Week to promote work of charity for blind

Steve Cunningham, guest speaker

Steve Cunningham, guest speaker

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Manx Blind Welfare Society will host a week of events to raise public awareness of the challenges faced by blind and visually impaired people living in the Isle of Man, promote eye health and highlight the charity’s work and services.

The first Vision Awareness Week will take place from September 15 to 21. It will feature a series of specially-organised events, as well as roadshows around the island.

MBWS chief executive Ian Cooil said: ‘The society is fortunate to receive excellent support from the public in the Isle of Man, but as a charity we believe awareness of the challenges blind and visually impaired people face every day must be raised significantly.

‘The central aim of Vision Awareness Week is to explain what people can do to embrace visual impairment in society, in the workplace and in all walks of life, and gain a greater understanding of how those with a visual impairment live. As a society we can do more for blind and visually impaired people, and Vision Awareness Week is an important opportunity to explain how.’

He added: ‘As well as promoting greater understanding, it is the society’s aim to highlight simple steps we can all take to enhance the daily experience of blind and visually-impaired people by anticipating and meeting their needs. Simple examples of this are cutting overhanging vegetation and not parking on pavements.

‘We will also be speaking about the urgent need for significant improvements in access to public services for blind and visually-impaired people.

‘Everyone wants to live their lives as independently as possible, and we can help the visually impaired achieve this simple ambition by insisting public documents and information are available in accessible formats, for example.’

The MBWS provides vital services for more than 600 people with serious sight loss on the Isle of Man and during Vision Awareness Week the charity will also be publicising the work they do alongside other charities, societies and agencies with blind and visually impaired people.

Mr Cooil said: ‘Another major theme of Vision Awareness Week will be encouraging people to think about their own eye health and the possible impact their lifestyle could have on their future vision. We will be making information available and talking about the potential risks associated with diet and smoking, for example. The importance regular eye checks will be at the heart of this, because there are conditions which can be treated is found early enough, massively reducing the potential for sight loss.’

Vision Awareness Week will be officially launched at the Manx Museum in Douglas on September 15.

Guest speaker will be Steve Cunningham, an inspirational character who has not let losing his sight at 12 hold him back.

A successful fundraiser, business college graduate, former employee of Barclays Bank and a father of two daughters, Steve is also holder of the blind land speed and powerboat World Records and was the first blind person to fly a plane around the UK.

Steve is also a keen footballer who, like many youngsters, dreamed of playing for his country.

For some that dream would have disappeared with the loss of eyesight, but Steve’s determination and ambition made that dream a reality when he captained the England Blind Football team at the blind football World Cup. He has played for the England Blind Cricket team, trained with Aston Villa and dedicated golfer.

Tickets for the official launch, priced £10, are available from Corrin Court in Onchan now.

Vision Awareness Week will culminate in what promises to be the largest guided walking event ever in the Isle of Man. The Society offers free training to assist sighted people to appropriately and safely guide a person with visual impairment, and on September 21 Walk My Way will invite members of the public to try out guided walking along the Douglas promenade. Entrants will be paired up, with one wearing a blindfold and the other guiding as the walk moves between the Sea Terminal and War Memorial. Walk My Way is open to individuals or corporate teams, and anyone taking part can help raise money for the society by being sponsored for the walk if they choose.

There will be opportunities around the Island to find out about eye health and the services available to blind and visually impaired people at a series of roadshows during the week.

The roadshow will be from 10am to 3pm at Castletown Civic Hall on September 16, Corrin Hall, Peel, on September 17, Ramsey Town Hall on September 18 and Promenade Church, Douglas, on September 19.

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