Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Victory in fight to defend services to the blind

The Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph reported tonight that the fight to protect the talking book service to the blind has been successful. Earlier in the year the Tory County Council proposed cutting the grant to the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) that funds the current service. This sparked an immediate campaign, spearhearded by blind users of the service and supported by groups such as the Northampton Socialist Forum and others.

In July, a motion to the full Wellingborough Council meeting in support of the campaign was narrowly defeated. Most Tory councillors (with some honourable exceptions) and the Tory Mayor helped defeat the resolution. At this meeting the following statement by a blind user of the service was read out:

Mr. Mayor, ladies and gentlemen of the Borough Council, I thank you for the opportunity to put forward my views of the County Council's proposed withdrawal of support from the Royal National Institution for the Blind.

I have suffered from Age-Related Macula Degeneration for twelve years. Loss of so much sight means that I can no longer read, draw, paint or drive a car as I had done as part of ordinary life. From being independent, I have been made to depend on the kindness of husband and friends to take part in social activities. But no-one can help in the long hours when I am on my own with my own thoughts. The shock of being blind led to feelings of uselessness and I needed treatment for depression.

So, think of the great benefit to me when the RNIB's Talking Books came to occupy my quiet hours and fill my mind with exciting stories and characters to chase away the gloom.The RNIB provided me with a tape-recorder. When I was fumble-fisted and could not operate it, or when I stopped the machine from working completely, the RNIB's Chris. Boucher was on hand to show me how to use it and to lend me another machine while he repaired mine.Later, when the RNIB changed to disc players, Chris. got me over the trouble spots so that I have been confident in using the machine for some years now.

If the County Council changes us over to Calibre, there is going to be no-one to help the newly blind with their problems or to maintain and repair the machines as the RNIB does. Blind people need this expert support.RNIB's move to disc players made things much easier. They have a choice of over 13,000 titles compared with Calibres 3000 discs.Normally, I have three books with me. My husband helps me to make out a list from the RNIB catalogue. Within a few days after I return a book, another is delivered to me.

Mr. Mayor, ladies and gentlemen of Wellingborough Borough Council, I trust you can understand why the RNIB's service is valuable to me. It would be a sad and unhappy matter to be deprived of such an efficient service. I earnestly ask you to vote for this motion.

Margaret Bellamy
July 2007

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