Making climate action inclusive

Written by: Kirsty Banks, Making Sense of Energy Savings Project Manager, Forth Valley Sensory Centre

Published: 15/03/2021

Climate Change

Kirsty Banks shares how she has supported people with sensory conditions to access information on how to reduce their carbon footprint.

Climate challenge is an issue for everyone. However, people with sensory conditions as well as other disabilities can find it difficult to make the right decisions because they experience barriers in accessing information.

With so much focus on the environment and climate change in Parliament you would think information would be easily accessible to everyone. However, this is not always the case. To comply with legislation, all organisations are required to include a disclaimer in their publications stating that they ‘can provide information in other formats’. But this can be problematic in itself because you need to be able to access the information before you are able to make a request.

Legislation, such as the Equality Act 2010, is there to help support people with disabilities live an independent, quality life. But it can sometimes feel like paying lip service to these communities.

We discovered back in 2018 that Home Energy Scotland (HES) provided access to Warmer Home Grants to vulnerable groups and information on saving energy in the home. HES is a government funded organisation and provide a free impartial service.

We met with HES to discuss how to increase the number of enquiries from seldom heard communities such as ours. There was no information on their website for deaf people or BSL speakers and contact with sensory communities was very limited.

Forth Valley Sensory Centre supports people with sight and hearing loss in the Forth Valley Area. We decided to do something about it, which is why the Making Sense of Energy Saving Project was born.

The goal was to create accessible information to help people make informed decisions about how to reduce their carbon footprint. This started with helping people to understand what a carbon footprint is as well as providing information about how to save energy in their home and how to reduce food waste.

Part of the funding for the project was to enable the centre to change all its existing lighting to LED lighting. Most people who experience sight loss have some vision, making the most of that vision can make a big difference to the person’s quality of life, independence and wellbeing. Lighting is a huge part of that. Traditional florescent bulbs have a distinct ‘pooling’ effect where the light is brighter directly underneath the bulb. This makes it harder to see in the areas of the room not directly under the light as it creates shadows and dark patches. LED bulbs, however, not only use less energy but illuminate the whole room. They are able to offer brighter, flicker free lighting that has more coverage of the floor area. The type of light it produces can also simulate daylight and therefore much more beneficial for people with sight loss.

The other part of the project was to help people with sensory loss reduce their energy output with their home and reduce their food waste. I delivered several workshops using various media to help people understand. I provided support with a home energy audit and assisted people to apply for the government’s warmer home grant through Home Energy Scotland (HES).

This posed barriers for people with sensory loss. The process involved a phone call from HES, which lasted about 45 minutes. This was very difficult if the person had hearing loss or were a BSL speaker.

Through this project, I put HES in contact with Sign Language Interactions. They provided all HES’s frontline staff with training on how to use Contact Scotland – a telephone/video call replay service for BSL speakers. This supported HES to become more accessible to the Deaf community.

For people who were hard of hearing or had sight loss I was able to support them through the process of giving information and understanding the paperwork they received. I was also able to be at the person’s home for the home visit from HES and the insulation of any new heating system.

One person I supported received a completely new heating system and boiler. She stated: “The whole process was seamless. Without the help of Kirsty and this project I would never of known about this or be able to know where to start.”

We now have a wealth of accessible resources available regarding climate change, food waste and energy saving. This includes videos, audio, braille, large print and E reader friendly versions. These can be accessed through our website or by contacting Kirsty on 07719 916050.

For resources and further information about the Making Sense of Energy Saving Project, please follow the link www.forthvalleysensorycentre.org

This Opinion is commissioned by the ALLIANCE’s Academy programme which explores key themes related to the Five Provocations for the Future of Health and Social Care.

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