Calderdale Council’s Services For People With Visual Impairments

Sue Straw and Shannon Donaghue, Rehabilitation Officers for People with a Visual Impairment visited our January 2020 Open Meeting to share information on the services that are available to people with sight impairments through Calderdale Council Services and the Glenholme Resource Centre.

Below is a video of their excellent presentation. Below that is an edited transcript of the presentation.

What is A Visual Impairment?

Sue began by defining the term Visual Impairment. We turn to the World Health Organisation’s definition, which states “Visual impairment or low vision is a severe reduction in vision that cannot be corrected with standard glasses or contact lenses and reduces a person’s ability to function at certain or all tasks.” She added that both eyes have to be affected. So, if a person has one eye that functions normally, they cannot be defined as visually impaired or be registered as visually impaired.

Visual Impairment “Registration”

There are two levels of “registration” for people with visual impairments in the UK – 1/ sight impaired and 2/ severely sight impaired.

Who decides?

A consultant ophthalmologist is required to make the final decision and to sign the official document that is a certificate of visual impairment. They alone can decide at what level someone is registered (i.e sight impaired or severely sight impaired). At this point, an individual can decide whether they want to be registered or not. Sue pointed out that some people would prefer not to be registered for a number of reasons, including a desire to keep driving. Which, if their vision is at a level where they could be registered, is not advisable.

The list of locally registered people is held by Calderdale Social Services, who contact Sue and the team when someone is newly registered. Sue and the team then contact newly registered individuals and offer to visit them to do an assessment of need.

The Rehab Officer’s job is to assess and identify the needs of people with a visual impairment. Individuals don’t need to be “registered” for this assessment to done. Our aim is to promote independence and enable people to fully utilise what vision they have, plus support, advice and information and to refer people to other agencies wo can help them: Examples include the Department for Work and Pensions, Access to Work and Education opportunities.

They also provide rehabilitation training, plus communication and daily living skills training.

Support and Skills Training At Home

The Council’s Visual Impairment Support Team look at three main areas with people, when they visit them in their homes:

1/ Communications Skills

2/ Day Living Skills

3/ Movement and Orientation skills

Communications Skills – Braille is taught at their Glenholme centre and in people’s homes. They also bring in experts to help people with IT skills. But support is offered with a range of communication skills and options. Everyone is given individual help and advice to find out what works best for them.

Day Living Skills – Help with key skills like making meals, with some specialist equipment including stick on tabs to put on cooker dials, plus liquid level indicators that tell you when a cup is full. Also skills like ironing, cleaning, personal care (including putting on makeup!). Again, very varied and tailored to the individual. There are numerous gadgets available, some very costly, but the team can help with advice and trying before buying.

Movement and Orientation Skills – Helping people with getting around, learning about textured pavement surfaces. Training people to use a range of canes – from a simple canes that are primarily to indicate that someone has a visual impairment, to longer canes that have a more practical purpose, including guide canes to help map out the terrain in front of the owner and indicator canes that are swept from side to side. Intensive training is given in cane use, in particular on routes the person uses regularly. Training can last years, especially if a person’s needs are changing. Sue and Shannon recommend the use of footwear that gives a sense of the surface underfoot, rather than thick “fashion” soles. Pedestrian crossing training is also included, including the special thimble indicators on traffic light controlled crossings, which can be accessed by hand and indicate when a crossing is open by spinning.

Sighted Guide Skills – the team teach people who are acting as guides for friends or family members, simple skills on best practice on guiding someone with a sight impairment. Techniques that are safe are taught.

How to Make a Referral?

Start with Calderdale’s “Gateway to Care” service. Call them on 01422 393000, making it clear that it’s a visual impairment enquiry. Alternatively, visit the team at the Glenholme Resource Centre on the monthly drop-in day.

Gateway to Care Contact details:

Tel:     01422 393000

Text:   07776454642

NGT:  18001 01422 392318


Web: Gateway to care

Glenholme Resource Centre

The support teams for hearing and sight loss are based at the Glenholme Resource (94-96 Green Lane West Vale Halifax HX4 8DB). Sue’s team have a drop-in session on the first Tuesday of every month, 10am – 4pm, where anyone experiencing problems with their vision can call in and get advice plus look at equipment that might help them.