'I feel isolated and alone' - how the cost of living is impacting blind and partially sighted people

  • Video report by ITV Cymru Wales reporter, Hamish Auskerry.

Blind and partially sighted people in Wales are being hit harder by the cost of living crisis compared to the general population.

That's according to a report by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) which has found that 1 in 5 blind or partially sighted people have to spend over £200 extra every month on unavoidable extra costs associated with their disability.

Anum has macular degeneration, meaning she is losing her sight over time. She was a pharmacist for twelve years until her eyesight deteriorated so much that she had to give up her career in 2019.

She said the rising cost of taxi fares and difficulty using public transport has left her feeling "isolated".

"Transportation is a big issue for me." She said.

Anum said she is spending more money on her weekly shop because she doesn't "know if there's a deal on or if there's something cheaper."

"I find it quite difficult to use on my own independently, I'm relying on taxis and nowadays taxi fares are getting more and more expensive, which means I can't really go out and about.

"Because of the cost and thinking about money, I tend to not use taxis as much anymore so I feel like I'm at home more, I'm isolated more, I'm in the house I'm not meeting my friends a lot more.

"With the cost of living situation we're in now with everything becoming more expensive, budgeting is becoming more important, I can't just decide I want to go out whenever, it's not something I can do anymore.

"I feel isolated, I feel alone."

Anum explained that as a result of these rising costs, she spends more time at home,

"I'm definitely feeling more housebound in the sense that I can't really go places, I can't go to activities or events that I want to."

Anum said she also is spending more money on her weekly shop because she "can't read the labels or any signage or anything so I don't know if there's a deal on or if there's something cheaper."

"I feel very anxious and nervous going to the shops. You can ask for assistance but that depends on the person - whether or not they're willing to help you and a lot of the time I've found that when I go to the shops it takes me a while even looking for things.

"I've found that even people who do help, they don't really tell you about any deals or offers or if something's reduced whereas if you had sight you'd be able to explore that yourself.

"I feel a lot of the time that my independence has been taken away from me and having to depend on people is not the nicest of feelings."

Steve has been registered blind for around ten years.

Steve, of Llantrisant, has been registered blind for around ten years. He said he also often has to pay more on taxis as he sometimes struggles relying on public transport.

"I'm always wary when I go anywhere on public transport." He said.

"Sometimes buses don't turn up or trains get cancelled and I know you can wait for the next one, but I get worried and nervous if I'm out and about longer than I planned.

"I like to plan my days so I know what's happening and if I need to get a taxi, that takes a chunk out of my money that means I can't do something else."

He also has difficulty accessing deals in shops: "Before I lost my sight I was one of those people who would always go to the reduced fridge and get whatever's on offer, but now I don't know where they are or what the special offers are."

Liz Williams said RNIB Cymru is "genuinely very concerned" that blind and partially sighted people are facing barriers to accessing work.

He added: "There are times where you think 'I won't go out of the house today, it's easier'. But you've got to force yourself to get up and go out everyday."

RNIB's report also found that one in four blind or partially sighted adults of working age are in employment in Wales.

Liz Williams, Policy and Public Affairs Manager at RNIB Cymru: "We're genuinely very concerned to see that blind and partially sighted people are facing significant barriers to accessing work.

"Some of the main reasons they're facing barriers to employment is that employers just don't understand the reasonable adjustments that need to be put in place.

"They don't always see that blind and partially sighted people can reach their potential and they can do a job well, they just might need some extra technology or reasonable adjustments."

Ms Williams continued: "Blind and partially sighted people are much more likely to live in lower income households and they face significant additional spends, things they can't avoid spending on like taxis, equipment, technology.

"We spoke to 110 blind and partially sighted people. One quarter of them told us that they spend over £100 per month on these additional, unavoidable costs and one fifth told us that they spend over £200 on these additional, unavoidable costs.

"That's a huge chunk of someone's monthly income."

"We know that blind and partially sighted people are making less journeys and we know that being able to access their communities - whether that's via a train, a bus or a taxi, it's a real lifeline for blind and partially sighted people, they can stay connected with friends, family and access those services and these things are so important for our sense of belonging."

She added that this is also having an impact on people accessing healthcare: "Shockingly, fifteen percent of the people we spoke to missed a healthcare appointment because they couldn't afford to get to the GP surgery, they couldn't afford to get to the hospital and that's really serious."

RNIB Cymru are calling on the Welsh Government to "incentivise public services to make these reasonable adjustments so that they make the work place accessible and that there's a culture there where employers want to learn and want to make things better."

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Our Disability Rights Taskforce are working with disabled people and organisations, including the RNIB, to make recommendations to improve the lives of disabled people in Wales. Improving employment and income, access to services and travel are priorities for the group.

“Our Disabled People’s Employment Champions engage with employers, trade unions and others to promote recruitment, retention and progression of disabled people in work. They bring lived experience to their role and raise awareness of the Social Model of Disability.”

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