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BBC Radio 4 In Touch
22 July 2008

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Factsheet

ACCESSIBLE TECHNOLOGY – SIGHT VILLAGE

Guest:
Dr Mike Townsend, British Computer Association of the Blind


In Touch looks at the latest accessible technology available from the Sight Village in Birmingham.


TECHNICAL PRODUCTS FEATURED

  • I-Tell (for the I-Pod)
  • Sense View magnifying system
  • Wayfinder access
  • Trekker Breeze
  • Mobile Geo
  • Braille Note
  • IPAL
  • KNFB Scanner
www.cobolt.co.uk/

www.codefactory.es/en/

CONTACTS

Sight Village
www.sightvillage.org

Sight Village - an exhibition of technical solutions for blind and partially sighted users.


British Computer Association of the Blind
General information: 0845 430 8627
www.bcab.org.uk


RNIB
105 Judd Street
London
WC1H 9NE
Helpline: 0845 766 9999 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm)
Tel: 0207 388 1266 (switchboard/overseas callers)
www.rnib.org.uk

The RNIB provides information, support and advice for anyone with a serious sight problem. They not only provide Braille, Talking Books and computer training, but imaginative and practical solutions to everyday challenges.


THRIVE - BLIND GARDENER OF THE YEAR AWARD

An increasing number of blind and partially-sighted people are turning their hand to gardening and much of the credit is due to the charity Thrive which supports disabled gardeners. One of its initiatives is the Blind Gardener of the Year award, jointly organized with the RNIB and nominations for this year’s award are still welcome. The competition, which is in its third year, celebrates the skills of blind or partially sighted gardeners, whatever their age or experience and however large or small their growing space.

Closing date for entries is 15 September 2008.

The award ceremony will be at the RNIB head office, in London, on 6 November 2008.


For further information contact:

Thrive
The Geoffrey Udall Centre
Beech Hill
Reading RG7 2AT
Tel: 0118 9885688
Email: info@thrive.org.uk
www.thrive.org.uk
www.carryongardening.org.uk

Thrive is a national charity, founded in 1978, whose aim is to research, educate and promote the use and advantages of gardening for those with a disability. Thrive’s vision is that the benefits of gardening are known to, and can be accessed by, anyone with a disability.

Thrive has been supporting blind gardeners for over 30 years, and established the Blind Gardeners’ Club with RNIB in 2006 to help gardeners share information and techniques. Membership of the club costs £9 a year and includes:
  • Access to a specialist gardening library with accessible formats, and a collection of tactile gardening diagrams
  • Come Gardening – a quarterly magazine written by and for blind and partially sighted gardeners with articles, news, reviews, and tips from readers
  • A regular ebulletin to keep you up to date with events and seasonal gardening tips
  • Contact with local blind gardeners’ clubs
  • Advance information on specialist events for blind gardeners including workshops and residential courses
LUCENTIS COURT CASE

Today three elderly patients who took High Court legal action against Warwickshire Primary Care Trust (PCT) have won their battle to get sight saving treatment on the NHS. The PCT and drug manufacturer Novartis agreed a deal which means that the three claimants, Jean Middleton, Raymond Liggins and Patricia Meadows, will finally get treatment. As a result, the case which was backed by Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), is expected to be settled.

Warwickshire PCT has agreed to change its restrictive funding policy on the sight-saving anti-VEGF drug Lucentis. This mean that patients across the region with the eye disease wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) will now get NHS funded treatment.

The RNIB is urging other PCTs across the country with restrictive funding policies to come to similar arrangements so that everyone who needs treatment for wet AMD can get it.


CONTACTS

RNIB
Helpline: 0845 766 9999 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm)
Tel: 0207 388 1266 (switchboard/overseas callers)
www.rnib.org.uk


The Macular Disease Society
Tel: 0845 241 2041
www.maculardisease.org

The Macular Disease Society is a self-help society for those diagnosed with any of the eye conditions encompassed by the overall name of Macular Disease.

The Society is dedicated to providing information and practical support so that those with the condition may make the most of their remaining vision.


NICE
Telephone: 0845 003 7780
Email: nice@nice.org.uk
www.nice.org.uk/


NHS Direct
Tel: 0845 46 47
www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk

NHS Direct is a 24-hour nurse-led helpline providing confidential healthcare advice and information on what to do if you're feeling ill; health concerns for you and your family; local health services and self-help and support organisations. Service covers England and Wales and calls to NHS Direct are charged at local rates.



NHS 24
Tel 08454 24 24 24
www.nhs24.com

NHS 24 aims to give people across Scotland equal access to health advice, information and help, when they need it and as far as possible in one phone call.


GENERAL CONTACTS

RNIB
105 Judd Street
London
WC1H 9NE
Helpline: 0845 766 9999 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm)
Tel: 0207 388 1266 (switchboard/overseas callers)
Web: www.rnib.org.uk

The RNIB provides information, support and advice for anyone with a serious sight problem. They not only provide Braille, Talking Books and computer training, but imaginative and practical solutions to everyday challenges. The RNIB campaigns to change society's attitudes, actions and assumptions, so that people with sight problems can enjoy the same rights, freedoms and responsibilities as fully sighted people. They also fund pioneering research into preventing and treating eye disease and promote eye health by running public health awareness campaigns.


HENSHAWS SOCIETY FOR BLIND PEOPLE (HSBP)
John Derby House
88-92 Talbot Road
Old Trafford
Manchester
M16 0GS
Tel: 0161 872 1234
Email: info@hsbp.co.uk
Web: www.henshaws.org.uk

Henshaws provides a wide range of services for people who have sight difficulties. They aim to enable visually impaired people of all ages to maximise their independence and enjoy a high quality of life. They have centres in: Harrogate, Knaresborough, Liverpool, Llandudno, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne, Salford, Southport and Trafford.


THE GUIDE DOGS FOR THE BLIND ASSOCIATION (GDBA)
Burghfield Common
Reading
RG7 3YG
Tel: 0118 983 5555
Email: guidedogs@guidedogs.org.uk
Web: www.guidedogs.org.uk
The GDBA’s mission is to provide guide dogs, mobility and other rehabilitation services that meet the needs of blind and partially sighted people.


ACTION FOR BLIND PEOPLE
14-16 Verney Road
London
SE16 3DZ
Tel: 0800 915 4666 (info & advice)
Tel: 020 7635 4800 (central office)
Web: www.afbp.org

Registered charity with national cover that provides practical support in the areas of housing, holidays, information, employment and training, cash grants and welfare rights for blind and partially-sighted people. Leaflets and booklets are available.


NATIONAL LEAGUE OF THE BLIND AND DISABLED
Central Office
Swinton House
324 Grays Inn Road
London
WC1X 8DD
Tel: 020 7837 6103
Textphone: 020 7837 6103

National League of the Blind and Disabled is a registered trade union and is involved in all issues regarding the employment of blind and disabled people in the UK.


NATIONAL LIBRARY FOR THE BLIND (NLB)
Far Cromwell Road
Bredbury
Stockport
SK6 2SG
Tel: 0161 406 2525
Textphone: 0161 355 2043
Email: enquiries@nlbuk.org
Web: www.nlb-online.org

Trustees from the Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB) and the National Library for the Blind (NLB) have agreed to merge the library services of both charities as of 1 January 2007, creating the new RNIB National Library Service.


EQUALITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION HELPLINE (England)
Freepost RRLL-GHUX-CTRX
Arndale House
Arndale Centre
Manchester
M4 3EQ

0845 604 6610 - England main number
0845 604 6620 - England textphone
0845 604 6630 - England fax

Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri 9:00 am-5:00 pm; Wed 9:00 am-8:00 pm (last call taken at 7:45pm)


EQUALITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION HELPLINE (Wales)
Freepost RRLR-UEYB-UYZL
3rd Floor
3 Callaghan Square
Cardiff
CF10 5BT

0845 604 8810 - Wales main number
0845 604 8820 - Wales textphone
0845 604 8830 - Wales fax

Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri 9:00 am-5:00 pm; Wed 9:00 am-8:00 pm (last call taken at 7:45pm)


EQUALITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION HELPLINE (Scotland)
Freepost RRLL-GYLB-UJTA
The Optima Building
58 Robertson Street
Glasgow
G2 8DU

0845 604 5510 - Scotland Main
0845 604 5520 - Scotland Textphone
0845 604 5530 - Scotland – Fax

Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri 9:00 am-5:00 pm; Wed 9:00 am-8:00 pm (last call taken at 7:45pm)


DISABLED LIVING FOUNDATION
380-384 Harrow Road
London
W9 2HU
Tel: 0845 130 9177
Web: www.dlf.org.uk

The Disabled Living Foundation provides information and advice on disability equipment.


The BBC is not responsible for external websites 

General contacts
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Transcript

IN TOUCH

TX: 22.07.08 2040-2100

PRESENTER: PETER WHITE

PRODUCER: CHERYL GABRIEL



White
Good evening. Tonight the very latest in accessible technology, from programming your own iPod to scanners with trackers and magnifiers in between. And we'll be looking at flowers in the rain.

First though, we've just heard that three patients with the eye condition wet AMD will now be able to get the treatment they've been fighting for. They needed the drug Lucentis, which has a proven record, but their primary care trust - Warwickshire - has been refusing to pay for it. This despite NICE's draft guidance which recommends at least 14 treatments to be provided on the NHS. The three claimants took their case to judicial review a couple of weeks ago and the case was adjourned last Monday. However, today Warwickshire PCT has agreed to provide these three patients and others with wet AMD with the first 14 treatments free of charge.

Steve Winyard is head of policy with the RNIB which supported them in their case. Steve, first of all, tell us why this is so significant.

Winyard
Well Warwickshire was the one PCT out of 152 that hadn't funded a single patient. As you've said the - NICE has said this treatment is cost effective and Warwickshire were holding out and we reluctantly went to the high court for a review of Warwickshire's decision and the judge there was very keen that these patients and other patients in Warwickshire would get treated and he brought Novartis and Warwickshire Primary Trust together...

White
Novartis, that's the drug manufacturer.

Winyard
That's right and has urged them to come to an agreement and we're very pleased that Warwickshire with that encouragement has finally decided to start funding treatment.

White
So what's the significance of this not only to those three patients but, first of all, to other people with wet AMD in Warwickshire?

Winyard
Everyone now in Warwickshire with wet AMD will get treated, whether it's your first eye that's got wet AMD or the second eye that's got wet AMD. So that's great news for Warwickshire. But also this shows the way forward for those other primary care trusts that are still operating very restricted policies because Novartis are willing to operate this cost sharing deal with other primary care trusts, so there's absolutely no reason now why those primary care trusts that have funded just a few patients don't step forward and make this treatment available to everybody.

White
How many other primary care trusts are we talking about though?

Winyard
Well we're probably talking about 10 or 15 that are operating exceptionality policies, very restricted policies. So we would want them to step forward and indeed we will be writing to them to encourage them to come to a deal with Novartis to enter into this cost sharing arrangement and start to treat patients.

White
But this doesn't set a precedent because this is an out of court settlement?

Winyard
It won't set a precedent and it never would but of course we are any day now expecting to hear from NICE - National Institute of Clinical Excellence - regarding the appeal that has been mounted against final guidance and we very much hope that final guidance will be issued quickly following the outcome of the appeal and therefore then all primary care trusts will be required to step into line.

White
Can you just explain the role of the drug company - Novartis - because this is unusual isn't it, cost sharing between a primary care trust and a drugs company?

Winyard
Yes it is, I think this probably is only the third or fourth such arrangement within the NHS but I'm sure we'll see more of them. Basically it's Novartis saying we believe our treatment is effective, we look to the NHS to provide 14 treatments per eye ...

White
Is it them saying that 14 treatments ought to be enough?

Winyard
Ought to be enough, that's right, and I think the consultant ophthalmologists would take that view. And if people need more than that then Novartis will pay.

White
Steve Winyard thank you very much indeed.

Now for visually-impaired techies and those of us who know that it's time that we were, Sight Village in Birmingham is one of the great opportunities of the year to catch up with what's going on and what's new. Most of the main producers of kit are there but of course it always helps to know what you're looking for and what to compare it with. So we asked someone who fulfils both of those criteria Dr Mike Townsend of the British Computer Association of the Blind to be our ears at this year's exhibition. And he joins us from our Carlisle studio.

Mike Townsend, what kind of year has it been for technology?

Townsend
Well it was quite an interesting year actually. I wasn't expecting very much but the first thing that really grabbed me, I would imagine, is the iPod. Have you ever wanted to listen to an iPod Peter?

White
We have ascertained how difficult it is to make them accessible and we've looked at it on the programme but I gather they've made some progress.

Townsend
It's been cracked and there's a thing that really does make a difference and it's called the I-Tell and it's sold by Cobolt, I don't know where it is actually made, but you can plug it in to your iPod, it's a very small little gizmo, it's a talking gizmo and when you plug it in you can hear the menus, you can choose your tunes, you can even go through your LPs - no, no sorry that's old technology isn't it - the CDs that you've got stored on there and just choose them and set up play lists, it's real fun.

White
So does this work for any MP3 player?

Townsend
No, no it's for the iPod, as far as I can tell. It's actually called the I-Tell, so that's give you the idea. There are other ways of accessing MP3 players, a thing called Rockbox helps you, it's a piece of software that you can install on another kind of MP3 player. So there are other ways of doing it but this is really neat for the sort of trendy thing that people have.

White
And when you say it's accessible do you mean it's accessible and it can be done by something of a computer whiz kid like you or it really is straightforward to do?

Townsend
The buttons are all very simple, you just go up and down your menus, you can press play - I find it really easy, I didn't need any lessons at all and I'm sure most people wouldn't.

White
And cost?

Townsend
Fifty nine pounds ninety five.

White
So not going to break the bank.

Townsend
No, no.

White
Now I also this is something as a totally blind person you can't use but there were quite a lot of new magnifiers there.

Townsend
They were absolutely everywhere Peter, everyone's doing some new magnifiers. Why? Because of digital photography - there's a lot of intelligence now in digital cameras and this intelligence is being harnessed in magnifiers. So you can freeze a frame and look at the picture in detail, magnify particular areas, change colours, change fonts - they really are intelligible. And if you're a partially-sighted person get out there, have a look. And they're not expensive, there's one called Senseview, which was around £160.

White
Right now let's move on because there's quite a lot of GPS technology about, the whole idea of actually equipment to help you work out a route and follow a route. Up until now it's been pretty big, hasn't it, you almost need a rucksack to carry it around. I gather there's some developments there as well.

Townsend
Yeah GPS is flavour of the month and I've just used the GPS to get here to the studio. Mine's been around for about a year, it's called Wayfinder Access. I have a little piece that I bluetooth to my phone and in the phone there is the program that tells me where to go and that works in pedestrian mode and car mode, so it tells my wife, Edith, where to go too.

White
So just explain - do you enter the route yourself though do you?

Townsend
What I did was I entered the postcode of the Carlisle place that I'm at now - Radio Cumbria - and it took me straight here.

White
So it works like a car sat nav effectively?

Townsend
Yeah, yeah that's right, in fact it was the car sat nav for me this afternoon. However, I can walk round, like I do in Central London with this and it goes into pedestrian mode and it tells me I'm going through the market and things like that. But there are some new ones. Now this is pretty techy and it takes a bit of driving this Wayfinder Access. Well this year there's been one released, it really is for novices, it's called the Trecker Breeze and it's just a handheld portable device, all in one unit, and it's got nice clear speech, very simple buttons on it. It is limited in that you have to walk the route that you want to walk and then it'll store that route for you and then you can get back home or repeat that route. But also if you put in the destination or the start point or other favourites it can navigate to those favourites from wherever you are. So it is quite limited in that you've got to walk the routes and you've got to be at the favourite before you can enter it - you can't like put a postcode in, like I've done here - but it's great for those that have got a limited number of routes and want that real security that they can know they can get there and get home.

There are some more complicated ones as well Peter, like the Geo from Code Factory. That is probably going to be a bit more like the thing I've used today. However, it does have some extra features, it's based on what's called the Sendero product that has been able to be used in the Braille Note family of note takers. What I really like about that is Peter, and I don't know what you feel like inside a car but I feel very shut in, and I go to sleep but this has got a sort of look around view, and there's masses of points of interest. And as you're going along it tells you what you're passing. So you're outside of the box - that there's Tesco's outside, there's a MacDonald's, there's even more interesting things like a fashion warehouse or something like that.

White
And do you acquire these things with this data - is in them?

Townsend
It's already there, yes, called points of interest. And Sendero's got a lot of these points of interest. It does need to be made British - it doesn't understand roundabouts or postcodes but we're working on that.

White
Okay. Just finally my latest obsession which is scanners, since I rather belatedly discovered the ability to scan print books, how excited should I be by the latest equipment there?

Townsend
Ooh you should be really excited. There were three great scanners on show this year. One you may have come across which is the KNFB reader, that actually works inside a little mobile phone. So you can just take your phone with you to the restaurant and you've got the menu inside reading out to you straightaway.

White
So we're not talking about books here, we're talking about really mobile kind of things on the move?

Townsend
Yes, you could use it for books but there's an actually really great device called the Ipal, it's made by Abisee and it's sold by Human Ware. It's like a tubular set of things that hold up a camera, quite small really, you can plug it into a laptop or a PC. Once you've got it all set up you put your book under it, take the picture, and it starts to read straightaway. But the brilliant thing about reading books is it's clever. So you put a book under it, turn the page, turn the page, turn the page and the book is going into your computer and can be reading it out to you straightaway.

White
So I mean what's this going to do in terms of the - because it is at the moment quite a cumbersome business, isn't it, you can take five or six hours to scan a book page by page, in time turns how much difference do you think this will make?

Townsend
Well it seemed to do a page every two seconds and a book at two pages - it analyses two pages at one go - so if you've got a 200 page book, 100 seconds.

White
That's extraordinary isn't it, compared to what we've got, is that going to make a difference - because it's quite expensive, it's not necessarily the kind of thing all that many individuals are going to shell out for are they?

Townsend
It's £1650 plus your laptop. But you could take it away with you because it just fits into a laptop case with your laptop and well if you do a lot of reading this is the thing to have. And I would imagine that under the disabled students' grant or Access to Work it would be the thing to go for.

White
Well Mike Townsend thank you very much for being our ears at Sight Village and we will have details of all those bits of equipment that Mike was talking about on our action line which is 0800 044 044. Go back to the lakes and enjoy them. Thanks Mike.

Now an increasing number of blind and partially-sighted people are turning their hands to gardening, a real change of direction here, and much of the credit is surely due to the charity Thrive which promotes and supports disabled gardeners. One of its initiatives is the Blind Gardener of the Year Award, jointly organised with the RNIB and nominations for this year's award are still welcome. The competition now in its third year celebrates the skills of blind and partially-sighted gardeners, whatever their age or experience, and however large or small their growing space.

John Hodgson won the best newcomer category in 2005 and when our reporter, Mani Djazmi, met him on a particularly drizzly day he told him what gardening meant to him as they took a turn around the garden.

Hodgson
We've got in front of us an egg shaped lawn, which is beautifully green, it's edged with brickwork and on either side of that we've got small borders, borders about a metre deep, curving round at the corners. The first one we meet is an acer which is a beautiful red colour, behind that is a green and yellow euonymus, we've got rhododendron, we've then - because I believe in being able to sit down in a garden and enjoy it - we've got a little bench on the left hand side which has got cobble stones underneath to create a different feel. We've standard roses, beautiful pink standard roses and below those we've got forget-me-nots.

Djazmi
We're standing in the middle of your son and daughter-in-law's garden in Surrey, it's pouring with rain, are you an all weather gardener, I mean it must take a lot of commitment to maintain and improve a really good garden?

Hodgson
Well yes, I must confess standing in the rain like this in cold blood is an interesting experience. But it's surprising actually Mani, I can go outside in the morning in sunshine at 7 o'clock and I can begin to do a little job, which I know has to be done, my wife will call me sometimes later and I find it's 2 o'clock, it's pouring with rain, has been for two hours and I didn't know because it is such an absorbing exercise.

Djazmi
A lot of people don't think that blind and partially-sighted people can be gardeners, what's your answer - how can visually-impaired people actually be effective gardeners?

Hodgson
I felt like those people, how on earth can a blind person or a partially-sighted person garden? And then about 12 years ago I became partially-sighted, I ultimately was registered blind but I was encouraged by Thrive to develop an interest in gardening. And within a very short space of time I found it was possible to garden and get an enormous amount of psychological, social, emotional benefit from that experience. I'm not an expert gardener by any means but I'm certainly very, very keen and very, very enthusiastic.

I thought, initially, I was the only person in the world who couldn't see. I joined the gardening club, I was encouraged by Thrive, I won Blind Gardener of the Year in 2005 and that brought me into contact with a lot of people who were enthusiastic gardeners, some of them very, very keen, not all of them very knowledgeable but I found that I wasn't alone, I found that it was a wonderful world out there, there's an enormous amount of encouragement one can get through joining local clubs and people are so ready to help. From the emotional side I can talk to my flowers and they don't answer back, I like to think that they thank me for the conversation because they produce wonderful blooms, partly as a result of the encouragement I've given them but I also have got a lot of encouragement from them as well. I sleep better, I enjoy my life much more as a result of gardening.

Djazmi
So how do you do it, I mean there must be parts of gardening which for a visually-impaired person are difficult to manage and to overcome, so what are those difficult bits and how do you overcome them?

Hodgson
The very first thing that I found difficult was taking a seedling from a seed tray and planting it into a plant pot and getting it the right way up, it's terrible easy to put the leaves in the ground with the roots sticking up. But those are the sort of problems that people can give you advice and they say if you hold it by the - just below the leaves it's obvious if you feel carefully where the leaves are, the other end must be the bit where the root's on, so you put that into the ground. The next problem was pruning roses, for example, I would feel up the stem and I would find the place that I wished to cut, I would get out my pruners and I would cut and the end would fall off my gardening glove and there's no way other than experience that teaches you how to overcome those kind of problems. Seeds - I couldn't put seeds into a straight line until I used some very nice seeds that come in pre-spaced within a kind of long toilet roll and by planting those using a piece of string to give you a straight line all our seeds come up regularly every two inches, beautifully spaced and beautifully straight lines. Those are the sort of things that one can overcome and by talking to people who've been through the sort of problems before you can pick up these tips.

Djazmi
For people who are where you were three or four years ago, perhaps thinking about starting some kind of gardening or maybe just realising from listening to you that it's possible what are your tips, what's your message to them?

Hodgson
I think the first thing Mani is to actually get off your bottom and do something, to make a decision to garden and by gardening I don't necessarily mean the baronial garden of 400 acres or even the garden we're sitting in at the moment which is about 200 square metres but a small box of mustard and cress on the windowsill to my mind is gardening, a container outside the back door with potatoes in it is gardening. To make a decision to do something creative and see just how easy it can become. But the hardest thing I found was actually getting started.

White
John Hodgson with Mani Djazmi and the details of how to enter the Gardener of the Year competition will be on our action line, you can call us on 0800 044 044. From me Peter White, my producer Cheryl Gabriel and the rest of the team goodbye.

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