Categories
Our aims technology

Sight Support Worthing, the year ahead: developing our technology for VI service

We’re highlighting our objectives for the year in a series of blog posts. If you missed the first one (about improving our communication with members) you can catch up here. In this one, we’re focusing on how we’re going to develop our technology for VI service.

We’ve been offering some technology products for VI in the last couple of years but this is an aspect of our services that we really want to improve. Part of that effort is to keep up to date with assistive technology, as well as other relevant technologies. It’s one thing going out and buying a stack of ‘things’ but actually knowing what’s on offer, how each item works, the benefits or drawbacks of each product and making sure we’re recommending and buying products that will not be obsolete within six months is crucial.

With that in mind, we’re actively researching and testing products so we have the best choices to offer our members.

an older person and a child sharing a game on a tablet

Although our current team is excited about the prospect of learning more about technology for VI we’re aware that there are very few of us. For that reason, we’re recruiting both staff and volunteers who will be the ‘go to’ on VI tech issues. We’ll all make sure we’re up to speed but there will be specific people who are dedicated to assisting members make decisions about which tech to use, explaining how to use it and fixing problems, should they arise.

And it’s not just our people who will be key to this improvement; our Centre at Rowlands Road will be sufficiently equipped and resourced to provide training, tech support and guidance to members and guests.

Clearly, acquiring technology – whether for VI or otherwise – generally comes at a cost which not everyone is in a position to afford. The final aspect of our objective is to provide a loan-to-buy service for those who are unable to access devices on their own. This may be because cost is a factor but also because no-one wants to buy something that they not long after decide isn’t for them (but would suit someone else better). This format is perfect: try the product at home, and on a day-to-day basis (rather than just testing it in a shop or showroom) so you establish whether it’s right for you. When you decide it is what you’re after, there’s no need to hand it back, you just carry on using it seamlessly. We’re also securing discounts with suppliers so if you order through us or get a referral code, you’ll be able to make a saving on certain products. 

We hope that our technology for VI service will benefit a large number of our members and, perhaps, make aspects of their life easier and more pleasurable. We’re always keen to hear from members (and their families, friends or carers) to understand how we can best support independent living but, more than that, enhance enjoyment and fun too. If you’ve got suggestions you’d like us to explore, please do get in touch.

Kindle e-reader, coffee and notepad

Categories
Our aims

Showcasing SSW in the local press

We’re currently publicising the work of Sight Support Charity in local media, with the aim of highlighting our services to potential members as well as other interested partes. Here’s a copy of the article we’ve placed. If you’d like to see the article as it appeared, you can take a look at it here.

———

The past year has been full of challenges for all of us, regardless of age, location or situation. For Sight Support Worthing this has meant ensuring its members continue to receive the support, advice and social engagement they’ve been used to. Sight Support Worthing – as the name suggests! – offers a range of activities, events, resources and information designed to inspire and support those who are blind or partially sighted, and their families. Membership is free of charge and open to anyone with a visual impairment.

 

The charity is headed up by Sonia Baker, who started in her role as General Manager in March 2020. Sonia’s first year has seen Sight Support Worthing (SSW) needing to introduce new ways to support members and a number of new initiatives have been introduced: “Along with dealing with the restrictions of lockdown and the challenges that brought, our aim has been to develop the Charity for the future so it meets the changing interests of a wider visually impaired community, while keeping our familiar and welcoming culture.”

Like many other organisations, online communication has been key, especially when it comes to sustaining social interactions. SSW now runs popular weekly sessions including an art group and chair yoga. These are set to continue, with face-to-face classes being held in addition to online options. With lockdown restrictions now reducing, plans are being made to reopen the SSW Centre in Rowlands Road, Worthing for in-person support.

 

One of the areas that is key to the Charity’s vision is technology. Plans include providing demos, tech support and how-to classes for using tech at all levels. “Accessible tech plays an important part in helping enrich people’s lives and open up opportunities for them. However some devices can seem daunting to learn or are priced out of people’s reach. So we’re really trying to help people see what’s out there, as well as giving opportunities to try out equipment to see if it’s right for them. Then once people invest in technology, we’re here to offer them assistance.” says Sonia, who is leading the project.

 

The year ahead is an exciting one for Sight Support Worthing and its members. As well as the expansion of the charity’s technology for visual impairment service, they are launching a volunteer/member buddy scheme, which will match people by shared interests. Naturally, as a charity, volunteers are crucial and muchvalued members of the Sight Support team; new volunteers are always welcome and there are varied roles available.

 

Another important aim for the charity is to introduce activities for its younger members. As Sonia says: “One of the things we’ve been looking at is the gap between activities and services aimed at the very young, and those that appeal to more senior people. There is definitely a shortage of options for those aged between 30-50. These people may be busy with families or jobs and aren’t necessarily looking to engage with a charity on a daily or weekly basis. Equally they might be missing out on some great services simply because they aren’t being offered anything relevant. So we’ll be looking at new ways to reach that missing demographic.”

 

In their quest to attract new members and provide appealing events, activities and  services, the team is looking to collaborate with other organisations, groups or businesses. Sonia and her team are keen to pool resources and share ideas with others who have similar aspirations: “Now more than ever, organisations need to stop working in silos and work together. So many services remain a postcode lottery which doesn’t meet the needs of the community. Logistically we cannot provide everything to everyone, but if we collaborate we can make sure the things we can’t provide, someone else can and vice versa.”


The Charity would love to hear from anybody who would like to to find out more (either for themselves or a family member), those who are interested in volunteering, as well as anyone working within an organisation, group or business who is keen to partner or collaborate on projects and initiatives.

 

“We’re always open to working with anyone who has ideas for inspiring, supporting or promoting accessibility to visually impaired people, particularly those who are themselves are visually impaired, so do get in touch.”

Categories
Interview

Talk with a trustee: meet Dawn O’Donnell

Name: Dawn O’Donnell
 
Lives: I have lived in Worthing for 4.5 years moving from south east London in 2016. 
 
How long have you been involved with SSW?
When I moved here I knew no one and my husband was commuting back to London each day. He was leaving at 6 in the morning and not getting home until 5 in the evening; that’s a long day with no one to talk to especially if talking is your specialist subject! 
 
I decided no one would knock on my door just for a chat so I better find some company. I walked down the road, saw the sign at SSW (then The Blind Society) asking if you could make tea and coffee, and applied as a volunteer. I volunteered for about two years then was asked to become a trustee in August 2019. 
 
What’s your role at SSW? What do you especially enjoy about your role?
I started in the Art class which I absolutely loved. Then I started taking members on trips and coffee mornings and helping out at afternoon events, which I did right up until covid stopped play. 
 
If you take part in the activities or groups at SSW which have you particularly enjoyed or have special memories of?
I have many fabulous memories of conversations with members, Christmas parties, days out and, of cours,e directing the legendary (in my mind) SSW pantomime but I think my favourite was in an art class. Fiona, the tutor, asked a member – also called Dawn – if she wanted to make a birthday card with an owl in it. She said “ohh I can’t do that” so I said I would help her. Dawn’s sight was poor and she was also quite fragile but, between us, we made the card and the look on her face when we finished it was magic. Sadly Dawn passed away not that long after but I will always remember her grinning from ear to ear with pride at her achievement. 
 
What do you love about living where you do?
I love the community feel in Worthing and every day during the pandemic I have thanked my lucky stars to be living by the sea. 
 
How do you spend your free time?
I do work part-time for another charity but have been furloughed for the best part of a year. In this time I have been drawing. I belong to the Lockdown Scribblers (started by Jacqui who works for SSW) and have drawn something, mainly with a Disney twist, every day since 1st Jan. I also belong to the Worthing Blue Tits and have swum in the sea about a dozen times so far this year, including Easter Sunday. 
 
Tell us an amazing fact about yourself!
I don’t have many amazing facts about myself but I did get married in Las Vegas and Elvis walked me down the aisle. 
 
—–
That’s a great fact to end on Dawn and in the words of the great man himself… “Thank you very much!”
 
 
Categories
Interview

Volunteer voice: interview with Victoria Gray

Any organisation is formed, influenced and representative of the people involved, and especially in the case of a people-focused charity like Sight Support Worthing. We’re planning to introduce you to a wide range of the people that make Sight Support Worthing the wonderful community it is. We’ll be chatting with members, staff, trustees and volunteers.

It’s with a volunteer that we kick the series off. Here’s Victoria, who has recently started volunteering for us.

Name: Victoria Gray

Age: 26

Where do you live: Shoreham-by-Sea

Have you always lived in the same place?

I was born in Shoreham-by-Sea and it has always been my home town, however I have also been at a residential school and college. I went away to study at New College Worcester from the age of 11 for 7 years. This is a school for the blind. After this I went to The Royal National College for the Blind for 2 years. I found it hard living away from home as I missed my family and I have always loved Shoreham-by-Sea.

How long have you been volunteering with Sight Support Worthing (SSW)?

I have only  recently started volunteering. I would like to be involved in the things that SSW do as I am totally blind myself so I feel very passionate about meeting other people with sight loss and helping to make things accessible.

What activities (whether now or pre-Covid) have you enjoyed at SSW?

SSW have recently started running Chair Yoga sessions which I have really enjoyed. Yoga is very good for relaxation and I find I get a lot out of it because I struggle a lot with my balance which makes Chair Yoga the easiest form of Yoga for me to do.

Is there an activity or social group you’d like SSW to start?

Book Group where members could come together and discuss what they are reading.

Quizzes

Walking group where we could go for a walk and maybe get a pub lunch after.

Tandem Riding

Which of SSW’s other services or support have you used?

I haven’t used any other services but this is something I would like to do and as a volunteer I would like to help in any way I can.

What do you love about living where you do?

I love the community feel. It’s nice to live somewhere where people look out for each other. I also love living by the sea.

How do you spend your free time?

Socialising with friends

Gaming

Reading

Yoga

Choir

Drama workshops

Tell us an amazing fact about yourself! 

I have recently started helping to run a book group for the RNIB. It is the first ever group that I have helped to run and it feels like a great achievement. I sometimes get a bit anxious so being able to help run a group and bring people together is such a wonderful feeling and I love being able to help people to connect with each other.

Thanks, Victoria; how brilliant it is to have you on-board as a volunteer! Victoria’s input as someone with sight loss will be of great benefit to the team as they develop services and activities for members. Look out for Victoria when the Centre reopens in the coming months.

Are you a volunteer or member of Sight Support Worthing and would like to be featured in our interviews, you can email Emily.

Of course we’re always keen to welcome new members and volunteers. Do get in touch if you’d like to find out more.

Categories
Our aims

Sight Support Worthing, the year ahead: improving our communication with members

improving our communication with members

Each year the trustees and staff of Sight Support Worthing discuss their key aims and objectives for the year ahead. This year, despite all the unusual circumstances, is no different. We’ve lots of exciting plans in the pipeline, and we’ll be updating you as and when progress takes place.

One objective this year is to improve our communication and how we interact with our members. Historically our main method of communication has been face-to-face, whether at our events, activities or just when members have popped into the Centre for a chat or seeking advice. This changed dramatically last year when that just wasn’t possible. Phone and email have also been well utilised by staff, volunteers and members over the years, and we’ve now added Zoom to the methods we use.Person using smart phone While we were, essentially, forced to quickly implement tools such as Zoom, it has highlighted how communication has moved on, and different methods offer different benefits. It is certainly not a case of one size fits all!

Although we cannot wait to see our members and volunteers again at the Centre, we also want to both keep in place, and improve on, every type of communication that is feasible. Zoom will continue to be used for those who aren’t able to get to the Centre for activities. Why not carry on with those activities, and bring people at home – wherever that might be – to the Centre to join in the fun with their friends?people catching up over coffee We also hope to use email more, not just to keep our members informed, but also to ensure family and friends are kept in the loop, as well as professionals who work and support our members. If you’d like to be added to our mailing list, you can do that here.

As a membership organisation we’re always keen to hear how you prefer to be communicated with. Do you love the opportunities Zoom presents? Are you keen to have weekly updates by email? Perhaps you’re a keen social media user… do let us know your preferences and make sure your details are up-to-date on our database.

Categories
Activity Uncategorised

Take part in Come Dine with Me!

Fancy your 15 minutes of fame or looking for a chance to show off your hosting and culinary skills?

Channel 4’s Come Dine with Me is looking for local participants!

Filming takes place in May (24th-28th) and you can apply by visiting this link: bit.ly/cdwm2021

Once you’ve made your application a member of the casting team will be in touch. 

We’d love to know if you are successful!

Categories
Activity

The benefits of volunteering

Sight Support Worthing couldn’t function as well as we do without the amazing help and support of our volunteer Sight Supporters. They undertake a range of valuable tasks for us, and they get a real feel-good factor from helping our clients! Each volunteer has their own reasons for giving their time and energy to us, and chances are some of those are listed  below. Take a look at some of the brilliant benefits of becoming a volunteer:  

Make a difference – yes, there’s no denying it: you will make a difference to everyone involved in Sight Support Worthing or wherever you choose to volunteer. Some days it might be small and help one person, other days you might do something that helps a whole crowd. Either way, you will affect someone, somehow in a positive way. 

Gain confidence and build self-esteem – not all of us are as confident as we’d like, and volunteering is a great way to remedy this. Once you start volunteering you’ll begin to get a sense of accomplishment and pride in your achievements, especially when you see the difference you’re making to others. Your confidence and sense of achievement will be boosted even higher if your volunteer role takes you out of your comfort zone. 

This self-assurance will then spill over into other areas of your life so you’ll feel more confident and positive at home or work. If you’re shy, putting yourself into unknown (but hopefully welcoming) situations can condition you to find them less scary. Win-win. 

Create new connections – whether you come away with a brand new best friend or find somewhere to have a regular chat with friendly faces, you’ll form new connections with like-minded people. If you’re someone who finds life a little lonely at times, volunteering is an excellent way to combat this. Choose somewhere to volunteer where you’ll be amongst people and you’ll be part of a whole new community. 

Makes you happier – as humans we’re wired to want to help others, so the brain reacts well to situations when it knows you’re doing that, and makes you feel happier. Choosing a volunteering opportunity that’s right for you will also mean you spend that time having fun – and who doesn’t want an extra bit of fun in their life?! 

Sense of purpose – most people choose to volunteer for an organisation or issue that is important to them. By giving your time and energy for free, and helping others achieve something, you’ll be boosting your sense of purpose and with it your feelings of happiness.  Studies have shown that volunteering can help with depression, anxiety and other negative feelings by providing that regular sense of purpose and a positive reason to get up and out of the house. 

Help with your career – volunteering offers opportunities to learn new skills and many of those will be transferable to other aspects of life including work. It’ll also show any employer that you go above and beyond and take time to help others; who wouldn’t want someone like that working with them? Volunteering is especially good if you’re lacking in work experience as it can provide you with new skills and proof of attributes that can then be added to a CV or used as examples in job interviews. Say you’d like to work in admin… find a volunteering role that will see you helping out with filing, perhaps doing a stock inventory, or maybe sorting out mail. The more you help out, the more you will learn. 

So if you score one or more of these benefits while volunteering, you’re on to a winner. Perhaps you’re already volunteering and can add to our list of benefits? What do you gain from being a volunteer? 

We’re always on the lookout for people like you to help us in volunteer roles. Take a look at our web page dedicated to volunteering opportunities at Sight Support Worthing or get in touch for a chat.

Categories
Advice

Census 2021 information

Over the last fortnight to 13 March, households in England and Wales either received a letter containing an access code which will allow the recipient to fill in their census form online (the majority), or a paper questionnaire. 

Census Day is 21 March but you can do it before.  The letters will have a telephone number (0800 141 2021) which can be used to get a paper form if you need one, or to ask for help.  

There are advisers available to help you at the following times:

Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm

Saturday, 8am to 1pm

Sunday, closed

Census weekend (20 – 21 March), 8am to 8pm

 

​Information about the census is available in the following accessible formats:​​

Simple language and clear link text helps you to navigate the census website and you can use speech recognition software and listen using a screen reader.  There is also an accessibility statement which provides more detail on how compatible this website is with assistive technology.​

 

To get help with your census you can also:​​

There is also guidance on how you can help someone else to complete their census.

Help completing the 2021 Census is available at West Sussex Libraries. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the service will be offered over the phone. The Remote Digital Support Team will be taking calls and booking slots for customers.  A member of support staff will then contact the customer and complete the form for them over the phone.  If changes to COVID-19 restrictions allow, the service will be offered face to face in 15 libraries.  Please phone 03302223455 to book an appointment.

A successful census will ensure everyone from local government to charities can put services and funding in the places where they are most needed.  This could mean things like doctors’ surgeries, schools and new transport routes.

That’s why it is so important everyone takes part, and we need all sections of the population to record their personal circumstances so that they are known about and can be factored into decision making.

Categories
VIPs

VIP: Pauline Anna Strom, musician and composer

We’d like to introduce you (or maybe not if you know her already!) to Pauline Anna Strom, a blind musician and composer from the USA.

Born in 1946, Pauline was blind from birth. In adulthood she developed an interest in synthesizers and creating electronic music stating that “electronics expanded the ability to create from your imagination”. Much of her music was experimental and created and recorded at home.

 

In 1982 Pauline released her debut album entitled Trans-Millenia Consort, and from this point on used this title as her pseudonym. She then went on to make another six recordings.

 

According to an article in the New York Times, Pauline “did not dwell on her blindness” and, in fact, felt that her blindness enhanced her music.

 

Here’s a clip of Pauline’s album Trans-Millenia Consort which includes her recording of burbling water, which she became well known for. 

 

Sadly Pauline died in December 2020, two months before a new recording was due to be released. Angels Tears in Sunlight, Pauline’s first album in 30 years, was released in February 2021. You can listen to the album here.

 
Categories
Health

Covid vaccine fraud advice

The Government has issued advice on how to avoid COVID-19 vaccination fraud.

According to gov.uk, criminals are using the COVID-19 vaccine as a way to target the public by tricking them to hand over cash or financial details. They are sending convincing looking text messages letting people know they are eligible for the vaccine or phoning people directly pretending to be from the NHS, or local pharmacy.

To ensure vigilance bear these points in mind:

The NHS will:

  • NEVER ask for payment – the vaccine is free
  • NEVER ask for your bank details
  • NEVER arrive unannounced at your home to administer the vaccine
  • NEVER ask you to prove your identity by sending copies of personal documents such as your passport. 

two screen shots; one of a phone with an email purporting to be from the NHS about a covid jab and the other showing a text message also with a message and a link regarding a Covid vaccination

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you receive a call you believe to be fraudulent, hang up. If you are suspicious about an email you have received, forward it to report@phishing.gov.uk.
Suspicious text messages should be forwarded to the number 7726 which is free of charge.

If you believe you have been the victim of fraud or identity theft, you should report this directly to Action Fraud either online at actionfraud.police.uk or via phone 0300 123 2040.

If you have any information relating to vaccine fraud you can stay 100% anonymous by contacting Crimestoppers COVID Fraud Hotline online: covidfraudhotline.org or phone 0800 587 5030.