A group of Calderdale residents with sight loss are becoming Calderdale’s own answer to the ‘Magnificent Seven’, as they complete their support from a ground-breaking technology service provided by Halifax Society for the Blind. The scheme was launched in the depths of the Covid19 Pandemic to help who those had severe sight loss and lived locally to use the Internet to re-connect using specially adapted tablets and mobile phones.
The group, which has an average age of 67, are all impacted by significant or severe sight loss, but with the Charity’s support – as well as their own practice and hard work, are now able to fully connect with relatives or friends, do their own shopping on websites, or use services like the BBC IPlayer.
Faye Herbert, who leads on the project, said:-
“Those who have come such a long way are very proud of themselves, having started from very little knowledge, they can now fly, and are connecting in all sorts of ways. It’s a moving and delightful thing to see people connecting once again.”
Pete Hoey, Chief Officer at the Charity said:-
“These Magnificent Seven are the first of many people we hope to help in this way. We are very proud of them, but also proud of ourselves for having set up such a bold scheme when people needed it. We can help even more people if we have more volunteers, so if anybody wants a really rewarding volunteering experience from your own home, please contact us.”.
Councillor Colin Hutchinson, a trustee of the charity, and former eye consultant said:-
“We’ve been thrilled to participate in such a bold and successful project. Its things like this which show the ingenuity of local charities. As a developing local charity we ae always on the look-out for trustees with skills to help us go further, and people should contact us.”
The seven graduates, Jackie, Karen, Margaret, Marion, Paddy, Pat and Raheem are to be presented with certificates at a special ceremony over Zoom on Monday 26th April, at 1100, in which Councillor Dot Foster, Calderdale’s Mayor, will formally congratulate these pioneers of technology amidst adversity.
Councillor Dot Foster, Mayor of Calderdale, said:-
“Everybody here has done so well. The Pandemic has been a frightening time for many, and it will have taken courage and hard work to develop these new skills. Congratulations all round.”
The charity provided every participant with a specially adapted tablet or mobile phone, which was loaned out, and trained volunteers would log in remotely to coach participants, and help them learn what to do. Then, once they’ve learnt enough to use the device confidently, they graduate, and can buy their tablet with subsidised discount from the charity, so they can afford to continue with their new found digital freedom.
The AVIATORS Project, as it is officially known, stands for Advancing Visually Impaired Adoption of Technology Out-Reach Service. Using mostly its own funds, but with support from the Big Lottery (Awards for All Fund), it launched the scheme, which is the first of its kind in the UK.