Thank You for ‘Seeing Us’ in Parliament

Date posted: 20th March 2024

On Wednesday 20 March 2024, Thomas Pocklington Trust (TPT) and Sight Loss Council (SLC) volunteers hosted a special event at Westminster to highlight current issues facing blind and partially sighted (BPS) people called ‘Can You See Us?’.

‘We gave Members of Parliament (MPs) the chance to wear specially designed spectacles that simulate the most common sight loss conditions’, said Cathy Low, Director of Partnerships, TPT. ‘We were able to show them through lived experience why it is important to bring about change for accessible ‘Voting’, ‘Health’, ‘Built Environment’, ‘Transport’, ‘Education’ and ‘Employment’.’

Accessible Voting

MPs were asked to cast a vote in secret and access a ballot paper, wearing simulated spectacles or a blindfold. Some used accessible devices which can help cast a vote confidently, such as a tactile voting device and a McGonagle Reader.

Casting your vote is one of the most empowering things anyone can do. Millions of people vote every year, having their say on government, local issues and the future of their area. Despite the huge participation, many blind and partially sighted people feel they aren’t able to vote independently and in secret.

‘Our event highlighted to MPs that inadequate provision still prevents thousands of blind and partially sighted people from making their ballot truly secret, and demand action to protect their democratic rights.’, said Andy Law, a blind voter.

Accessible Health

MPs were asked to read important documents about their healthcare, such as appointment letters, reports confirming their diagnosis or updates to their condition and letters whereby consent needs to be provided by wearing simulated spectacles and displaying a variety of eye conditions.

Blind and partially sighted people routinely fail to receive their health information in accessible formats, even though they are entitled to it by law and according to NHS England’s own Accessible Information Standard (AIS) introduced in 2016.

TPT’s research in 2021 showed that 90% of BPS people regularly fail to receive any information in their requested formats, with a third of this group saying they never had. 50% of the same cohort reported staff not even understanding why accessible information needs should be registered, implying both a poor grasp of AIS principles and generally low awareness.

We are working with our Sight Loss Councils across various regions to ensure the AIS is reviewed and delivered appropriately. This entails regional health authorities logging patient’s access needs and using policies and training to execute the standard properly. Failure to do this risks severe consequences for BPS people such as missed appointments, mistakes with medication, using home test kits incorrectly or being unable to read test results.

Sadly, the 2021 Freedom of Information report showed that 50% of NHS trusts had no AIS application policies.


Accessible Built Environment

MPs were invited to wear sim specs and navigate around a stationary bike. This sparked conversations around street clutter, pavement parking and micro-mobility.

‘A lot of my constituency who are blind or partially sighted have issues with pavement parking and the state of pavements in general’, said Stephen Metcalfe, MP for South Basildon and East Thurrock.

Street furniture, pavement parking, and e-scooters are just some of the obstacles blind and partially sighted people have to navigate in an increasingly cluttered environment. Over 75% of blind and partially sighted people who took part in our listening month survey said the following:

‘Street obstacles are a real hazard for me when walking and can cause accidents. For example, A Boards, overhanging vegetation and poorly placed street furniture.’

‘E-scooters and e-bicycles can cause serious injury and nervousness to venture out locally, due to poor and inappropriate riding.’

Pavement surface quality was an issue for many people blind and partially sighted pedestrians alongside lack of action to resolve pavement parking.


Accessible Transport

Demonstrations were given on how apps and other technology can be used to plan, book journeys and arrange assistance and highlighted how the majority of the apps are not accessible.

We asked MPs to try to access timetable and station information whilst wearing simulation specs or using voiceover or magnification and discussed our national campaign to #MakeTransportAccessible. This is a priority for us across the country.

Over 65% of blind and partially sighted people who took part in our Listening Month survey said:

  • The lack of audio announcements on buses or the effectiveness of bus timetable information or apps, is a huge accessibility barrier.
  • They had mixed experiences of passenger assistance services on rail services, with support not always available or delivered.
  • The accessibility of booking services, particularly when using apps and for ticketing, was not consistent.
  • Frequency of bus and rail services was unreliable, adding to the uncertainty of an already stressful journey. Delays or cancellations cause particular difficulties for blind and partially sighted people.

“I have campaigned on several of the issues raised here today, but I am particularly interested in the audio-visual announcements. This is really interesting as we are gradually buying and replacing a new bus fleet in Greater Manchester as we are taking over the running of the local bus network.” – Barbara Keeley, Labour MP for Worsley and Eccles South.

Accessible Education

MPs had an opportunity to speak directly to one of our student voice volunteers about their experience of education, and engaged with assistive technology and modified education resources. This hands-on experience aimed to foster a deeper understanding of the unique needs associated with this low-incidence disability.

We used a range of tools and resources to support the activity – including adapted education teaching materials and assistive technology.

The choice of tools depended on the experience of the student voice volunteer as we wanted part of the activity to focus on their own experience in education.

We have long heard from blind and partially sighted young people, their families, Further Education (FE) providers and local authority sensory impairment services that post-16 education support does not always work and the consequences for individuals can be significant.

Despite blind and partially sighted learners achieving good GCSEs compared to other children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) groups, they are twice as likely to be Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) than the general population of 16 to 25 year olds. That should never be the case.

Image shows TPT staff and MPs in a group photo with MPs holding our pledge boards. A TPT banner is in the back, as well as a guide dog lying on the floor, in the bottom left.

Accessible Employment

MPs had to complete and send an e-mail from one laptop to another, using assistive technology. The laptop screens were covered so that they had to solely rely on assistive technology. Other resources or technology we used were blindfolds, and bump-on adapted keyboards and we provided information about touch typing.

Over 40% of blind and partially sighted people who took part in our Listening Month survey said:

  • The attitudes and understanding of employers and a lack of knowledge about the support available were poor.
  • The concern about the complexity of access to work and generally poor knowledge of the specialist equipment available to enable visually impaired people to secure jobs.
  • The benefits claims process was cited by many people as being complex and inaccessible.


“It was great to host Thomas Pocklington Trust’s Can you See Us event in Parliament on creating more accessible society for blind and partially sighted people.

The event was incredibly powerful with MPs having the opportunity to speak with blind or partially sighted people about their challenges in accessing employment, education, transport, and voting.

We need the government to commit to urgent actions that will create an inclusive and equitable society for people with sight loss.” – Marsha de Cordova, MP for Battersea.


To find out more about our various campaigns, sign up for our campaigns newsletter for regular updates.

Back to all News