"Our challenge for the future is to ensure more people with sight loss can access our services and support. "
This is a time of huge change and challenge for all of us in the third sector. The pandemic has meant we have had no choice but to adapt what we do and the way we provide support. Disabled people and those with long term conditions have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19, but the ability of third sector organisations to innovate and find new ways of reaching people has meant fewer have been isolated as a result of the restrictions we are all living with today.
Even before we had to deal with the consequences of the virus, it was clear to us at Royal Blind and Scottish War Blinded that we needed to embark on a journey of change. Our charities have a proud history of supporting people with visual impairment, through education, employment and care. Royal Blind was founded in 1793 and is one of the oldest sight loss charities in the world. Today we have to meet the new challenge of a rapidly increasing number of blind and partially sighted people in Scotland, to ensure no-one in our society faces sight loss alone.
Sight Scotland and Sight Scotland Veterans launched as the new names of Royal Blind and Scottish War Blinded on World Sight Day, October 8th. We were delighted First Minister Nicola Sturgeon officially launched our new names and vision to support more people living with sight loss across the country. As we launched our new names, we also published research which makes clear why we needed to take this step. We undertook a survey of over 400 people with visual impairment, the biggest in Scotland since lockdown, which found that more than two thirds felt the restrictions had been a worse experience for them because of their sight loss. Every hour someone in Scotland loses their sight, but research we published with YouGov found only half of Scots would know where to go for help if they lost their sight.
Our challenge for the future is to ensure more people with sight loss can access our services and support. This is why are taking forward plans to provide more services in the community, including supporting more pupils with visual impairment in mainstream schools as well as our specialist school, the Royal Blind School. We are working to increase the availability of accessible documents and to support more older people with sight loss through rehabilitation and peer support activities. We are working and campaigning to ensure more people with visual impairment have fairer chances in education and employment.
The pandemic has shown that our society needs the third sector more than ever. We believe it is time this contribution is properly recognised because it will be vital to ensure people with long term conditions and disabled people, including blind and partially sighted people, are not left behind in the aftermath of the pandemic. At Sight Scotland and Sight Scotland Veterans we look forward to building on the foundations of a proud history by playing our role in achieving a future and a society which is fairer for people with sight loss.