Independent Advocacy and Sensory Impairment
Independent Advocacy is a way to help you to make your voice stronger and to have as much control as possible over your own life. Advocacy Workers do not make decisions on your behalf and they will not put words in your mouth. Independent Advocacy will help you get the information you need to make good choices, and give you the help you need to express yourself clearly.
For people with a sensory impairment, Independent Advocacy can prove very useful if they face communication issues, like needing to speak to a decision-maker on the telephone, or physically making their voice heard in a meeting. Ceartas Advocacy can help in may situations, with housing, social work, health services, education, council or benefits meetings.
Sensory Impairment means the loss of a person’s sight or hearing to such an extent that it has an impact on their everyday activities. This covers a wide range of things, from someone with a mild hearing impairment who might need a doorbell that makes the house lights flash, through to someone who is both profoundly deaf and blind and needs a full care package with communication support. Within that range, no two people will have exactly the same level of impairment, or the same experience of living with it.
Hearing and vision are sometimes called the ‘distance senses’: taste, smell and touch enable us to experience things that are close to our bodies, but we rely on vision and hearing to fully understand our environment and what is going on around us. We also usually rely on hearing and vision to use language: most of us take reading and writing for granted, but if we could not see the page in front of us, how would we cope? Without our hearing, how could we hold a conversation? You can use sign language and fingerspelling if you know them, but not if you are driving a car, carrying a child, or even drinking a cup of tea. Many of the barriers faced by people with a sensory impairment are hidden, because most of us take our senses for granted.
There are estimated to be between 800,000 and 1 million people in Scotland with some level of hearing impairment – between 13% and 17% of the general population – with about 10 – 11,000 people who could be described as profoundly deaf. There are about 22,500 people in Scotland registered as blind, and a further 14,500 registered as partially sighted. The RNIB estimates that the real number of people with a visual impairment in Scotland could be closer to 200,000 – about 3% of the general population.
Other Support for Sensory Impairment
There is a wide range of support available for people with a sensory impairment, from information and peer support through to aids and adaptations, care and communication support.
RNIB Scotland is the leading charity working with blind and partially sighted people in Scotland. They run a general helpline on 0303 123 9999, and a specialist benefits helpline on 0845 602 4033. They also host a useful directory of services, information and resources for blind and partially sighted people called Sightline.
The East Dunbartonshire Visually Impaired People’s Forum (EDVIP) is a local group which meets every fortnight in Kirkintilloch. The forum has a wealth of knowledge about local services and resources, and they regularly have speakers to keep them up-to-date with developments.
Action on Hearing Loss (formerly the RNID) is a national charity supporting people with hearing loss and deafness, as well as campaigning to raise awareness of hearing impairments and how to safeguard your hearing. Action on Hearing Loss runs a free telephone helpline on 0808 808 0123, or by Textphone on 0808 808 9000. Action on Hearing Loss provide information for people with hearing loss, their families and carers, and professionals who work with them. They also sell a range of assistive technologies.
Deafblind Scotland offer support to people with multiple sensory impairments in East Dunbartonshire.
East Dunbartonshire Council operates a Sensory Impairment Team to provide assessment and support to people with a sensory impairment. You can contact the Sensory Impairment Team on 0141 355 2200.