What is it like to be visually impaired in Great Yarmouth?

Left to right: Jeff Bradford, Nicky Meredith, Liz Price and June Stamp at the Vision Norfolk Coffee Morning in January.

Left to right: Jeff Bradford, Nicky Meredith, Liz Price and June Stamp at a Vision Norfolk Coffee Morning. - Credit: James Weeds

From being partially-sighted to registered blindness there are more than 36,000 people living with sight loss in Norfolk.

Reporter James Weeds looks at what it is like being visually impaired in the borough of Great Yarmouth.

Audio watches for sale at Vision Norfolk.

Aids such as audio watches can help people with sight loss cope with day-to-day life. - Credit: James Weeds

Jeff Bradford, 67 and from Gorleston, has been registered blind since 202

He lost his right eye in an industrial accident in 2014 when he was a forklift driver.

In April 2020, he had an eye stroke which left him without vision in his left eye.

Mr Bradford said: "It's hard to explain to people what it's like unless they're in that situation.

"You hope it won't ever happen to you, but it happened to me.

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"The past two years have been very hard."

Mr Bradford said "general life is a struggle" and that his blindness has limited his independence.

"You can't see what you're eating, where you're going or even what clothes you've put on.

"Whatever you want to do, it is a real struggle."

To help adapt to his condition Mr Bradford is learning braille thanks to a volunteer with Vision Norfolk.

"Coping with blindness is difficult to describe," Mr Bradford said.

"It's one uphill struggle."

He said more awareness is needed when other people come across people with sight loss.

"People are aware of the condition - they notice you being led around by someone, or holding a stick or a cane, or even a guide dog," Mr Bradford said.

"But common sense is needed as well - give people space or offer help if they seem to be struggling."

Different lensed glasses for the visually impaired on a shelf at Vision Norfolk.

Glasses with different coloured lenses help people with visual impairment. - Credit: James Weeds

Mr Bradford said throughout his adapting to his circumstances, his wife has "been a diamond".

He added: "The stress she has been through - I wouldn't ask anyone to go through that.

"I think more awareness of carers is needed.

"The carer is a carer, but who looks after them?"

Audio clocks for the visually impaired on a shelf.

Audio clocks are an aid to tell visually impaired people the time and date. - Credit: James Weeds

At a coffee morning at Vision Norfolk's Great Yarmouth branch, other people from the area with visual impairment shared their experiences of living with sight loss.

June Stamp, 74, said it can be embarrassing when crossing the road.

She said: "I have to rely on others to help me cross the road.

"I just have to ask - but it can be awkward sometimes."

A pedestrian crossing by Haven Bridge in Great Yarmouth.

Visually impaired people in Great Yarmouth have said that crossing roads can be a daily challenge. - Credit: James Weeds

Norfolk County Council recently explained that many of the crossings in the county do not beep to signify when it is safe to cross the road.

A spokesperson said: "We do not install audible units where there are Dual Carriageways or staggered crossings, as it could be misheard.

"As such, tactile rotating cones are installed to the underside of the push button units to assist with visually impaired members of public in crossing safely."

A puffin crossing signal and a tactile pad to alert users when it is safe to cross the road.

Most pedestrian signals have tactile cones to indicate when it is safe to cross the road. - Credit: James Weeds

Eddie Hunter, 73, said the rotating cones still have issues.

"It doesn't help much. Blind people still have to find the cone," Mr Hunter said.

"Uneven footpaths are dangerous for many people as well.

"A lot of people wo are visually impaired don't walk the same way as other people."

Routines and regular routes to places are essential for many people living with sight loss or visual impairment. However, changes to the state of pavements or even advertising boards can cause difficulties.

Liz Price, who has had retinitis pigmentosa since 1989, said: "I know every loose curb and raised step on my usual route."

Nicky Meredith outside Vision Norfolk in Great Yarmouth.

Co-ordinator Nicky Meredith outside the Great Yarmouth hub of Vision Norfolk. - Credit: James Weeds

Tim Poole, who has retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration, said other dangers are A-boards outside shops, cyclists and scooter riders on pavements.

"For people like us, we can't see cyclists or scooters coming," Mr Poole, 78, said.

"It can be treacherous."

Nicky Meredith smiling.

Nicky Meredith, co-ordinator at Vision Norfolk's Great Yarmouth hub. - Credit: James Weeds

Nicky Meredith, 43, co-ordinator at Vision Norfolk's Great Yarmouth hub, said: "I don't think people who have sight understand what it is like to have a visual impairment.

"People have got to be more open to the idea that it can happen to anyone at any stage."

For more information about Vision Norfolk and the service they provided for people with visual impairment, visit their website.