Calderdale Council’s Visual Impairment Team

At our May 2019 open meeting, Sue Straw and Shannon Donaghue from Calderdale Council’s Visual Impairment Team gave a presentation about visual impairment and the support available in Calderdale.

Calderdale Council’s Visual Impairment Team

Sue Straw and Shannon Donaghue are rehabilitation officers with Calderdale Council’s Visual Impairment Team, who support local people with a visual impairment.

Sue began their presentation by challenging the meeting attendees to define what is considered a visual impairment. This provoked a lively debate, which included input from several Disability Partnership Calderdale members who themselves have visual impairments.

Sue drew together this input and explained that her team worked on a broad definition that visual impairment or low vision is a severe restriction of vision that cannot be corrected by standard glasses or contact lenses and reduces a person’s ability to function at certain or all everyday tasks. In addition, the impairment must affect both eyes.

Looking beyond the definition, Sue then explained how the decision to classify someone as of visually impaired is made. The first step is to see a consultant opthalmologist at hospital, who will complete a Certificate of Visual Impairment. This certificate is shared with your GP and your local authority.

The individual is then asked if they wish to be registered as visually impaired with their local authority. Calderdale Council holds a register of visually impaired individuals. Registration is an entirely optional choice – some people choose not to be on the register.

However, Sue was keen to point out that to get assistance from Calderdale Council’s Visual Impairment Team is not dependent on certification or registration. They will help anyone with a visual impairment. Their Rehabilitation Officers assess and identify the needs of people with impairments.

They then work with people to promote and maintain their independence and fully utilise any remaining vision. On top of this, they provide support, advice and information with training in communication skills (braille, touch-typing, accessing devices and low vision therapy), daily living skills (cooking, cleaning etc) and mobility (cane use, route planning/familiarisation etc).

Where appropriate the Team will refer an individual to other agencies, such as the Department for Work and Pensions, Access to Work or various educational establishments.

Shannon concluded the presentation by handing round some special glasses (Sim Specs) that enabled sighted people to experience a range of visual impairments for themselves. Shannon also mingled with the attendees answering questions.

If you want to make a referral to Calderdale’s Visual Impairment Team, please use the Gateway to Care contact number 01422 393000.