Talking newspapers for blind and visually impaired people in Oxford & district
Oxtalk 'Sound Orb'

Visual Impairment Team – Oxfordshire

November 15, 2011

On 27th October 2011 Meg Jones of Oxfordshire County Council’s Sensory Impairment Team gave an enjoyable and extremely informative presentation at the OXTALK AGM. Please click here to download a Word document summary of Meg’s presentation. The text of the summary document is also included below:


Meg explained that the Visual Impairment Team is part of the Sensory Impairment Team which covers hearing impairment and dual sensory impairment. They work under the National Assistance Act 1948, NHS and Community Care Act 1990, Children’s Act 1989 and 2005, Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 and Disability Discrimination Act 1995. They deal with rehabilitation – they don’t provide care.

Referrals come in from anywhere, either by letter, form or telephone. The client must be aware of the referral before it can be taken and with each referral they try to make telephone contact to establish the client’s difficulties so that they can prioritise need and place them on their waiting list. They work in conjunction with OAB (the Oxfordshire Association for the Blind) and will do Home Safety Checks on clients, which is a quick safety visit whilst they are on the waiting list. The team is very small and operates county-wide for clients “from cradle to grave”.There are six Rehabilitation Officers, with one support worker. Once a client is allocated to an individual worker, that worker will arrange an appointment in the home and carry out a thorough and detailed assessment under the categories listed and will work with the client until all presenting difficulties have been attended to. They will also issue appropriate equipment under Fair Access to Care Services Policy and Eligibility for Adult Care Services.

They provide support, rehabilitation and enablement: they are not care providers; they promote independence. The list of assessment includes:

Living:  cooking, food preparation, pouring, cooker controls, telling the time, using the telephone, contrast, finding things in cupboards.

Reading: Braille, large print, Moon (the team do not teach this but can assist and signpost). There are some electronic reading devices and sometimes funding is available: it may be possible for clients to borrow equipment from OAB. In Oxford City clients can have volunteers come out to help with such things as reading. Then there are talking books and newspapers, with free ones supplied by Calibre, the library and other suppliers. Kindles are becoming useful.

Mobility: Meg stressed that no-one has to have a white stick: the team talk through various options with clients. The team assess how fit clients are to do whatever they want to do: manage kerbs/pavements; cope with traffic, travel on buses and trains, negotiate speed and distance of vehicles, avoid street furniture such as lampposts, etc.

The Hearing Impairment side of the team are trained social workers and use British Sign Language. They have a new member of the team who works with people with dual sensory loss.

Other help:  The team can help people fill in forms, apply for benefits, make appeals, etc. A Disability Living Allowance is available for those under 65 who have profound visual impairment; for those over 65 the relevant benefit is the Attendance Allowance – one rate for those who need support during the day and a higher rate for those needing a lot of support at night (for example with special equipment, for turning, etc). Anyone registered as visually impaired qualifies for disability parking.

The team cannot influence housing applications but can write supporting letters; each Council has its own system.

Anyone can be referred to the Visual Impairment Team who has a visual impairment that glasses will not fix: most referrals come from the Eye Hospital, though GPs and some other professionals also refer patients. The duty desk is manned every morning. The current waiting list is six weeks for non-urgent matters, but visits are made within a week to people with sudden loss of sight.


Following her very full presentation, Meg invited questions from the audience. These included one about the integration of visually impaired children in schools, where considerable help is available.

Another asked if the team could act as a pressure group to help people with difficulties in using key pads in supermarkets: the answer is that they cannot act as a pressure group but they can educate. (In this situation, for instance, banks can set up a “chip and sign” system.) A lot of education work had been carried out in Oxford to ensure that shops etc. did not discriminate against or be difficult with people with a disability, but in case of problems visually impaired people were encouraged to go to Customer Services and ask for a member of staff to escort them around the store and help them at the checkout, etc.

Meg was able to report that injections of a new drug, Lucentis, although not curing macular degeneration, could slow it down. Lots of research was going on in the area of retinitis pigmentosa and diabetic retinopathy.

Contact details

The telephone number for the Visual Impairment Team is 0845 050 7666: the Hearing Impairment Team is on the same number. Website address is: access@oxfordshire.gov.uk/accessteam


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