Helping people with no vision to live life to their full potential

Demand for services for those with low or no vision has increased, the NCBI has said as they reflect on 2019 in their annual report. JUNE TINSLEY, Head of Communications, tells us about the key findings
Helping people with no vision to live life to their full potential

"With launching our 2019 Annual Report, it is clear the demand for our services is increasing as we continue to serve the needs of the 54,810 people who are blind or vision impaired across Ireland, 6,318 of whom live in Cork," so says June Tinsley. Picture: Stock

SEEING your children in their new school uniform or other milestones like seeing your grandchild for the first time, through to mundane daily tasks like seeing the number on a bus, are all things we take for granted until our vision is taken from us.

Adapting to life with low or no vision is where NCBI steps in, recognising how overwhelming this transition is for people and being there to guide, support and empower people to enable them to live their lives to their full potential.

Over the past 90 years, NCBI has seen it all whether it is an elderly lady who has noticed her vision deteriorating over time, a parent who has just learnt their new-born baby has been born blind, a student desperately trying to access books or materials in accessible formats or a man in his 30’s who now has to give up his job due to losing his sight suddenly because of an illness or accident. NCBI is to offer a suite of tailored services and support.

With launching our 2019 Annual Report, it is clear the demand for our services is increasing as we continue to serve the needs of the 54,810 people who are blind or vision impaired across Ireland, 6,318 of whom live in Cork.

This increase in demand is due to greater promotion of our services and forging new partnerships with clinicians and stakeholders in the hospital or community setting as well as an aging population where sight loss is more common. It is also set against a backdrop where the National Treatment Purchase Fund outpatient data reported that 43,455 people are currently waiting for outpatient ophthalmic services, the highest number of people recorded to date. Since the beginning of 2019, this figure has grown by 3,012 people. Ophthalmic services are now recognised as the fourth longest waitlist.

For NCBI, 2019 was a year characterised by striving for innovation and excellence across all aspects of the organisation. It led to the commencement of new initiatives ensuring the organisation continues to modernise and be responsive to emerging needs of people who are blind or vision impaired while still guaranteeing the delivery of our quality enduring services across the country.

Key 2019 milestones include:

Transforming the lives of 6,921 people who are blind or vision impaired by offering tailored practical and emotional support, mobility and independent living skills training, technology advice and training as well as employment, library and recreational services.

The development of NCBI Labs investing in technology, systems and people aimed at promoting and upskilling the importance of accessibility across all assistive technology and mainstream technology for the benefit of people who are blind or vision impaired. In 2019, 5,899 individuals benefited from technology training or support from NCBI Labs.

The merger with Vision Sports Ireland guaranteeing greater availability of sports and leisure services to all those using NCBI services.

Launch of Bookshare.ie, Ireland’s largest digital accessible library specifically designed to support students with a visual impairment and print disabilities attending higher or further education by providing instantaneous access to over 500,000 academic books and other materials, in the student’s preferred format (DAISY Audio, DAISY with images, digital braille, PDF and Word). Placing these students on par with their sighted peers for the first time ever.

Commencement of Eye Clinic Liaison Officer services in acute Dublin based hospital settings. This service acts as a bridge between the hospital setting and community services for the patient from the point of diagnosis onwards. In 2019, 736 support sessions were provided across 3 Dublin hospitals – Mater, Eye and Ear Hospital and CHI at Temple Street.

Expansion of NCBI retail chain with nine new stores bringing the total to 118.

These accomplishments were achieved against a backdrop of continued underfunding from the HSE and increased pressure on our shops and fundraising efforts to make up the 30% shortfall in funding required to deliver our essential services. This difficult funding situation has been exacerbated in 2020 due to the cessation of all our fundraising events and closure of our stores for 10 weeks because of Covid19.

In reality, this pandemic has adversely affected people who are blind or vision impaired as it has heightened feelings of isolation, robbed them of their sense of touch to assist them to navigate safely and adherence to social distancing is next to impossible if you can’t see the new markings or gauge 2m distances.

NCBI has helped respond to this by delivering support and services remotely either by phone or online, expanding our technology training and services and raising awareness of the challenges of adhering to social distancing practices.

NCBI are proud to continue to respond to the needs of young and old who are blind or vision impaired throughout Ireland. To find out more call 1850 33 43 53.

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