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IN TOUCH FACTSHEET
PROGRAMME ADDRESS.. 1
IAN MACRAE.. 3
GENERAL CONTACTS.. 3
Gavin Terry, Health Care Policy Manager of Diabetes UK
The programme examine claims that a form of blindness, which can be halted if caught and treated early enough, is often being missed, because primary care trusts, or PCTs, are failing to reach Department of Health screening targets.
Diabetic Retinopathy is, as its name suggests, a possible consequence of diabetes, and is the most common form of blindness in this country amongst people of working age. PCTs were given a target of screening eighty per cent of people with diabetes for the condition by the end of 2007, but according to the latest report by the charity Diabetes UK, two-thirds of them are still failing to reach this target, and about a dozen were falling below fifty per cent.
CARELINE: 0845 120 2960 (Mon to Fri 9am and 5pm)
(Recorded information on a number of diabetes-related topics is also available on this number 24 hours a day)
Diabetes UK works for people with diabetes, funding research, campaigning and helping people live with the condition.
For further information and support on any aspect of managing diabetes (eg medication, diet, exercise, employment, driving, etc), then please contact one of the careline counsellors. Please note the careline is unable to provide individual medical advice.
Mani Djazmi researched holidays with the visually impaired in mind.
Mani talked to the specialist tour operator, Traveleyes, and the charity Vitalise. This year, Traveleyes are running holidays to places like New Zealand, Gran Canaria, South Africa, Iceland and Peru while Vitalise are travelling to the Galapagos Islands, Australia and Prague, as well as running a variety of UK-based breaks.
Mani also looked at Action for Blind People's four specially-adapted accessible hotels in the Lake District, Bognor Regis, Somerset and Devon as well as a mountaineering course for visually impaired people in Scotland run by The Mountaineering Council of Scotland and the RNIB's Hotel Guide.
Phone: 08448 040221
ACTION FOR BLIND PEOPLE:
Phone: 0207 6354800
THE MOUNTAINEERING COUNCIL OF SCOTLAND:
Phone: Norma, Co-ordinator: 01356 660242
RNIB Hotels Guide can be bought for £5.99 from RNIB Customer Services:
Ian Macrae discussed the new Plextalk Pocket PTP1 Personal Daisy MP3 audio player, available for £275 and a new scheme organised by the Talking Book Service.
For further information on both of the above contact:
RNIB Customer Services
Tel. 0845 702 6843
105 Judd Street
Helpline: 0303 123 9999 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm)
Tel: 0207 388 1266 (switchboard/overseas callers)
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
Tel: 0161 872 1234
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)
Tel: 0118 983 5555
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
Tel: 0800 915 4666 (info & advice)
Tel: 020 7635 4800 (central office)
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
324 Grays Inn Road
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)
Tel: 0161 406 2525
Textphone: 0161 355 2043
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)
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)
3 Callaghan Square
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)
The Optima Building
58 Robertson Street
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
Tel: 0845 130 9177
The Disabled Living Foundation provides information and advice on disability equipment.
The BBC is not responsible for external websites
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TX: 17.02.09 2040-2100
PRESENTER: PETER WHITE
PRODUCER: JOE KENT
Good Evening. Today: concern that a preventable form of blindness resulting from diabetes is still often going undetected, news of holidays from Bognor to the Galapagos islands, where the needs of visually impaired people take precedence, and the very latest ways of reading audio books.
Audio Book Clip
And why sounds like those have sparked fear in the book industry.
First though claims that a form of blindness which can be halted if caught and treated early enough is often being missed, because primary care trusts, or PCTs, are failing to reach Department of Health screening targets. Diabetic Retinopathy is, as its name suggests, a possible consequence of diabetes, and it's the most common form of blindness in this country amongst people of working age. Primary care trusts were given a target of screening 80% of people with diabetes for the condition by the end of 2007, but the latest figures for England show two thirds of them are still failing to reach this target and about one in 12 are falling below 50%, some well below. Cause for concern, says the charity Diabetes UK, and I'm joined by its healthcare policy manager Gavin Terry.
Gavin, first of all, just explain a little more what Diabetic Retinopathy actually is.
Diabetic Retinopathy is a condition that occurs when blood vessels in the retina of the eye become blocked, leaky or they grow haphazardly. And if it's left untreated it can damage your vision and ultimately cause blindness.
And what can be achieved if it is caught early enough?
If Retinopathy's identified early enough and treated properly and the person who has diabetes manages their diabetes well you can actually prevent the worsening of the condition and blindness in up to 90% of cases.
Now we should explain, shouldn't we, that it's not an inevitable consequence of diabetes.
No, it's very much a complication of diabetes, particularly one of poor glucose control. The reason for screening is to try and identify it and pick it up early.
So what do these latest Department of Health figures say, what's your concern about them?
The latest figures show that almost a third of people with diabetes in England didn't receive digital retinal screening between October 2007 and September 2008. Primary care trusts really need to ensure that they're reaching out to people to invite them for screening but also to provide the service that meets the national quality standards.
Well also on the line joining us is David Stout of the NHS Confederation, the body that represents primary healthcare trusts. David, how do you respond given that this is a sight threatening condition?
Gavin's absolutely right, this is a very important service that will stop some people going blind. So clearly it's very important we get this right. I'm going to start off with the good news. More people are being offered screening now and taking up screening than ever done before.
Is that because - partly because diabetes has been markedly on the increase?
Well that's one of the challenges but no, this is a service that's never been routinely offered in the way that it is now previously. And also that this country leads the world in Diabetic Retinopathy screening, this is the first time this sort of population based screening programme's ever been introduced on such a large scale. The figures also show that over 90% of people with diabetes are being offered screening, so one of the challenges is making sure the take up rate is high everywhere and that is important, so it's not good enough simply to offer screening but to make sure it's offered in a way that people find accessible and people can easily use.
But the Department of Health targets were clear weren't they - they said that 80% of people should receive - and obviously the ideal thing was that 100% people should and they were set in 2003, still not being met?
The target is that 100% of people should be offered it and that 80% of people should take it up. The rate in the latest figures is 76% in terms of take up, so we're not miles away across the country but as I say there is variation from place to place.
And how do you explain the fact that it is very low in some areas, you know down 11, 12% in the worst cases?
We've looked at some of the worst performers in this case and they all are confident that they are going to hit this target and that they've taken action since these figures came out, so that's good news as well, that to some extent this is a historical position because of the way that the data's collected. There are some reasons for the - the reason this is challenging and firstly you have to identify accurately everyone in your local area that has diabetes, you need to make sure the service that's available meets appropriate clinical standards. The Department of Health brought in new standards relatively recently so each programme of screening needs to be large enough to guarantee that the quality of care is good enough. That has meant having to reorganise the way that screening has previously been offered and that has led to a slower uptake in some places than others.
Gavin Terry them, what about that, the numbers are going up and also they are more challenging because they have to cope with a rising tide of diabetes?
Diabetes is on the increase, I'd certainly agree with that and it is also down to people with diabetes that they need to be aware that attending screening's important. But also for the local health services to promote the service as part of their annual review. So as more and more people are diagnosed they need to be given the information at the time they're diagnosed that they should have this screening on an annual basis.
David made the point that quite a lot of this data was now out of date, that's certainly what some of the PCTs at the bottom of the table are arguing, how do you respond to that?
Well I mean while we appreciate that figures are always going to be more contentious if they have a date on them, if people say that they're improving then obviously we're encouraged by that and we would hope to see improvements in the figures overall.
What more can be done given the numbers involved in this?
If people are experiencing problems in accessing or attending their screening or they want to find out more then they should really talk to their healthcare team about what help and support's available or contact their primary care trust directly. But in terms of from the other way given the targets and the introduction of the new system and the standards PCTs should be doing all they can to ensure that people take it up.
Just very quickly back to David Stout, what about that, it's all very well to say that the numbers are going up and that people should attend but they've got to be given the right information in order to know the seriousness of this haven't they.
Oh absolutely right and many primary care trusts do work quite closely with Diabetes UK but Gavin's also right - it's down to the clinical teams, the whole system, to promote this message to patients and obviously programmes like this also are very helpful.
So as always good information is at the heart of this. David Stout, Gavin Terry thank you both very much indeed.
Now with money tight, I reckon people are probably thinking harder than ever about picking the right holiday, that is, assuming you can afford one at all! And for visually impaired people like us, it can be a particularly tricky decision, especially when balancing our needs against those of the sighted people we're going with - that delicate balance, for instance, between sightseeing, and doing almost anything else. I've given myself away haven't I. So we've asked Mani Djazmi to research some of the holidays planned with us specifically in mind. Mani., where are you going to start?
Well there are increasing options for those of us who want to go abroad on accessible holidays as well as the usual traditional domestic fair. The two major players in foreign holidays for blind and partially sighted people are the tour operator TravelEyes and VitalEyes, which is a charity, and both of them use their sighted travellers as guides for their visually impaired holidaymakers. TravelEyes which was founded by Amar Latif, who's himself blind, sells holidays to places like New Zealand, Grand Canaria and Peru, while VitalEyes which has traditionally offered more UK based breaks is this year going to the Galapagos Islands. I asked Amar Latif about the impact of the recession on holidays and he says things are holding up pretty well.
Surprisingly it's not affecting our business, we thought it would hit us as well because in the current climate it's affecting everybody. I suppose where we are noticing something is on the long haul, like New Zealand people don't want to spend £2-3,000. But you know Peru is almost fully booked and we've got Sicily, we've got Iceland - it's going really well. We operate in a niche market and quite often recessions don't hit niche markets as much as they would let's say the mainstream. Blind travellers, like everybody else, want to travel and they do come to us and they do want to go on holiday.
That's Amar Latif. Mani, you mentioned that with TravelEyes and VitalEyes sighted travellers act as the guides, so what's in it for them if they have to work on their holiday?
The great advantage is that they get exotic trips for a much cheaper rate than they would by going with a mainstream operator. In fact Amar Latif says that since the recession he's had more sighted customers because of the attractive discounts. Vitaleyes' trips to the Galapagos and Australia are fully booked at the moment but the more sighted travellers they get on these holidays the more visually impaired people can go, that's according to Sam Earle from VitalEyes.
Without the sighted guides to assist on the holidays we wouldn't be able to run nearly as many holidays as we do. If we get lots of guides that are interested in a holiday we also are able to find visually impaired people that are keen to go as well, so we quite often end up increasing numbers on holidays.
Are trips to Ecuador and Australia - places like that - are they new things for VitalEyes because I suppose you're traditionally linked with trips on canals and trains and that kind of thing?
In sort of recent years we have been increasing the holidays that we run overseas, particularly long haul and adventure travel, which there's definitely a requirement for a lot people ask for the more adventurous sort of holidays.
And is that because some of your traditional trips are perhaps a little bit staid and a little bit old school now?
Funnily enough not really, about 50% of the holidays we run are based in the UK but we do lots of themed holidays - ballroom dancing, a theatre break, we do tandem cycling, literary weeks - so we try and cater for as wide a range as possible.
And of course a lot of people are choosing to stay in the UK, just for price reasons aren't they Mani, I mean what else is on offer for people who prefer to stay at home?
Well the charity Action for Blind People has a number of well established specially adapted hotels at the Lake District and in Somerset, Bognor Regis and Devon. If you're feeling more adventurous though this September sees the 10th running of a mountaineering course for visually impaired people near Aviemore in Scotland. And anyone who prefers an accessible mainstream holiday might find the RNIB's hotel guide useful, it's full of reviews by other visually impaired people of mainstream holidays detailing everything from amenities to accessibility.
So plenty on offer, does this mean the visually impaired market might actually become a bit squeezed?
Well it's niche markets which means that there will always be a demand, as Amar Latif said earlier. But because it's niche there are only a certain number of organisations which can meet that demand. But neither Amar Latif nor firstly Sam Earle are particularly worried about the competition.
Being a charity we do rely a lot on voluntary assistance from holiday leaders and we have volunteers in the office here as well. Between now and November this year we're running 70 holidays, which is probably the largest number we've done and we're increasing the number of holidays that we offer each year. It is a niche market but the demand is definitely there and we are the largest provider of breaks for visually impaired people.
[Indistinct words] of people but there's room for various organisations, I mean we are a commercial company, there are charities out there that are funded that offer similar holidays but with different philosophies to ours and yeah first and foremost I'm a blind person and I think that it's great for us blind people to have choices like everyone else does regarding our holiday options.
So Amar Latif ending there Mani's quick trip around the world. I have to say personally I go on holiday mainly to get time to read, doesn't matter where I go really, a process which in this digital age has become much easier than it used to be because everything: Braille books, talking book machines and what we play on them, is getting much smaller; packing disputes should be at an end. And still new equipment keeps coming; Ian Macrae, editor of Disability Now and long time gadget expert on this programme, is with us. So what's your latest toy?
Yes it's the Plex Talk PT1 Pocket and it's a digital Daisy and MP3 - personal MP3 player. Here it is. Truly pocket sized. Which means, of course, that it relies for its memory on portable memory, so you store the books that you want to read on the device on a secure digital SD card. So you can store vast quantities of books on just one card.
So this is similar to the kind of flashcard I use for Braille as well?
Exactly, quite. So here it is, it's smaller than its direct competitor, which is the Victor Reader Screen, that we've talked about on the programme before. It's quite sensibly laid out actually. All the keys that do things, so the play key, the power on and off, the record key and the keys that navigate you through menus and text are all bunched together in the top half of the player. And when you power on this is what happens:
Please wait, SD card, Daisy book.
This is an RNIB talking book.
So that series of chimes and chirrups will be familiar to people who are already users of other Plex Talk players that are used by the RNIB's talking book service. You then can go down to the bottom half of the player, which is made up of a phone style numeric keypad and some of those keys perform specific functions. So, for example, if you press the five key you get a status report.
One minute 53 seconds remaining. Twelve hours ...
That's told you how healthy your battery is, where you are etc. etc. Now you, like a lot of these players now, you can read either audio material and you can also listen to electronic text. The voice for doing that though - well the best way to demonstrate that to you is perhaps to play you a bit from the help function on the player.
In the previous chapter you learned about [indistinct words] relating to recording with Plex talk, this chapter take a closer look at how you create a recording, edit the recording and prepare the title for use ...
There you are Peter, do you recognise that voice?
It's ringing a bell, which is the thing I normally do when people ask me who they are and I can't remember but it is ringing a slight bell.
It's actually John Briggs who's the guy who does all the trails over on Radio 2. He sounds there like he's got quite a heavy cold, it's the digital version and his name is Daniel. So that's it, it's called the Plex Talk Pocket - PTP 1 - at £275 from the RNIB.
Don't worry we'll have the details of all these in the various places you expect our details to be. Ian, ironically and unusually we've rather led the field in portable audio players, I mean you're talking there about specialist equipment but now that the sighted world is catching up with e-books, isn't it, and these mainstream readers have tended to ignore our needs but I gather though there's news in the offing that might be changing a bit.
That's right. They're basically e-book readers that you can store electronic text on and read off a screen. No good of course to the likes of you and me and Mani. But there's news from the States that the latest reader from Amazon, called the Kindle 2, will have on it a read to me function and that means that you'll be able to read what electronic text is on there in synthesised speech. But this is a bit of a good news, bad news scenario because that's the good news, the two bits of bad news are a. that the player isn't available over here and won't be any time soon as they soon and secondly, USA Today, the newspaper, reports that the Authors Guild in America have objected to the fact that the Kindle 2 has this synthesised voice on it because the authors are saying this will affect the sales of audio books.
So this is raising the whole issue, isn't it, about whether the book and the audio book are two different things?
Absolutely, because of course a lot of the problem with audio books, as far as visual impaired readers are concerned, that you quite often don't get the whole thing, you get an abridgement of it. So you can choose to read any book that you want to read using this synthetic speech, which is a vastly different proposition from choosing to buy an audio book.
Now also I gather there are developments in what was the very first in the field, you know the RNIB talking book service started in the 1930s, still going but they're keeping up with change aren't they.
They are indeed. They're about to issue a flash new talking book player. It's kind of the Plex Talk Pocket's big brother because it's the PTX 1. It'll have all sorts of fantastic capability on it, so for example you won't just plug a CD in there, you'll be able to put an SD card in, you'll be able to stream books directly wirelessly via your computer. And for a thousand lucky people the RNIB is offering the opportunity to trade in your existing talking book player for a PTX 1 machine. And the trade off is that you're asked to become a member of a focus group who will then be involved in testing and reporting back to the RNIB's talking book service on the capabilities and the usefulness of the new PTX 1 player. The closing date, if you want to register your interest in that scheme, trade in your old player for a new one, is Friday 20th February.
Right, so not long to go. And one word of reassurance to older users who probably already feel that they've had enough changes, no question of those being phased out is there?
No, no they're still offering the usual multiplicity of players.
Ian, thank you very much indeed. And that's it for today. All details of the equipment that Ian's been talking about, plus holidays and the report on Diabetic Retinopathy can be checked on our action line, the number 0800 044 044 or at In Touch on the BBC website and there'll be a podcast of today's programme from tomorrow.
From me, Peter White, my producer, Joe Kent, Mani, Ian and the rest of the team, goodbye.
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