Supporting Parents and Carers of children with a Visual Impairment
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Posts Tagged ‘Visual impairment’

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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Tips on Looking After Your Eyes

September 20th, 2017 / View in own page?

This week (18-24 September) is National Eye Health Week which encourages people to look after their eyes and shows the importance of doing so. Here at LOOK, we wanted to get involved so thought that we would share some simple tips with you on looking after your eyes.

A report published by the RNIB, states that 250 people start to lose their sight every day and 1 in 5 people will live with sight loss in their lifetime. These are just some of the statistics that show that eye health really matters.

There are many simple things that you can do to take better care of your eyes.

Quit smoking

Smoking can cause many health problems, including the risk of some eye conditions. Tobacco can damage the eye.

 

Eat healthy

You may hear this all the time, but eating healthy can help protect your sight.

 

Think of your eyes when using a computer

If you spend several hours a day on a computer, remember the 20-20-20 rule: look 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds every 20 minutes. Also, make sure you blink whilst you’re using a computer, as this helps to keep your eyes moist. Computer screens can make your eyes feel tired, itchy, cause blurred vision, cause headaches and computers can even cause eye strain.

 

Protect your eyes in the sun

Wear sunglasses when you are exposed to the sun. This can prevent some eye conditions such as cataract. When you are buying some new sunglasses, make sure they have a CE, British Standard, or UV 400 mark as this means that they have good protection.

 

Watch your weight

Obesity can put you at higher risk of some eye conditions such as diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma.

 

Look for changes in your vision.

These may include: double vision, hazy vision, difficulty seeing in low light, red eyes, frequent flashes of light, floaters, and eye pain. If you experience any of these then it is important to speak to an eye specialist.

 

Have regular eye tests

It is recommended that you should have an eye test every two years, unless you are told otherwise. If you haven’t had an eye test within the last two years then why not book one this national eye health week?

We know that not all eye conditions can be prevented, but it is very important to look after your eyes. Eye health is just as important as physical or mental health!

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Transitioning to University

September 6th, 2017 / View in own page?

September is often the month of transitions: transitioning to a new school or college, transitioning to university or starting a new job. Whatever it may be, change can be scary, but it can also be positive. In this blog post, Brigitta discusses her thoughts and feelings about change, and she also shares some top tips for blind or visually impaired students starting university. So if you’re a fresher, then you may find this post helpful!

 

Change can cause mixed feelings. Some people will be excited about change, some people will be nervous about change. But whatever your feelings about it, change can be a positive thing.

In the past change was scary to me. When I started secondary school I was terrified, the same with college, university and even starting a new job. On top of these changes I had the added challenge of making these changes with my visual impairment. However, every time I made these changes I eventually settled down and my surroundings began to become more familiar.

My biggest challenge so far has been university. I study Anthropology at Oxford Brookes. I chose this university for the course and because the support network here is very good for disabled students. As a VI student, finding a university with good disability support was important. I needed to make sure the university would support me and provide me with what I needed. Researching your university and getting in touch with their support team is something I would really recommend doing. Then you can discuss with them what you will need and how they can aid you.

If you’re moving into halls or shared residency when you start university, I think being open and honest with your new flatmates is always a good thing and even breaks down a couple of awkward barriers. From telling your new flatmates about your visual impairment you can ask them for help, such as reading a label or using the cooker. Don’t be afraid to be open about your condition. This is true in lectures and seminars too.

My biggest and scariest challenge for me was finding my way around university and finding my lecture rooms. I spoke to my disability adviser and they helped immensely. I had someone show me around the main campus and where some of my lectures could be. Then they set up for someone to meet me at my halls and walk me to my lecture room for the first few weeks. If you’re worried about finding your lectures, I would highly recommend you to ask the disability support at your university to set up a guide for you in the first few weeks.

Student tip: buy a pizza wheel. Best thing I took with me.

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LOOK Wellbeing Weekend

August 15th, 2017 / View in own page?

Look Wellbeing Weekend : 15-17 September 2017.
As part of our fabulous mentoring project, Look are excited to announce our first wellbeing weekend! Look mentoring brings young people with a vision impairment together
for peer support, through online messaging and a programme of face to face events. Mentors are aged 18-29 and mentees are aged 11-18.
The wellbeing weekend is designed for people interested in being a mentor. The focus of the event is on how to take care of our mental and physical wellbeing,
and how best to pass that knowledge on to our younger mentees. Workshops and discussions will include: coping with anxiety; sight-loss and stress; how
to get active; mindfulness and meditation; yoga; poetry; walks…. The event will take place in the gorgeous Herefordshire countryside, a taxi ride from
Hereford train station and a short stroll from the river wye. Accommodation, vegetarian  meals and Cake will be provided.
This event is free of charge to those who sign up for the Look mentoring project. You can find out more about our mentoring project

here.

Please get in touch with Megan for more details.
mentor@look-uk.org

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Transitioning to a New School

July 31st, 2017 / View in own page?

Many of you will be receiving your GCSE or A-level results in the next few weeks and will then be moving onto the next steps, taking those important transitions for your future. Whether you’re moving on to college, sixth form, university, an apprenticeship, work, or something different, it’s important to feel prepared and to know that you aren’t on your own. When you have a visual impairment or another disability, there can often be a lot to think about, as well as added preparations which can cause you to feel stressed and anxious, but also excited.

The following video was recorded and produced by Harriet who is one of our fabulous mentees as part of our mentoring project. She is currently preparing to take the transition to a new school to do her A-levels, as well as having the added pressures of having both a hearing and visual impairment.

In this video, Harriet discusses her experience of an induction at her new school and gives tips on preparing for a transition such as choosing which school or college to attend, deciding on the right subjects and meeting new people.

Do you have any tips for blind and visually impaired people who maybe going through a transition? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter. From all of us here at LOOK-UK, good luck to those of you who may be embarking on a new chapter of your life in the next few months.

Check out Harriet’s video below!

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LOOK-UK mentors win national award

July 26th, 2017 / View in own page?

On Wednesday 5th July, we attended the Brightside Trust Mentoring awards and thoroughly enjoyed the evening.

Some of LOOK’s mentors and mentees were shortlisted for two awards; mentee of the year and mentoring pair of the year.

We are delighted to inform you that Danielle and Jack won mentoring pair of the year! They were presented with a certificate and engraved trophy. This is a big achievement for LOOK and our mentors and mentees as our mentoring project is still in its pilot year.

A huge thank you to the Brightside Trust for the nomination and for such a wonderful evening.

Have a listen to the audio below which is of Danielle and Jack winning their award.

 

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