10 things I need to know about losing my sight Posted on 14th August 2014 Finding out that you are losing your sight can be a challenging and uncertain time. However there is a lot of support and advice available which is why we have put together a short list of ten different notes for those who are losing their sight, which could be useful or encouraging to know. At Sight and Sound we embody the responsibility this industry demands, aiming to help make a difference to our customer’s lives, through a combination of knowledge, care and understanding. 1. What support groups are available for people with sight loss? There are a large number of different types of support groups available to people who are blind or visually impaired across the UK. The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is the UK’s leading organisation for blind and visually impaired people – they have one aim, and that is to be there for everyone affected by sight loss (either directly or indirectly). There are also more specialist societies and charities such as Blind Children UK, Action for Blind People, the Macular Disease Society (MDS) and Sign Health (a healthcare charity for blind-deaf people). 2. What can I get to help with my sight loss? Although it depends on the individual and their diagnosis whether there are any forms of medication which can treat sight loss – there is an extensive range of technology available which can help make those things that have become more difficult since sight loss has set in, become easier once again. There is a huge range of products available to the visually impaired and blind alike, from electronic handheld magnifiers (click here to view the Ruby); through to screen reading software for computers (click here to view JAWS); OCR media/DAISY players (click here to view the Blaze EZ); and screen magnification software for your computer (click here to view ZoomText). To view the full range of products available, you could visit our web shop: https://www.sightandsound.co.uk/shop/index.php or please feel free to give us a call on 01604 798070 and one of our very experienced team will be happy to talk you through the options that are best for you. 3. Registering for Sight Loss Registration is entirely voluntary and confidential – even if you chose not to register it will not bar you from receiving help from social services. In order to register you would need to visit your ophthalmologist who will certify you as either severely sight impaired (blind) or sight impaired (partially sighted). You may be asking, why would I want to go to the trouble of registering my sight loss? Well there are some very significant advantages to be gained: There are a range of concessions available to help make life more affordable. In addition to this you may be entitled to some particular welfare benefits. If you have any questions whatsoever about certification or registration we would recommend calling the RNIB helpline on 0303 123 9999 or email [email protected]. 4. Do I need to notify my employer? It is important to notify your employer upon being diagnosed with any form of sight loss, although it depends on the job you are doing, for the most part the technology available today enables those who are blind or partially sighted to continue work as normal. Although you are not legally obliged to inform your employer – it is your choice. Additionally, you are protected by the Equality Act which protects you from different kinds of discrimination in the workplace. A fantastic tool for those who have questions about starting, or staying in work, following a diagnosis of sight loss is the Staying in work checklist. 5. Are there schemes or support that exists to help me stay in employment or find employment? There is a range of support available, such as Access to Work – a scheme designed to provide advice and practical support, such as help in funding equipment, to people with any disability. There are also more specialist schemes available such as Work Choice and Work Programme – government run initiatives which help people prepare for, find, and stay in work. For more information on all the government support that is available to you in relation to employment please visit the specially designed RNIB page: http://www.rnib.org.uk/information-everyday-living-work-and-employment-practical-support/government-support. 6. What sporting and recreational activities are available? British Blind Sport governs most blind sport competition from local to international level and are the best point of contact to find out what is going on in your area. There are all sorts of sports available to blind and partially sighted people such as football, cricket, golf (via the English Blind Golf Association), and cycling – through to sports specifically designed for and played by blind and visually impaired people, such as Goalball. There are also a wide range of recreational activities available such as photography, music, pottery and crafts, drama and dance. 7. How can I help make a difference? Everyday thousands of people across the UK are campaigning for local, national and international change. The RNIB has a network of over 5,000 campaign supporters across the UK – in order to get in contact with your local campaign officer and find out how you can make a difference for people with sight loss please visit this web page: http://www.rnib.org.uk/campaigning/campaign-your-area . 8. How can I maintain my independence? Maintaining independence is at the forefront of the thoughts of many with sight loss. And here at Sight and Sound the preservation of your independence is the principle concept behind everything we do. As previously mentioned, we have an extensive range of solutions designed specifically to maintain independence, as well as a fantastic team of trainers, and an unmatched technical support team in the UK. 9. Looking after your eyes moving forward… Regular visits to your optometrist (optician) are the best way to make sure your eyes are healthy. Although some sight-threatening conditions, such as Glaucoma, have no symptoms prior to sight loss, the majority of sight-threatening conditions do. The RNIB suggests 5 steps to ensure your eyes are healthy and you are at little risk of developing an eye condition: 1. Regular eye tests – as suggested above, regular visits to your optometrist. 2. Stop smoking – Smoking can double the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, the UK’s leading cause of sight loss. 3. Eat healthily and watch your weight – A well balanced diet can help delay the progression of cataracts or AMD. Whereas avoiding obesity can reduce the risk of developing diabetes, which can cause sight loss. 4. Keep your eyes covered in the sun – UVA and UVB rays in sunlight can harm your eyes and can increase the risk of cataracts or AMD. Sunglasses, contact lenses with a UV filter or a sun shield are recommended by the RNIB. 5. Safety first – DIY causes thousands of eye related injuries each year. Investing in protective goggles for these sorts of activities and also for certain sports is recommended in order to reduce that risk. 10. Are there any events held specifically for people with sight loss? Sight Village is the biggest UK based event designed specifically for people with sight loss. Sight Village is held at 5 locations each year – Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, and London. Many exhibitors from around the world take part in showcasing their products and services. Thousands of people attend each event throughout the year, and entry is completely free, guide dogs are also welcome. Sight and Sound will be exhibiting at Sight Village London, which is next on the calendar on November 4th at Kensington Town Hall, London.