It is Monday 19th February and today I visited Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind!
A little introduction
The SRSB was originally formed in 1860, and has supported, and continues to support individuals across Sheffield suffering from a visual impairment. Hosting an array of different activities and services daily, SRSB provides access to these to around 300 people each week. Not only does it have a beautiful building in Sheffield City Centre, but SRSB also provides a residential home care service for up to 30 people.
I arrived at SRSB shortly after 14:30pm after what seemed to have been a members club leaving the building. I was greeted by a lovely gentleman named David who worked at the SRSB and was willing to give me a tour of the building and facilities they have.
The centre provides a support service to those with a visual impairment, what made this more interesting is finding out that some of the volunteers at the SRSB had a visual impairment themselves so it was lovely to hear that there is mutual support happening too. The age range varies from children to elderly people, however, the average age of people that attend the centre is 88.
Within my first steps into the SRSB, I noticed a map of the building which was there for everyone, although it wasn’t an ordinary map. It was a TacMap. This has been specifically designed for those with a visual impairment and it allows them to navigate themselves through the building. Each word was raised along with a corresponding raised symbol, of course, there is braille on there too. The members of the SRSB are all taught how the map works in relation to the building which I thought was great.
David kindly showed me around the building and the main areas that are used by the members. We went into what is called the ‘Home Demonstration’ room, this is a kitchen fitted with accessible equipment which aids those with a visual impairment understand where things are in a kitchen and how the essentially work. Unfortunately, the photo I took doesn’t show the kitchen fully as there are many small fascinating additions which help a visually impaired person to understand a kitchen; many of the additions are ‘bumpers’ on the oven/hob dial that indicates numbers, a talking microwave which I thought was amazing…. who wouldn’t! There was also a lowered sink area for those who are in a wheelchair.
There is one thing that I did learn whilst at the Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind and that I will definitely remember for the future, is that there has to be a contrast in colours so for someone who is blind, they can identify objects through colours. Even though they won’t see a clear image of a colour or object, over time and with help this becomes of second nature. For example, the chairs you see in the image have a beechwood structure and the seat is vibrant blue, this chair sits on a bright red floor and rests against a white wall, from this information the person is able to figure out where the chair would be.
The last thing that I was absolutely fascinated by was the handrails. Now that might sound a bit silly but actually, they were great. They weren’t fancy, patterned or made from a very expensive material, but they helped in many ways other than just to hold on to.
The handrails in SRSB are fitted with fire exit indicators. In case of emergency and the fire-exits need to be used then this little contraption tells you whether you are heading the right way or not just by simply running a finger over it. if it goes over smoothly that means the user is going the correct way, but if your finger gets stuck and won’t go any further that means that the user is heading away from the fire exits. Not only do they assist in fire exits but navigation around the building. towards the end of a corridor, there are bumps on the handrails which indicate that there is a choice of turning left or right.
My visit to the Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind has helped me to get a better understanding of visual impairment itself but also how people live day-to-day and knowing that there is a fantastic facility for those that need the help.
I hope you have enjoyed reading my post!