Supporting Parents and Carers of children with a Visual Impairment
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LOOK News and Events:

‘News’

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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“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 info@look-uk.org, or call 01432376314.

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

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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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World Book Day: Finding out more about audiobooks

March 1st, 2018 / View in own page?

Today is #WorldBookDay, a day all about celebrating books and reading.
For many visually impaired people, one form of accessing books, is via audiobooks, also known as talking books. These are books that are read out by a narrator and are usually recorded.
Sam Obigbesan, our project Assistant, blogs about the history of audiobooks and how the internet has changed the way we listen to audiobooks today.

Talking books, as their alternately known, have been in existence for over 70 years. To begin with, those recordings of books, poems and plays were mainly aimed at the visually impaired and print disabled population.
They gained more popularity since the 1970’s when cassettes were introduced. This meant that books did not have to be abridged when recorded. This meant that more people could have access to them.
Though there were recording companies that soled recorded books on tapes for commercial use, such as Brilliance audio, Chiver’s and Clipper audiobooks; those organisations were mainly for profit. Charities such as Librivox in the US and Calibre audio library in the UK, provided people that were not able to read print for one reason or the other with audiobooks that could either be sent via post or through online streaming.
Public libraries had at their disposal a number of titles that had enjoyed some commercial success. Providing readers an alternative to purchasing the CD’s which could cost quite a bit, as both the recording process and the distribution was costly.
That changed with the introduction of online downloads. The costs of distributions dropped by at least 40% and the sales of hardware for instance CD’s and cassettes dropped at least by half. Online sales, with Audable; an Amazon Company, increased, occupying 50% of the sales in the entire audiobook industry.
Those are the cold facts, but what about the human related element?

Why do people listen to audiobooks?

For visually impaired people, audiobooks provide a way to access print titles. Additionally, people also listen to audiobooks while driving, or while doing house work and some listen when they want to go to sleep.

Get more involved with #WorldBookDay

RNIB and Guide Dogs are providing the £1 World Book Day books in braille, audio and large print. To find out more, visit the World Book Day website.

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Getting Great at the Everyday: Confidence & Wellbeing weekend

February 9th, 2018 / View in own page?

Two LOOK mentors walking along a country scene. One of them is using a long cane. November 2-4, New College Worcester.

Calling young visually impaired people and their parents/guardians.

Sign up to join LOOK staff and mentors for a fun weekend of activities designed to boost confidence, resilience and wellbeing.

We have a team of  superb blind and partially sighted mentors, and Independent life skills experts on hand to inform, entertain and support you.
Like all LOOK weekends, it’s an opportunity to relax and meet new friends, while sharing our experiences of life with sight loss.
Workshops include:

  • Confidence in the Kitchen – improve your cooking skills
  • Outdoor games to  boost  mobility
  • Forest school fun
  • Self esteem boosting workshops
  • Q&A with LOOK mentors
  • Daily tech  solutions – come and learn about the apps that have changed so many lives

Who can come?

Young blind and partially sighted people aged 11+ can come with a parent/guardian.

How much does it cost?

The full cost of the event is £60, £30.00 each for a young person and their parent. We will require £40 deposit per family (1 parent 1 young person) to secure your place on the weekend.
– Bursary places are available for those who qualify for free school meals. Those who qualify for a bursary place should contact us directly.

How can I book my place?

Places are going fast. Book today by emailing info@look-uk.org or calling   01432 376314.

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