Claire Patience, 37, recently joined RNIB as Project Co-ordinator for the Lisburn in Focus Project. This month saw the launch of the innovative project funded by the Big Lottery Fund to make the Lisburn council area a friendlier place for people with sight loss. For the past 14 years she has worked as Community Development Officer for various community development projects and in local government. Prior to coming to RNIB Claire was responsible for a Peace and Reconciliation funded project. Claire is married with three children aged 6, 4 and 1.
After a busy morning getting the children ready I leave for work in Lisburn. check for messages and try to respond promptly. Lisburn in Focus, a five year project project, is still in its early stages but we hope to make the Lisburn area more accessible to the 3,000 blind and partially sighted people who live across Lisburn City Council area. We aim to make blind and partially sighted people feel more secure at home, confident and motivated to go out and safer and more involved in the outdoor environment, at events and within leisure facilities.
We were awarded £740,000 funding from the Big Lottery Fund Safe and Well Programme and the project is being overseen by a partnership between Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), Guide Dogs, Lisburn City Centre Management (LCCM) and Lisburn City Council. I have been spending a lot of time liasing with these organisations. We're also really keen to start building up contact with as many local blind and partially sighted people as possible as we need their suggestions, feedback and opinions about what we plan to do and how we plan to do them.
One of the key goals is to deliver Visual Awareness Training to up to 5,000 people in the area. The training is offered free to businesses, service providers and schools and community groups and aims to make Lisburn a model of excellence on how people who are blind or partially sighted are treated and served. The more businesses and service providers who take part in the training the stronger the claim that Lisburn City Council is the place to visit, shop, relax, eat and stay in Northern Ireland if you are blind or partially sighted.
Myself and Kathryn - The Project Team - tailor the project to meet the needs of the individual businesses or service providers and we will be working with the Project partners and other bodies such as the SE Trust, Safer Lisburn, PSNI, Translink and Roads Service to ensure that all of the goals are addressed. These include providing safe and clear public spaces, promoting inclusive social and cultural events and ensuring all written information in Lisburn is accessible.
We will be installing specially modified intruder alarm systems in the homes of some of the most vulnerable blind and partially sighted people in Lisburn. We will also be working with the Police and Community Safety partnerships to provide crime prevention advice and to ensure that all such advice is made available in a range of accessible formats, such as large print, audio or Braille.
The first phase of the project was an access audit of the city centre and a number of outlying areas such as Hillsborough and Moira. A core part of the project will be working with the Roads Service, businesses and property owners to eradicate hazards such as shop displays, bollards, parked cars, dog mess, overhanging hedges and uneven pavements. The next few months will see the city starting to install a navigation system known as 'REACT', which lets people know where they are as they walk around the city through spoken announcements. These are triggered by a fob in their pocket or handbag, and can give additional information as required to enable people to orientate themselves further. It really is an exciting time at the moment getting the project off the ground and establishing ourselves in Lisburn as well as making people aware of what we do.
I'm really delighted to be part of this project and its great to be working with the local community.
* If you are interested in finding our more about Lisburn in Focus then call Claire or Kathryn on 9260 0388 or email Lisburninfocus@rnib.org.uk.