21 March 2019
People who are blind and partially sighted are being shut out of society, but members of the public could help end this isolation if they understood more about everyday life with sight loss, according to research released by the charity Guide Dogs.
The new report, called ‘By My Side’, reveals that over two fifths (42%) of people with sight loss feel they are ‘left out’ of everyday moments that others might take for granted, such as socialising, dating, family life or work. This feeling of isolation is compounded as six in ten blind or VI (vision impaired) people believe that society has ‘little understanding’ of the challenges they face in their daily lives.
‘By My Side’ shares insights from the VI community – currently two million people in the UK* – asking about experiences of their local communities, family life, parenting, love and friendships.
Guide Dogs’ report also reveals:
• Nearly six in ten (58%) of blind and partially sighted people feel socially isolated.
• Over two-thirds (69%) suggest more people could be trained as sighted guides.
• People with sight loss say travel is their biggest challenge in daily life.
• Over a quarter (27%) of people with vision impairments say they feel left out from socialising with friends, leaving them feeling on the side lines of life. This finding is particularly acute among women.
• Over a fifth (23%) say they feel left out of work or education.
• Over a quarter of people with sight loss (27%) feel they have been left out of milestone moments such as births or marriages.
Guide Dogs says the time to initiate change is now – most of the public (57%) do want to understand more about life with sight loss, but one in five (23%) would not be comfortable offering help.
To create greater understanding, Guide Dogs is calling on people to sign up to My Guide, a guiding service that matches trained sighted volunteers to people with sight loss who need support getting out and about.
A My Guide partnership focuses on achieving a set goal – this could be around building confidence, increasing physical fitness, working towards a guide dog partnership, or tackling social isolation by accessing local communities, hobbies or pastimes.
Guide Dogs currently helps more than 1,000 people with sight loss through its My Guide service. This year, the charity is hoping to recruit a further 1,200 volunteers to support even more vision impaired people through the life-changing scheme.
Alex Pepper, 28, from London, developed cancer as a baby and as a result had an eye removed when he was 14-months-old. Further complications as an adult have left him with only light perception in his remaining eye.
He said: “When you have sight loss, it’ll always be a factor in how you live your life, but you also just want to get on with things like having a job, a family, a social life, going to the gym or on holiday, the same as everyone else.
“But there are days when I’m really reminded I’m blind, and that’s because of a hundred small things which just make me feel like I’m on the outside. I think the more people understand what it actually means to live a modern life with sight loss, the less often these small things will happen, and I’ll feel more included.”
Jo Milligan, Head of Volunteer Led Services at Guide Dogs, said:
“Our report clearly shows that far too many people with sight loss are feeling shut out of everyday life. With the number of people with a vision impairment set to skyrocket in the coming years, we need to make changes.
“We need to work together to understand the realities of life with sight loss and help overcome the challenges that lead to people feeling excluded.”
The Guide Dogs ‘By My Side’ report can be viewed in full here. People can find out more about how they can become a My Guide online at http://www.guidedogs.org.uk.
To improve public understanding of life with sight loss, Guide Dogs is launching a new podcast series, ‘I See What You’re Saying’ hosted by famous faces including Alex Jones, Adrian Chiles, Sophie Thompson and Jeff Brazier. Each episode of this four-part series includes inspirational guests talking about how sight loss impacts their Family; Friendships; Love life and Parenting – sharing the ups, the downs and the funny moments in between. Listen to Guide Dogs’ new series “I See What You’re Saying” on your favourite podcast app soon.
The research carried by Opinion Matters used 510 Respondents with Visual Impairment (i.e. decreased ability to see to a degree that causes problems not fixable by usual means, such as glasses) or Partial/Registered Blindness – Between 17.01.2019 – 24.01.2019. Opinion Matters abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.
All figures, that relate to the general public, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2170 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 29th-30th January 2019. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).