Visual sense and sensitivity

Date: 24 May 2022
Author: Cllr Piers Allen
Title: Chair of the Health and Wellbeing Board

As someone with high myopia who started wearing spectacles for short-sightedness from the age of 5 (prescribed by an army ophthalmologist from a Nissen hut in Aldershot, as I remember), I have always been conscious that good vision is not something to be taken for granted and impairments of vision can be part of the ageing process (as my current optometrist pessimistically reminds me on my yearly visits).

In Richmond, we are fortunate to have a team of Rehabilitation Officers for Vision Impairment (ROVI) who work with people who are blind or partially sighted and are part of our Sensory Services team. One of the team has recently written  'A Day in the life of a Rehabilitation Officer Vision Impairment' that sets out the scope of their work and particularly highlights the invaluable support they provide to residents who may have a sudden onset of sight loss, representing a very real and abrupt crisis point in their lives.

Our service has recently been assured to be in line with some interim guidance on the provision of vision rehabilitation services, drafted by a partnership of the RNIB, the Rehabilitation Workers Professional Network, Guide Dogs, Thomas Pocklington Trust and Visionary, shared through the ADASS Physical and Sensory Impairment Network with all local authorities in England. And while our waiting times for assessment and the time-consuming rehabilitation work of ROVI has risen as the COVID-19 pandemic has come to an end, extra resources are being put in to bring these down.

Referrals to the team come in through ophthalmology clinics, high-street optometrists, but also self-referrals many of which are signposted through from the Council’s Social Services Access Team.

We are also lucky to be one of the boroughs served by the Middlesex Association for the Blind, whose Mobile Resource Unit recently visited Kneller Gardens and will again on Thursday 9 June 2022.

The work of our Sensory Services also links in to the Friendly Parks initiative, where several of our parks are developing sensory trails and aids and signposting especially developed for the visually impaired.

I remain very keen for all these initiatives to build into making Richmond upon Thames an increasingly accessible borough, reflected by the increasing number of entries in the AccessAble app and in a new initiative we will shortly be announcing in association with the GoJauntly app for accessible walks in the borough.

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Updated: 30 August 2022