Supporting Parents and Carers of children with a Visual Impairment
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The Importance of Mentoring: Attending a LOOK Mentor Training Weekend

July 24th, 2018 / View in own page?


On 13 July, a group of trainee and current LOOK mentors gathered for our mentor training weekend.  Our online mentor scheme matches visually impaired mentors with blind and partially sighted mentees aged 11-29. Mentors use their experiences of living with a visual impairment to give support and advice through a structured programme of conversations.

Sam is our Project Assistant, who also trained to become a LOOK mentor. He writes about what the training involves and why he wanted to become a mentor.

If I could sum up the whole weekend in terms of questions answered, those questions would be:

“What is mentoring”? “Why is it important”? and “Why is it needed”?

After the orientation and the icebreakers, which in hindsight we might not have needed, as the ice had already melted the moment we started interacting with each other; we began our training journey.

Through a succession of workshops designed to give a greater understanding of the responsibilities of a mentor. We covered communication skills and safe guarding, where we looked at some case studies. We also talked about mentoring in regards to scheduling a conversation and creating a boundary agreement with the mentee.

The sessions felt more like seminars/discussions, both relaxed and intense, informal yet informative, locating the problems as well as directing the attention to solving them.

The group discussions served as a reminder of the reasons why I wanted to be a mentor and help another VI young person struggling to find someone to relate to.

One of my highlights of the weekend was definitely during the safeguarding session with the case studies. I found that session quite challenging as we were asked to respond as a mentor to the different scenarios. Some of the tips sounded quite simple for example asking open questions etc.

Another of the highlights was the speed mentoring activity, which I found also challenging, as it required us to be able to respond in real time to our partner/mentee, as well as taking on the role of the mentee.

As I was leaving the venue what stayed with me was the importance of mentoring and it’s role in bridging and in some cases removing those barriers that VI people encounter in their daily lives.

If you want to find out more about our mentoring scheme, email Megan on or call 01432 376314.


LOOK Fashion Event

July 24th, 2018 / View in own page?

Come to the LOOK Fashion Event!


28August 2018

John Lewis Birmingham


Free event

Are you visually impaired and 11-29? Interested in getting fashion tips from fashion experts and VI vloggers? Always wanted to sport the latest look, or wear a new outfit, but don’t know where to start? Then our fashion day is definitely for you.

What’s happening on the day

We’re hosting our fashion day in John Lewis Birmingham on 28 August. Blind beauty YouTuber Lucy Edwards, featured by Buzzfeed in 2015, will join stylists and fashion experts to give fashion tips and advice.

You’ll become a dab hand at doing your own make-up, you’ll get tips to identify and match clothes and you’ll also learn the best ways to pick the look that’s right for you.  Gentlemen, think this event isn’t for you? Wrong. Cristiano Ronaldo is a pretty stylish player, wouldn’t you say?

Places are limited so make sure you book your place fast.

To sign up please email or call 01432376314.

Fashion matters. Being blind doesn’t mean you have to miss out.


Jubilee Trust Sailing Adventure

July 24th, 2018 / View in own page?

17-23rd June 2019

Round trip: Oban (Scotland) to Oban.


We’ve teamed up with Victa and the Jubilee Sailing Trust, to give you the chance to sail the Scottish Isles as one of the crew aboard the tall ship, STS Lord Nelson.

Whether it’s using a talking compass to chart your course or working with your shipmates to unfurl the sails, you’ll take a full and active role in manning this incredible vessel, overseen by the Jubilee Sailing Trust’s highly qualified merchant seafarers.

Who Can Take Part?

We’re looking for visually impaired and sighted participants who are 18 years old or over to take part in this exciting adventure! No previous sailing experience is necessary, but you must be willing to learn and take an active role in being part of the crew of the ship.

 How Much Does it Cost?

This is a heavily subsidized opportunity. The group as a whole will need to raise £5,000 for their place on the ship. This includes your berth on the ship, meals and the experience of a lifetime.

How to Apply:

In order to apply for this incredible opportunity, please submit a 60 second clip of yourself, along with your completed registration form to

Your clip can be a video or audio recording and should be no more than 60 seconds long. This clip should include an introduction to who you are, (name, age, interests), and a brief description of what you would gain from participating in this trip.

If you have any further questions or any concerns about this opportunity, please get in touch with Elin Williams, Events Officer on 07470872782 or


Access Tech Parent Conference Call

July 9th, 2018 / View in own page?

a display of three different models of Iphone

Parents do you want to learn more about accessible tech for your visually impaired child?

We’re holding a parents Access Tech Conference call on Thursday 12 July, at 7PM. Learn about screen readers on computers and smartphones and find out about handy apps from some of our VI mentors, who are happy to answer any questions you may have.

Spaces are limited, so make sure to book fast. To register your interest in joining the call, please email:


“I just want the best for my daughter” Sue Costen

May 10th, 2018 / View in own page?

Meet Sue Costen, mum of 14-year-old Alice. Sue talks about Alice being diagnosed with Usher Syndrome and how getting in touch with LOOK provided Sue with vital emotional support.

When was Alice diagnosed with Usher syndrome?

‘Alice was born profoundly deaf. Just over a year ago, during a routine eye test at Specsavers, the ophthalmologist detected problems with her vision. Suspecting she had retinitis pigmentosa (RP), Alice was referred to great Ormond Street hospital. After doing some eye tests and about 4 months after going to Specsavers, the consultants told us that they suspect Alice has type one Usher syndrome, which affects both hearing loss and sight loss. The doctors are waiting for genetic confirmation, but they are pretty sure it is. At first, I thought Alice was afraid of the dark because of her hearing impairment. In the last three years it got really bad at night time. She would grab hold of me and shake and say, ‘I need the light, I can’t see anything’ I now feel really bad, because I was like ‘There’s nothing wrong with you, stop it, you’re just trying my patience and of course then the problems with her vision made sense when we got the diagnosis.

What has it been like for Alice and you since the diagnosis?

It’s been an uphill battle. It took me a long time to stop blaming myself for Alice’s hearing impairment. I was convinced it was my fault and we’d just got through that, and then, bang this happened.
After her diagnosis, the eye condition progressed rapidly. Within months she had gone from sight impaired to severely sight impaired. It took me over a year to accept that I could apply for more Disability Allowance money, due to her visual impairment, even though the social workers were telling me she was entitled to it. Once I made the decision, I completed the form and I attached 47 additional pages and to the front I attached a cover note in the size 18 font that Alice reads. I asked them, prior to reading the application, to put on glasses I’d attached that simulate RP and go about their daily tasks. 6 weeks later, I got a response saying Alice had got the additional funding. I truly do believe that the covering note and the glasses made that difference.

School has been a challenge as well. It’s only recently that her school have acknowledged that Alice has a severe visual impairment. Up till then, because she’s in a mainstream school with a visual impairment unit, she only had the support of one TA who has to work with three students. As it transpired, when she returned for the new year last September, she was with a different group of students so now works with a TA one-to-one the majority of the time. I’ve also had to argue to get Alice’s work adapted into an accessible format. We’ve had an excellent visual impairment team working with us and they’ve been really good at fighting her corner.

Did you receive any further support after Alice’s diagnosis?

At Great Ormond Street I spoke to a lady called Paula Thomas, who gave me some information about RP and told me about LOOK. I got in touch, and they’ve been fantastic. In the early stages, I was in email contact and on the phone with Charlotte the director of LOOK and Megan LOOK’s mentor coordinator almost daily. I even spoke to Charlotte’s mum to get a parent’s perspective. It was very helpful to talk to people who could understand what I was going through. Whilst this is about Alice, this does also affect me mentally and emotionally, because as a parent I just want the best for my daughter. It’s been a tough road and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Alice’s visual impairment has also affected all of the family. Alice’s little sister is 8 and she knew about Alice’s ears being broken, but she can’t get her head around the fact that her eyes are broken too. But She’s little and in time she’ll learn.

When you got in touch with LOOK, Alice joined the mentoring scheme. How did she find taking part?

When Alice was a mentee, we went for a weekend visit to the Royal National College for the blind (RNC) where LOOK have their offices. We got to meet Charlotte and Megan and Alice met her mentor Kirsty. Listening to Charlotte talking to Alice about her own experiences of losing her vision and them agreeing with each other, I was actually feeling, ‘someone understands.’

On the Saturday we went to the college itself and she clicked with a young lad straight away. They were attached to the hip for the whole of the weekend. On the Sunday she then told me ‘Mum I want to come here. I don’t feel different, I feel normal.”

What does Alice want to study at college?

Alice is an amazing artist. She wants to study art at RNC and she also wants to do IT and audio media. The next hurdle will be securing funding for RNC, but I will get whatever reports are needed and do what ever has to be done so she can go.

What would you say to other parents who are in a similar position to you?

There is support out there and charities like LOOK can offer help. Also, I’m more than happy to talk to other parents, because I don’t want others to go through what I’ve been through.

I’ve also learned to pick my battles to make sure that Alice has as stress free a time as possible while she prepares to take her GCSES. I now take a step back because I’ve realised organisations are there to support and I don’t have to always do everything.

If you would like to find out more about the support we offer parents and families email us at, or call 01432376314.

You can also visit our mentoring page, to find out more about our free scheme for visually impaired young people.


‘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.