Volunteers’ Week: Volunteering with a Visual Impairment

It’s Volunteers’ Week and we are celebrating the contribution our volunteers make to KVIN. Today we hear from some of our volunteers with Visual Impairments who help us provide our drop-in services.

KVIN is a user-led organisation, which means our volunteers guide the work we do, help plan it and then deliver it. They know what people with Visual impairments need and that means we can tailor our services. Our team of volunteers, the majority of which have Visual Impairments, deliver our drop-in service where we offer support and training in the use of various technologies and gadgets that can benefit the lives of people with Visual impairments.

My name is Sam, I am a single parent and guide dog owner. I was registered blind in 2011 due to the degenerative condition Retinitis Pigmentosa. I became involved with KVIN in 2017 after attending a session and being pleasantly surprised by the welcome I received and the progressive ethos of the organisation. I started off volunteering as the organisations Social Media Admin before moving into a Peer Support role six months later. In the Peer Support role, I can use my own experiences of adapting to life with vision loss to advise and support others. From attending KVIN drop-ins I have learnt more about apps that that benefit the daily lives of people with visual impairments, for example an app that can read out bus times or one that can read out your mail. In my role as Peer Supporter I can pass on information like this to service users. I am looking for work so volunteering will of course benefit my CV, whilst being flexible to fit around my family commitments. I have also had the chance to develop my skills by doing some training into website building. An additional benefit of volunteering for KVIN is that it’s become more than a work-related activity. It has enhanced my personal life too. I have made some amazing friends amongst my fellow volunteers and service users, living with sight loss isn’t always easy but we can support each other.

My name is David, I am from Huddersfield. I am registered Blind and I have a Guide Dog called Reg. I am the Chair of Trustees at KVIN and have been involved since the inception of the organisation in 2008. I am also a volunteer at the Drop-in sessions we run in Huddersfield, much of my enjoyment and satisfaction comes with seeing the rewarding responses when people start to use the equipment with our tuition and support. We have always worked from the premise of try things out before you go out and purchase them for yourself and look for cost effective solutions that are affordable. I get great pleasure from seeing how developments in both equipment and applications can benefit our community, whether it is accessing information that sighted people take for granted, finding out what points of interests are around me or simply accessing from millions of books that are now available to me. It is really amazing what we are now able to do despite our lack of vision. Sharing this with people like myself who are also losing their eyesight gives me great joy! Sharing the knowledge that I have gained over the years as a volunteer and seeing how other people can benefit from it provides me with the motivation to continue and a purpose behind what I do. I would encourage anyone who is interested to become a volunteer to consider joining us. You might feel that you do not have the knowledge to share but as volunteers, we all help one another and if one person does not know the answer or how to do something, then someone else as a volunteer does.

My name is Martin, I am registered blind and live in Liversedge. I first started coming to KVIN as a service user eight years ago when my sight was getting worse. I was struggling to use magnification on my computer and using my mobile. Going anywhere new is always a bit daunting when you have poor sight, but I found the KVIN office and haven’t looked back. The first thing that struck me was how friendly the people were, and they understood my problems. I met one of the volunteers who was totally blind, he was a real inspiration with his knowledge, he showed me how to use Jaws, which is a screen reader and converts text to speech on a computer. I had seen people using iPhones, while I was there and thought how good it looked, so I asked if might have a go, and within an hour was in the phone shop getting one! I will be always grateful to those volunteers who helped me and that’s why I’m now a volunteer for KVIN. I volunteer at the Dewsbury Drop-in to show people the different things available, just like what happened for me. To see someone grow in confidence is a great feeling and making a difference to others is what life is all about! I would recommend volunteering to anyone, we all have something to give to make a difference.

If you have a visual impairment and would like to find out more about volunteering with KVIN take a look at our volunteer page where there are a variety of roles or contact Claire claire@kvin.org.uk 07708054245

]2 A volunteer showing a visitor to the drop in a portable speaker that can play the radio, music and audio books.