soon as I approached Look with this crazy plan, they immediately jumped on board and couldn’t do enough to help, despite Charlotte (CEO) having never heard of the EVS programme or their responsibilities as sending association beforehand. The team even went so far as to help complete my application with me by writing as I dictated over the phone, because my laptop had conveniently decided to go on the blink at this most crucial point.

Something I was mostly concerned about was the language requirements for the programme. An accessible language course was being included in the project, but they strongly advised you to have a working understanding of French before you started your placement. Having scraped a D in my French GCSE, this was something of a worry for me. Look immediately set to helping me find accessible online language tutoring, they put me in touch with a French teacher who was willing to conduct lessons with me over Skype and they introduced me to one of their volunteers who is a native French speaker so that I could practice conversation. In addition, Charlotte and Megan were incredibly supportive throughout the whole application and preparation process. There was a period of time when I’d been offered a place, but that funding implications meant that it was unconfirmed as to whether I’d be able to participate. The Look team stayed in contact with me throughout, helped facilitate conversations between me and my hosting association in Belgium when I had questions and did their best to alleviate any and all of my concerns.

I am especially grateful to them for accompanying me on my ‘advanced preparatory visit’ to Liege, Belgium. A few weeks before my official start date on the programme, I was offered the opportunity to visit where I’d be living and working in Belgium in advance of moving there, in order to prepare appropriately. Even though this opportunity was a dream come true, the nerves had started to get to me a bit and I was feeling very anxious about the whole thing. Luckily, the APV went amazingly well; I felt much more assured and comfortable and a big part of that is thanks to Megan and Charlotte being there with me to ask the questions I might not have thought to ask.

So now I’ve been here almost three weeks. The first two weeks of induction were very intensively focused on receiving lots of mobility and French lessons and as a result I’m now able to get to work on my own and hold a reasonable conversation in French. This week I’ve started volunteering for VIEWS International and in the coming weeks I’ll begin volunteering at a local youth centre for refugees as well. I’m living in an apartment with two other volunteers, an Italian girl and a French guy, and I’m happy to say we get on very well. There is a fantastic support network here of people ready to help with anything from doing the weekly food shop to finding the nearest dance classes. What’s all the more humbling for me is that all of these people, from my mobility instructor to my French teacher, are helping me and my housemates completely voluntarily. My overall impressions of my new home are that people are extremely helpful here; strangers greet you like an old friend and as a rule people will offer help before you have to ask for it.

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