Blind people in Leeds are being 'shut out of society', new report says

Guide Dogs is calling on volunteers. Picture shows Angie Flake and Guide Dog Nick. 'Picture: Guide Dogs
Guide Dogs is calling on volunteers. Picture shows Angie Flake and Guide Dog Nick. 'Picture: Guide Dogs
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Blind and partially sighted people in Leeds are being “left out of everyday life”, with almost seven out of 10 saying they feel socially isolated, a new report says.

National charity Guide Dogs said people sight loss are being “shut out of society” and has called on the public to help end this isolation by making efforts to understand more about everyday life with the condition.

Across Leeds, 64 per cent of blind and partially sighted people feel socially isolated. More than half, 52 per cent, said they feel they are “left out” of everyday moments that others might take for granted, such as socialising, dating, family life or work. This feeling of isolation is compounded as six in ten blind or VI (vision impaired) people in the region believe that society has “little understanding” of the challenges they face in their daily lives.

What's more, 40 per cent say feel they have been left out of milestone moments such as births or marriages, while nearly a third say they feel left out from socialising with friends, “leaving them feeling on the side lines of life”, the charity said. In the city, 24 per cent said travel was one of their biggest challenges in daily life, while a fifth said they felt left out of work or education.

According to the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) 172,000 people in Yorkshire are living with sight loss.

Guide Dogs is calling on the public to sign up for the My Guide initiative, which matches trained sighted volunteers to people with sight loss who need support getting out and about.

The charity said its survey showed more than half of people in Leeds, 57 per cent, do want to understand more about life with sight loss, but one in five would not be comfortable

offering help.

Head of Volunteer Led Services Jo Milligan, said: “Far too many people with sight loss are feeling shut out of everyday life. With the number of people with a vision impairment set to skyrocket in the coming years, we need to make changes. We need to work together to understand the realities of life with sight loss and help overcome the challenges that lead to people feeling excluded.”

Grandfather’s Guide Dogs charity challenge

A blind grandfather from Yeadon is to take on his latest fundraising challenge to raise money for Guide Dogs.

Kevin Beesting, 67, will be accompanied by his two sons Matthew and Adam during the Over the Hills challenge, which will see him take part in a series of three walks around West Yorkshire in June.

In 2017, Mr Beesting completed the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge, climbing Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough to raise money to thank the charity for providing his Guide Dog Spencer, who has been with him for around four years.

His motivation for the latest challenge is to raise money to help pay for the training of a guide dog so that “someone else can enjoy the same freedom that I have,” he said.

The walks include routes between Yeadon and Ilkley, Ilkey and Skipton and Yeadon to Skipton, and Mr Beesting is looking for both sponsorship and people to join him in taking part.

Mr Beesting added: “Being blind can mean a huge loss of freedom and independence, but having Spencer has helped me to get out and about without relying on other people.”

To get involved, e-mail skbeesting@yahoo.co.uk