As I’ve mentioned before, the original reason for buying the disused and abandoned Barony St. John church and halls in Ardrossan, Scotland was to have a base for my charity – The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety.
Since opening up the hall room in the hall building last month, we have seen a flurry of activity, what with our own personal safety courses, first aid training for the local community, victims of violence contacting us direct for one-to-one training sessions and renting the hall out to other dance and exercise instructors for public classes.
Yesterday, we held our Instructor training day in the hall and this involved not only refresher first aid and physical skills training but I also invited a charity, Scottish War Blinded, along to teach us all how to interact with blind / visually impaired people and to be better understand the sight loss they are experiencing. This will help us as we develop our Personal Safety for the Blind and Visually Impaired course.
The training was presented by two Scottish War Blinded staff, Sharon McAllister and Sandra Graham, who brought with them a variety of glasses designed to demonstrate how different levels of blindness affect a person (macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, retinitis pigmentosa, etc.) as well as different types of canes.
The canes are used by the blind and visually impaired to not only stay mobile but to also inform other members of the public of their condition. The first cane is called a “symbol cane” and is a short holding stick only about two feet long and is held out by a blind person to show the public that he/she is blind and may bump into you.
The second cane is called a “guide cane” and is a longer cane which reaches almost to ground level and is used to find obstacles.
The third type of cane is a “long cane” and reaches to the ground where it can either be tapped or rolled, via a ball attachment on the tip, to enable the blind person to walk around towns avoiding obstacles such as people, kerbs, lampposts, etc.
All the canes are white to signify that the person holding it is blind or visually impaired however if you happen to come across someone with a red and white banded cane, this signifies that the user is someone with a hearing impairment as well as sight loss.
Sharon and Sandra then took myself and other blindfolded ScotCPS instructors out on a guided walk around Ardrossan town, much to the amusement of passers-by, including crossing the busy seafront road.
Although scary and daunting, this training gave all of our instructor team a greater understanding of what it must be like to be visually impaired and the huge number of obstacles blind people face just to remain mobile.