I noticed the story 'Blind man from Overton asks council to clear footpaths' (Basingstoke Gazette, July 14) about Steven Temple and the overgrown footpaths and dangerous signage near his home.

As a leading sight loss charity, there is another issue facing blind and partially sighted people we’d also like to draw your attention too, around accessible health information.

Seventy-five years ago, the National Health Service was founded, and while I have been using the NHS for around six decades, I have learnt that rarely is my sight impairment accounted for in the way that I am communicated with. What’s the point of sending me a letter I can’t read?

It’s nearly 30 years since the Disability Discrimination Act made it illegal to discriminate against someone because they are disabled. It’s been thirteen years since the Equality Act compelled public organisations to treat everyone equally. And it’s been seven years since the Accessible Information Standard set out what publicly-funded health and social care providers must do to ensure people who are blind or partially sighted, can read medication labels, appointment letters, care information and give informed consent to surgical procedures.

Despite all of this, a stage three cancer diagnosis, did not cause the wheels of the NHS to ensure I could access my information. Indeed, the system set its face against me, and I had to insist on getting information in a format I could read in order to keep myself safe. Often, my requests were ignored.  Imagine the challenge of that in the middle of cancer treatment.

RNIB knows, from talking to blind and partially sighted people over decades, that not being able to access health information is a huge issue for people with sight loss. I for one, have reached my breaking point.

The updated Accessible Information Standard is being published this autumn. The Standard sets out the rules that apply to all health and social care providers to ensure people like me, can access health information in a range of preferred formats; from large print, to braille or even audio.

After nearly 30 years of various legislation designed to ensure we can access health services and enjoy our best lives, it’s now incumbent upon the NHS to meet its legal responsibilities. It has to do better if blind and partially sighted people are to access health services, and be safe, as is our right.

RNIB will continue to work in partnership with our health service colleagues, but we have to call out what isn’t working.

Despite being beyond frustrated by this, blind and partially sighted people can play a role too. Although the problem shouldn’t sit with us to fix, there are steps you can take to demand better care; communicate your preferred format to your health care team, be aware of your rights and don’t be afraid to make a complaint or raise a concern with your provider. There is a full guide to the process of how to request information in a format you can read at www.rnib.org.uk

Now is the time to have your voice heard. If you live with sight loss and are willing to share your experiences (good or bad) with accessible health information, please do so by visiting www.rnib.org.uk.

Together, we can make this right.

Anna Tylor,

Chair of Trustees

Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB)

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