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And now for something completely different…


Today, a hundred people will begin packing for a journey they'd give anything not to take...

Okay, I confess - I've misled you slightly with the title of this blog: but now I have your attention, please bear with me because unlike most of my usual ramblings, this post is about something that really matters.  For a little while I’ve been volunteering for the RNIB and as we approach Christmas, there’s something important that I’d like you to think about.

There are about two million blind and partially sighted people in the UK.  That’s a difficult number to imagine, so think of a city the size of Birmingham.  And then double it: that’s roughly two million people.  Every day, all over the country, a hundred people of all ages begin packing to move to that city because every day, a hundred people begin to lose their sight – and of them, approximately 50% lose their sight needlessly.  Imagine that on January 1st, 50 people were blinded in accidents; and then the same thing happened on January 2nd.  And again on January 3rd.  What date do you think it would it be before something was done?  That gives you a sense of the scale of what the RNIB deals with.

What did you do last night? Did you catch up with the latest Strictly... or EastEnders? Go to the cinema? Curl up on the sofa with a good book? Flick through a magazine?  Imagine being unable to do any of those things and you can begin to imagine the isolation and exclusion that blind and partially sighted people experience, every day. Not through any fault of their own but simply because they can’t see as well as you or I. That gives you a sense of the scope of what the RNIB deals with.

The RNIB’s talking book service began in 1935 but the first talking books were produced in the 1920s to help ex-servicemen, blinded in the First World War, who wanted to read but found Braille difficult to learn.  Over the years, the technology has changed but the principle has remained the same: to make books available to blind and partially sighted people. So that, just as fully sighted people can, they can have the simple pleasure of getting lost in a good book; of learning from a text book.

All books recorded by professionals – actors and broadcasters who volunteer their time - in the RNIB’S own studios and are played on a special player.  The whole process is supported by volunteers and subsidised by the RNIB and, as you can imagine, it provides a lifeline for people who have lost or are losing their sight.  It’s just one of the ways that the RNIB seeks to bridge the gap between those of us who are lucky enough to be fully sighted and those of us who aren’t.

Right now, today, a hundred people of all ages are packing for their journey to that city.  The RNIB provides vital help and support for those on their way and those already there.  They can’t do that without your help.  They’re a charity and get no money from government so, of course, I would love it if you could donate some money this Christmas, so they can continue with their work.  It would be fantastic if you could volunteer some of your time - there’s a great need for volunteers of all types.  But there are so many other demands on our time and our money these days, so if you can’t contribute and you can’t volunteer you can still help, simply by spreading the word – if you know of groups who’d be interested in a talk from the RNIB or if you know anyone who might need their help and support, please pass on details of the RNIB helpline: 0303 123 9999.

Thanks for reading.


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