Category Archives: independent living

The British Red Cross

The Red Cross is a volunteer-led humanitarian organisation that helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are. You may be aware of the work they do abroad, but did you know that they offer a range of services across Britain?

A crisis can happen to anyone. The British Red Cross helps more than a million people in the UK every year, supporting them in emergencies, providing care in the home, and teaching life-saving first aid skills, among other services.

Independent Living:

  • Support at home
  • Mobility aids
  • Transport Services
  • Hand, arm and shoulder massage

Support in UK emergencies:

When emergencies occur, the Red Cross supports the police, ambulance and fire services, local and health authorities and utility companies. They also provide advice on preparing for emergencies, and information on Emergency response volunteering.

First Aid:

The Red Cross offers First aid training courses throughout the UK, and online, They provide teaching resources for teachers to build a generation of life-savers, and have a team of trained first aiders to provide support at public events across the UK.

Refugee Support:

The Red Cross has a long tradition of providing practical and emotional support to vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers in the UK. As a leading humanitarian organisation, they often need to respond quickly and effectively to crises. For example, they can support large-scale arrivals or give emergency provisions to those facing severe hardship.

Teaching Resources:

Looking for imaginative teaching tools that are simple to use? You’ll find them here – free resources, ideal for citizenship and PSHE teaching, tutor time and across the curriculum. With topics ranging from severe weather and flooding to Child soldiers and War the resources cover important topics using a variety of activities.

For more information please visit: British Red Cross


Accessible Days Out in London

With the sun shining and the holidays in full swing, you might be wondering where you can go for a fun day out. If you have a wheelchair user with you, or are a wheelchair yourself, use a guide dog or have restricted mobility, it is helpful to know in advance how accessible some of the tourist attractions are. Here are some ideas for accessible days out in London.

1. The London Eye, one of the most popular tourist attractions in London is fully wheelchair accessible. It is the tallest observation wheel in the world.


2. Kew Royal Botanic Gardens are fully accessible and disabled toilets are located at the entrance. Guide dogs are allowed in every part of the gardens and if you need to hire a wheelchair it can be booked in advance.

3. At the London Zoo, many exhibits are displayed at a height which is suitable for people in wheelchairs and most of the zoo will be accessible. Disabled toilets are available. Admission is free for the companion traveller of wheelchair users, but those with guide dogs should know that guide dogs cannot be admitted.  You can make arrangements to have a guide dog looked after while a zoo volunteer guides you around the zoo. ZSL London Zoo seeks to provide equal opportunity for all to enjoy the animal exhibits and visitor facilities. The Zoo is more than 170 years old and contains many old buildings, 12 of which are listed. Nevertheless, most of the Zoo is accessible for wheelchair users and those with restricted mobility.

4. The Cabinet War Rooms, used as headquarters by Winston Churchill in World War II have 21 underground rooms and are a real must-see for any history buff. All rooms are wheelchair accessible, disabled toilets are available and guide dogs are permitted in the museum. There are also some visual and hearing impaired aids available.

5. The Gothic architecture and exquisite craftsmanship of Westminster Abbey should not be missed. Steeped in history with the weddings and funerals of famous Monarchs and the 1953 Coronation of Queen Elizabeth, the Abbey has excellent wheelchair access.  Guide dogs are allowed in all parts of the building and visual and hearing resources are also available. Kings, queens, statesmen and soldiers; poets, priests, heroes and villains – the Abbey is a must-see living pageant of British history. Despite being a protected Gothic building reasonable adjustments have been made throughout the Abbey for people that have extra mobility requirements, whilst a fixed hearing loop and touch tours are available for those with sensory impairments.


6. At St. Paul’s Cathedral only one part is inaccessible to wheelchair users – the American Chapel. Disabled access is via an elevator and assistance is available should it be required. Guide dogs are welcome and touch and audio provisions are in place for the visual and hearing impaired. “Enter St Paul’s and enjoy the cathedral’s awe-inspiring interior. Take advantage of a new touch-screen multimedia guide or join a guided tour to explore this iconic building, both now included with the sightseeing admission charge.” You can’t fail to be captivated by the grandeur and triumphant architecture of St Paul’s Cathedral. With ramp access to the south entrance and hearing loops throughout it’s a haven of tranquility in the heart of the City.

7. If you want to see some famous but waxy faces at Madame Tussauds it is strongly recommended that you book in advance as the museum has strict health and safety rules and only three wheelchairs are permitted into the museum at one time. Priority admission will be given to wheelchair users who have pre-booked their visit. Entry is free for everyone who holds a valid disability registration card.

8. The world-famous British Museum exhibits the works of man from across the globe, dating from prehistoric to modern times. Highlights include the Rosetta Stone, the Parthenon sculptures and the mummies in the Ancient Egypt collection. Entry is free but special exhibitions require tickets. With free parking for blue badge holders, audio described exhibits and lifts throughout you can be sure of a great day out at the British Museum.

9. Buckingham Palace serves as both the office and London residence of Her Majesty The Queen. It is one of the few working royal palaces remaining in the world today.”Walk in the footsteps of our reigning Monarch with a visit to Buckingham Palace. With level access, lifts, hearing loops and free of charge wheelchairs, the palace is a “must see” in the Capital. Wheelchair users are requested to pre-book so the palace can make arrangements for you.

10. Hundreds of exciting, interactive exhibits in one of London’s most beautiful landmark buildings. Despite being over 130 years old, the Natural History Museum has a whole range of access facilities including lifts and ramps throughout most exhibits and all stuff receive disability awareness and equality training, all perfect for making your journey through the ages as hassle free as possible.

With thanks to, and to find out more, visit

Life made easier 2

Carrying on from the last set of great innovations and products that could help the life of an elderly person, we have some more inventions that could come in very handy!

So we’re going to start off with a step stool with handle. When you struggle to reach high, to that book right on the top shelf, many people would use a step ladder or stool. But for some, balancing can also be very difficult, so that’s where the step stool with handle comes in! It lets you reach further while also giving balance and security.

Next up is the button helper! For many people with arthritis doing up buttons can be near impossible: like trying to nail jelly to a tree it can be intensely frustrating. With the use of the button opener the task can be made simple and easy and will save a lot of pain. Doing up the buttons on a shirt or wherever can be a difficult task for even the most dexterous, but for people with shaky hands, unsteady fingers, arthritis or any other similar problem it is far too difficult, but this makes it nice and simple.

Many elderly people struggle to touch small fiddly buttons, some suffer from arthritis, and to aid these people Big Button Phones are available. With these large buttons dexterity is not needed to operate these machines, making calling loved ones far easier for them. Some of the new phones are ridiculous, you can hardly see the buttons on the phone let alone press them, so a big buttoned phone is a very welcome addition to elderly friendly gadgets.

Lastly is another aid for those who struggle to grip and twist. Turning a stiff tap handle can be a real struggle, but with a tap turner it can be easy. Providing more leverage, anyone can easily put the tap on, or turn it off. Maybe you or someone you know can turn a tap on fine, but struggles to tighten it back up again so it doesn’t drip. If that’s the case then this could be perfect.

We have selected an sample of the devices and suppliers out there but there are many more if you have time to explore.

InnovationThis blog post has been contributed by our work experience student, Jamie Cox.

Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) Expert series blog: Sight loss, dementia, and the built environment

By on 06 23, 2014 in independent living

Jo Lawson, Independent Living Manager at RNIB Cymru discusses how people with dementia and sight loss can be helped to live as independently and safely as possible.

It’s a fact that the population is ageing. 10 million people in the UK are over 65 years old.  It is projected that there will be five and a half million more elderly people in 20 years time and the number will have nearly doubled to around 19 million by 2050.

Some more facts: sight loss affects people of all ages but especially older people, one in nine people over the age of 60 and one in three people over the age of 85 are living with sight loss. The number of people living with sight loss is set to double over the next 25 years. Over a fifth of people with sight loss live in social housing. Ensuring their safety, independence, and equality is paramount to the work my team and I do.

I head up the Independent Living Team at RNIB Cymru. This includes our Welfare Rights team, award winning digital inclusion team, Vision Support Officer based with RCT Homes, and of course our Visibly Better and housing and access consultancy team. Visibly Better Cymru is an accreditation scheme for supported housing and other public spaces. Organisations work towards six standards, which focus on different aspects of accessibility, and receive Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum levels of accreditation as they progress through the standards. Visibly Better accreditation is a hallmark of good practice, recognised by Welsh Government, which organisations can use in marketing materials to attract new clients and to include in tenders for contracts.

Dementia is an increasingly common disability in older people and there are around 45,000 people in Wales who have it. In addition over 1 in 3 people with dementia will have a significant sight loss, with a large proportion of the rest having deteriorating vision through ageing.

People with dementia often have other health needs and conditions which tend to increase as people with dementia age. The combination of both dementia and sight loss can have a large and often dramatic effect on a person’s ability to cope with the symptoms of dementia.

Sight loss can also be caused by dementia itself. People with dementia often experience changes in visual functioning or visual perception due to neurological impairments, including problems with depth perception, glare and visual mistakes, or misrepresentations. Visual mistakes can take the form of illusions, misperceptions, misidentifications, and sometimes even hallucinations. These changes in vision can further be exacerbated by natural age-related changes to the eye and/or sight conditions.

To summarise, someone who has both dementia and sight loss will be in one of three situations:

  • A person with dementia whose visual functioning is affected by brain changes caused by the dementia but who does not have a separate eye condition; the brain cannot interpret and process the information from the eyes which are healthy.
  • A person with dementia who does not have impairment of the brain functions associated with vision but has an eye condition such as macular degeneration or cataract.
  • A person who has a combination of the above.

Our Senior Housing and Access Consultant Antonia John has written “Homes for people with dementia and sight loss: a guide to designing and providing safe and accessible environments”. The aim of this guidance is to support organisations and individuals when designing, refurbishing, and maintaining new and existing accommodation and other public spaces. It is based on the principles of providing a fully inclusive environment that supports people with dementia and sight loss to live as independently and safely as possible.

Housing associations from across Wales have told RNIB Cymru that some existing information and advice from the dementia field contradicts other best practice guidance; especially relating to meeting the needs of people with sight loss. There is also currently no definitive guidance on building EMI (Elderly Mentally Ill) wings or Extra Care homes linking in with sight loss and dementia requirements. This publication seeks to address this.

Due to the nature of dementia and the wide and varied symptoms that people experience when they have both sight loss and dementia there is not a “one size fits all” set of recommendations that will meet everyone’s needs. Similarly as dementia progresses someone’s needs may change and further adaptations may be necessary, as what worked previously to support a person’s independence may not continue to support them. There are however key principles that can be incorporated when designing and refurbishing housing for people with dementia and sight loss and these are detailed in this publication.

“Homes for people with dementia and sight loss” is for everyone involved in the design, development, and management of housing or other related disciplines. The guide is particularly aimed at organisations which are designing, refurbishing or maintaining existing sheltered housing stock and those building and designing new Extra Care housing and care homes. It will also be a valuable resource for managers of sheltered housing, Extra Care schemes, and care homes.

For more information, or to order your free copy of the publication, please email Jo Lawson, RNIB Cymru’s Independent Living Manager



Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) Expert series blog: Sight loss, dementia, and the built environment

By Steve McNulty on 06 23, 2014 in independent living

Jo Lawson, Independent Living Manager at RNIB Cymru discusses how people with dementia and sight loss can be helped to live as independently and safely as possible. It’s a fact that the population is ageing. 10 million people in the UK are over 65 years old.  It is projected that there will be five and [...]


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