New Sighted Guide Service Launched

3rd December 2021
Sighted guides service launched

A new Sighted Guide Service has been launched at the Royal Victoria Hospital as part of Belfast Trust’s continued commitment to deliver accessible services to disabled people.

The Planning and Equality Team is delighted to launch the service on International Day for Persons with Disabilities to demonstrate our commitment to meeting our equality obligations, whilst also striving for best practice, ultimately to enhance our service user, patient and visitor experiences.

The Sensory Support Team at Belfast Trust has trained more than 30 staff and ‘Meet and Greet’ volunteers as Sighted Guides, to assist a person who is blind or has a severe sight impairment to access their appointment.

The Sighted Guide Service is one of the outcomes of a pilot project the Trust has been involved in called ‘Every Customer Counts.’ This is an initiative of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, aimed at increasing access to services for people with a disability.

Mark Roberts is a service user who took part in a ‘mystery shop’ exercise as part of ‘Every Customer Counts,’ to uncover any barriers to access.

Mark said: “I am a severely sight impaired service user. I took part in the ‘Every Customer Counts’ pilot project, undertaking a ‘mystery shop’ visit to uncover barriers to accessing a clinic in the Royal Victoria Hospital. My observations were included in an action plan for making the patient journey more accessible for people with a disability.

“To my delight, a few months further on I learned that as a result of my suggestion, there is now a fully trained team of Sighted Guides in place at the Royal to meet any patient who is blind or has a sight impairment to walk them to their appointment in a dignified and caring manner.

“It is wonderful to know that my voice counted and it warms my heart to know that as a result of my input, an appointment at the Royal Hospital will be more accessible for users or visitors who are blind or have a sight impairment.”

Kevin Oakes, Equality Officer, Equality Commission for Northern Ireland said: “‘Every Customer Counts’ initiative helps businesses and service providers improve accessibility for disabled people. We are delighted that the Belfast Trust are using the initiative wholeheartedly, and importantly that they sought the input of Mark Roberts to help develop this new service.

“This is a fantastic example of the initiative working in practice, it will benefit many patients who are blind or visually impaired when accessing medical appointments at the Royal Victoria Hospital. We hope this innovative approach will inspire other organisations across the public sector to think about how they can improve their services for their disabled patients and clients.”

To book a Sighted Guide, telephone 0738 594 1991 or email info@shopmobilitybelfast.co.uk