2019 Visionary Awards voting now open!

Through the awards we aim to recognise and celebrate the impactful services delivered by local sight loss charities and the positive difference made to the lives of blind and partially sighted people. Highlighting the achievements of local charities helps share good practice across the sector and draws attention to the talent and expertise out there! The awards are open to Visionary members who can nominate their own organisation, or another you feel deserves recognition.

The 2019 Visionary Award polls will close on Tuesday 5th November 2019 at 5 pm so be sure to cast your vote.

Only Visionary members are eligible to vote, with one vote per member organisation.

The lead contact at each Visionary member has been sent an e-mail inviting their organisation to cast their vote. (If you feel that your organisation has not received such an e-mail please contact us at Visionary).

Winners will be announced at the Visionary Annual Conference during the awards dinner on Thursday 14 November. Each winner will receive £500, thanks to sponsorship from Thomas Pocklington Trust, Vision Support, Blind Veterans UK and Russell-Cooke.

Visionary Choice Award

This year we are also introducing the Visionary Choice Award, sponsored by Vision Support.

Selected from the below shortlisted award nominees, the winner of this award will be an initiative, organisation or service that has made a major difference to the lives of people with sight loss, either through quality, reach, creativity or innovation. The winner will be chosen by a judging panel consisting of Visionary staff and trustees.

2019 Visionary Awards – Short-list


As in previous years, Visionary members have nominated their own achievements as well as the activities of others.

Competition was strong and the short-listing panel had to work hard to select the final nominees. Whilst the individual 200-word summaries below are a concise description of the award submissions, be assured that all short-listed nominations clearly demonstrated how they met the individual award criteria and evidenced the positive difference they make to the lives of blind and partially sighted people.

Life Changing Impact (sponsored by Thomas Pocklington Trust)

This could be related to a single intervention or an initiative accessed by any number of people. We want to hear about the people and what life was like for them both before and after the intervention. This can be illustrated through case studies, interviews, images and/or videos.

BASIS Befriending – Blind and Sight Impaired Society (BASIS)

The Befriending project matches volunteers with VI people to deliver a range of support – companionship, assistance on shopping trips, hospital appointments, participation in sporting activities, gardening, letter writing and so much more.

Isolation and loneliness are well-known issues for VI people, with many not knowing where to turn to for companionship or support with essential daily activities. Matching volunteers with VI people now sees many benefiting from weekly contact and a great deal of emotional and practical support with day to day living.

One of the keyways that this project is inspirational in it’s delivery is through its use of VI volunteers. BASIS have matched VI volunteers to provide companionship and peer support to other VI people, both in their homes and out and about in the community. This has led to several VI people taking up activities such as guided running at local park runs which they would never have considered doing before.

The project has no barriers to the challenges it will support VI people to overcome with the help of a volunteer, whether that be to attend social groups, tackling loneliness through companionship, person centred support – all of which can lead to more independent living.

Peer Support Group – My Sight Nottinghamshire

Diagnosis of sight loss has overwhelming consequences for the individual and also for those around them. Fear, panic, isolation and anger can seem overwhelming. Support and early intervention minimise the potential negative impacts on mental health, loss of independence and reduced quality of life.

The facilitated Peer Support Group has been life changing and even life saving for VI people, helping them come together to share their fears for the future and their feelings of loss, which they often feel they cannot share with family and friends. It is a safe environment to explore feelings with a VI counsellor and with others who understand the challenges they face. Participation has a positive impact on mental health and coping strategies, helping people to see beyond their sight loss to a more positive future.

The groups focuses upon people of working age, as younger VI people face different challenges from older people.

All engaged report benefiting from meeting people in a similar situation and developing the confidence, skills and knowledge of managing both the emotional and every-day practical challenges of living with sight loss. Awareness is also raised on where to go for information and support, with links made to other agencies/provision.

The Tech Team – Southend in Sight

Technology moves fast – bringing amazing advantages to help with daily living for VI people, but equally it can be frustrating and scary.

The Tech Team was developed by a VI volunteer. Two sighted volunteers are paired with two VI volunteers and work together to support VI people with their everyday ‘tech’ needs – mobile phone, tablet, signing on to talking books, setting up useful apps, helping with access to online shopping etc.

Often people come in feeling exhausted – their new piece of kit isn’t going as well as they’d hoped. The team work with them, sometimes over a number of weeks, to reassure them and give them confidence and to reduce the fears that new technology can bring.

Referrals come from the Sight Loss Centre and/or ECLO. Working in pairs, the visually impaired volunteers are crucial in delivering this service as they can understand what people are going through first-hand and link with other people who use certain types of technology.

The Tech Team build peoples conference, research new technology to identify “good buys”, provide ongoing support, trouble shooting and helping people develop new skills so that they can use new technology to improve the quality of their lives.


Collaboration (sponsored by Russell-Cooke)

We want to hear what you have achieved by collaboration – what have you done that you might not have been able to do on your own? This could include engagement that has extended or diversified your reach, offered creative services or helped to recruit more volunteers.

Dining for All – Northamptonshire Association for the Blind

The challenges visually impaired people face eating out are well documented – this project shines a light on good practice and encourage others to follow suit. The “Dining for All” award has come about via Collaboration with the ‘Carlsberg UK Northamptonshire Food and Drink Awards’ and establishing the new Dining for All award category. It recognises those eateries who go the extra mile for people with sensory impairments, particularly sight loss.

“Dining for All” also has awareness raising and fundraising aspects:

  1. #DiningInTheDark: fundraising dinner where all 85 guests who wore sight loss simulation specs throughout the event. Supported by Northamptonshire College.
  2. #DineInTheDark: fundraising at home: innovative and fun fundraising packs enable people to hold dinner parties/ drinks/ coffee mornings to raise money for NAB while raising awareness of sight loss.

#DiningForAll benefits family members, friends, carers and loved ones of people with sensory loss as much as the person with sensory loss as all more likely to enjoy the experience of eating out. Moreover, if eateries and other establishments are giving more attention to the needs of people with sensory loss it is likely that they will also give the same consideration to people with other potentially debilitating conditions.

Mobilicious – Royal Society for Blind Children (RSBC) and the Kent Association for the Blind (KAB)

Mobilicious, a Collaboration between RSBC and KAB, benefits both sight impaired children and their families. The focus is on providing parents with knowledge and confidence to support their visually impaired children with mobility training, ultimately ensuring that the young people become safe and independent travellers.

Parents/carers of sight impaired children gain knowledge and confidence through experiential learning, enabling them to support and reinforce their children’s mobility training.

Sight impaired children and their siblings enjoy a safe and accessible residential weekend, taking part in activities and gaining confidence in using their independence skills in a new environment. They benefit from meeting other children in similar situations and learning from their strategies and experiences.

Parents and carers of sight impaired children enjoy a short break from their caring responsibilities in a relaxing environment. They gain informal peer support through meeting other parents and sharing their stories in a safe and supportive setting. They develop and reinforce their links with RSBC and KAB, enabling them to learn about other services and resources provided by both organisations.

Sight impaired young people benefit in terms of freedom, independence, safety and learning as a result of their parents being better equipped to support their mobility training.

South Tyneside Sensory Support –Gateshead and South Tyneside Sight Service

Collaboration was central to Sight Service successfully securing a five-year contract worth over £570k.

Following a difficult period of restructuring/cost reduction and appointment of a new CEO the South Tyneside Sensory Support contract was tendered. With limited time and excellent work happening across the country, collaboration was an obvious answer. Services needed modernising and aligning to local priorities and to evidence impact.

Sight Service successfully collaborated with:

  • Henshaws ‘Pathway to Independence’ model was adopted to provide an evidence-based overview of services, clearly demonstrating the continuous journey available to clients and support available.
  • Sight Service signed up to RNIB ‘Living with Sight Loss Quality Assurance Framework’ to measure the impact of the course, ensuring excellence in delivery.
  • Devon in Sight shared the ‘Sight Loss MOT’ assessment framework. This traffic light approach encapsulates priority actions for individual plans and ensures progress towards goals is measurable.
  • Wilberforce Trust in York Sight Service demonstrated the benefits of an integrated approach to service delivery – the mobile outreach van, low vision services and the branding of ‘Yorsensory Services’.

Combined with Sight Service’s existing collaboration with Action on Hearing Loss, each of these collaborations helped Sight Service improve and secure their services.

Inspirational Service Delivery (sponsored by Blind Veterans UK)

The service or initiative could be newly developed or already established, benefiting a few or a large number of visually impaired people, but we want to hear about inspiring and creative examples that will inspire others.

Tactile VI Art Group – East Cheshire Eye Society

VI art activities focus upon walks with an art theme, involving local artists as tutors. Materials within nature are used as tools to create multi-sensory art works which VI people can freely touch, feel and hear the work which is shaped to reflect the landscape, wildlife and heritage of the local countryside.

Sessions take place throughout the year giving the opportunity for participants to experience the impact of the different seasons along with changes to smells and sounds around them – supported by local artists and volunteer sighted guides.

An exhibition of the art produced will be open to the public with VI people from charities outside our immediate area invited to experience the art produced and to join guided walks that inspired the artwork.

Participants tell of increased confidence, sense of achievement and sheer joy of being able to simply hear the sounds of the countryside. For some it was a completely new experience, but for others it was a way to rediscover skills, with some having not done these things since losing their sight, and that they never thought they would be able to do so again. “A holiday all in one day” is how one person described it.

Knowledge Village – Henshaws

The Knowledge Village online service supports any VI person or their caring network; giving them information that they need, anywhere, at any time, digitally, and free of charge:

  • Increasing independence for people living with sight loss, empowering them to achieve their ambitions.
  • Providing supplementary support following traditional community-based care pathways.
  • Providing continuous professional development and training for professionals supporting the sight loss community.

Content is in videos, eBooks and blogs on themes including Life Hacks, apps/technology, daily living, and accessible products. The service is accessible through a range of commonly used accessible ICT solutions.

Technology and the internet plays a huge role in accessibility and providing opportunities and quality of life for disabled people, and we feel that the Henshaws Knowledge Village is leading the way with helping to change lives.

It is creating real social impact:

  • increasing independence of visually impaired people and allowing them to play a more active role within their own communities.
  • increasing the knowledge and skills of people living with sight loss, giving them increased opportunities to gain employment.
  • Over 50% of Knowledge Village access is by professionals working with sight loss. This provides CPD for professionals and improves their outcome for patients.

Working Age Forum – London Vision

The Working Age Forum (WAF) provides a platform for VI people of working age to network with peers sharing knowledge, experience and advice.

The WAF tackles the issue of low employment rates and career progression within the VI community by providing a safe space for VI people to engage with each other to discuss issues/interests and to learn from and be inspired by peers.

Held every 5/6 weeks the WAF is a 2 hour session – inspiring VI speaker followed by an opportunity for networking. Twice a year “WAF Celebrate” events are held with attendees encouraged to take the floor for 5 minutes, building their confidence in public speaking in a supportive environment.

The WAF assists in bridging the service provision gap for blind and partially sighted people of working age – with sessions taking place outside of general working hours unlike many activities/events for VI people.

The WAF has created a place for VI people of working age to provide each other with peer-to-peer support and to find a range of information on available support and services. Furthermore, it has devised a channel for VI people to develop new skills and experiences via a range of engagement and service opportunities.

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