Connect Magazine

Connect Magazine

September 2016

Issue 7

Connect Magazine

September 2016

Issue 7


Page number / Article
3 / Welcome
4 / Your Voice
8 /


13 /

The Big Connection

18 /

Accessing your ancestors

23 /

Tips for jobseekers

28 / Book review: 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare by James Shapiro
31 / Advertisements
34 / Stay in touch and Information Directory


I’m Mahtab Khan, I live in Birmingham and I’m blind.

In this edition, you’ll hear from community members about more issues that matter to you.

I’ll also be giving the jobseekers among you some crucial advice.

Mahtab Khan

RNIB Connect and Communications Panel member

Your Voice

Finding solace in rambling

Ray Johnson is from Essex. He’s led a tough life but now in his 80s, has made peace with his past and lives for the future. He tells us how rambling helped him to do that.

“I lost my sight in 1970 through detached retinas and now I’m totally blind. Before that, I was partially sighted.

I joined a rambling club in 1976. It wasn’t especially for blind or partially sighted people but they were so helpful. I had a sighted guide and took my guide dog on walks. I couldn’t have done it without the support of fellow ramblers.

I like the peace and quiet, hearing the birds and getting some fresh air. It’s a challenge to do what the sighted community do, and I enjoy that.

It was a chance to make friends and it helped me to mix with people outside of groups for people with sight loss.

I can’t do much rambling anymore because of my mobility, but I do what I can. I recommend that everyone get out, meet people and socialise because it gives you such an advantage.”

When your life changes, change your life

Maxine Turkington is from Cambridge. After some big life changes, she

decided to keep active by creating something new for the blind and partially sighted community.

“I was fully sighted until my 40s, when I discovered I had Stargardt disease. I have had no central vision for several years.

My motto is: ‘when your life changes, change your life.’ Forget about what you can’t do. Focus on what you can do. You’ll be surprised to find that you’re capable of almost anything.

After moving back from America in 2002, as someone who likes to keep active, my dilemma was, ‘What to do next?’

I thought about things that aren’t available for visually impaired people, and I couldn’t find a cookbook. So I created one.

I put together a list of recipes and adapted them, so visually impaired people could cook them on their own or with a little help.

After getting a grant to publish it in large print, RNIB took over the book and it’s now available in their shop in a range of formats.”

Read Maxine’s book

Maxine’s recipe book, Cooking for VIPs, is available to buy or borrow from RNIB. For more information, call the Helpline on 0303 123 9999.

This month’s Your Voice contributors will receive a PenFriend 2 Labeller. If you have a story to share, email , or call the Connect team on 0303 1234 555.


New £5 note

A new, accessible £5 note is being released this month, with £10 and £20

notes due out next year.

RNIB has been working with the Bank of England to develop features to help blind and partially sighted people identify their money more easily.

The new notes will be made of polymer and will retain tiered sizing, include bold numerals and have a similar colour palette to the current notes.

The new £10 and £20 notes will also have a tactile feature with a series of raised dots.

Steve Tyler is Head of Solutions, Strategy and Planning at RNIB. “These notes are easily identifiable.

The shiny, plastic texture means they feel different to the notes we’re all used to, and they’re also much smaller.”

Tandem cycle success

A former Chair of RNIB Scotland has completed a 750 mile cycle around the

UK in aid of Talking Books.

Ken Reid, who has retinitis pigmentosa, worked together with the relay of volunteer pilots to get him across the UK on his tandem bike.

He set off from Edinburgh and travelled to London via Belfast, Dublin and Cardiff.

Ken said: “The Cycle 750 was a great experience. My relay of pilots were an amazing support all the way around and putting trust in people like my pilots is really quite a great analogy for life with sight loss.”

Ken has already smashed through his £7,500 target, and you can still sponsor him to continue to raise vital funds. Visit or donate £5 by text message, text CCLE75 £5 to 70070.

Iceland trek

A group of RNIB staff and supporters will embark on a trek of a lifetime across

Iceland next month.

The five day trip will include 18 hours of trekking across the beautiful Icelandic landscape.

Team RNIB will stay in traditional mountain huts with temperatures close to -10 degrees at night.

Lizzie Capener, who is 35 and has retinitis pigmentosa, is one supporter taking on this challenge.

“I like my creature comforts so this will be an experience! With my low vision, I do bump into things a lot so it is quite daunting, but really exciting at the same time.”

Sponsor Lizzie

To help her reach her £2500 target, visit

Protect Attendance Allowance

A campaign is underway to stop the funding for attendance allowance being moved from the Department of Work and Pensions to local authorities.

The benefit helps people aged 65 or over to meet the extra costs of a disability. RNIB believes the move would affect the amount of funds going to social care.

Anyone currently receiving attendance allowance would be protected but in the future, it could be much more difficult to receive.

The government is expected to consult on these plans later this year and we will keep you updated.

Take action

Whatever your circumstances, we need you to contact your MP about why it should stay as it is. Complete a template letter online. Visit

Do you receive attendance allowance or know someone who does? To help RNIB respond to the proposed changes, call 0121 665 4255 to share your story.

The Big Connection – Join in the buzz in your community this month

What are the big issues affecting you as a blind or partially sighted person, and how can our community help to address these? Our collective voices are vital in driving change and you can play a part in shaping how things develop.

To kick things off, we’re hosting The Big Connection on 29-30 September in Birmingham (you may have also heard this called RNIB’s AGM).

We’re talking about how to reach more people, engage a younger audience and help people be more active in things that interest and inspire them. This includes campaigns and building great relationships with other organisations.

We asked some of you to tell us about the biggest issues affecting you as blind or

partially sighted people.

Lizzie Capener is 35, from London and has retinitis pigmentosa.

“The main issue is other people’s perceptions of me as a visually impaired person. You can’t see my eye condition and sometimes people aren’t very forgiving. Even if I’m using my white cane, people don’t always understand what that means or that you can use a cane but still have some vision.

The general public need to be educated more to give them an understanding of low vision. Educating children from an early age really works to change their perceptions of disability and partial sight.”

Kevin Satizabal is 25, from Northampton and is registered blind.

“The biggest issue affecting me is a lack of accessible travel solutions.

This really affects me on the streets, particularly outside of London. Buses don’t talk in Northamptonshire so you have to rely on drivers to tell you when to get off, but they often forget.

Travelling also involves a lot of planning. There is no real integrated solution, so I often have to use multiple apps: Google Maps, BlindSquare, the TfL planner… all just to get from A to B and get the information I need.

It would be great if there was one accessible travel app. This would bring all of these technologies together and make travelling much easier for blind people.”

Sabeena De Saram, 30 was born in Sri Lanka and now lives in London. She is severely sight impaired.

“I was fully sighted until 2013. I was registered as partially sighted in 2015, then lost all my useful sight this year.

The issue I’m still struggling with is the emotional impact of sight loss. I miss seeing things. I used to enjoy everything around me and now I just don’t see anything. I just see shadows of everything and I really miss it.

I miss being that person, because I’m still struggling to accept that I’m severely sight impaired. I have to let go of things and start a new life, maybe. I hope to come out of this really soon, but after seeing things for 27 years, I think I will always miss it. It’s tough, but the sight loss counselling was a huge support. It boosted my level of confidence to live with sight loss.”

Join in the conversation before, during and after the event – online, over the phone and with radio.

Get involved

Tune in and call in with RNIB Connect Radio.

Listen on Freeview channel 730 and online at

Find out more about telephone groups. Email or call either 0845 330 3723 or 020 7391 2218.


Follow RNIB on Facebook and Twitter and use the #RNIBConnect

Accessing your ancestors

Most of us wouldn’t know where to start with our family tree. Partially sighted historian and Franciscan Friar, Brother David, has some tips up his sleeve and an

interesting story of his own.

“I think coming from Kidwelly – a Norman town with a castle – sparked my interest in history.

It took 15 years to research my family tree and it’s now complete as I can’t go back any further. It was certainly an adventure.”

Did you discover anyone particularly interesting?

“There are so many fascinating examples. I found a holy man, born in the year 500 who passed away on 1 March 589. In Wales, we know him as Dewi; in England he would be David.

So a holy man called David who died on 1 March… is St David of Wales. On my family tree!

Further back, we have another classical history name, Flavius Constantius, or Constantine I, a Roman Emperor. His daughter Fausta married the King of Wales.

It even goes back to the BCs, which is as far as I can get. The first name on the tree is Camba, first King of Cambria (the classical name for Wales) in 1100-1006 BC.”

Why did it take so long?

“It involved a bit of travelling. When I got to King Henry I’s father, William the Conqueror, it involved a period when we were in France. So I had to visit and look at the French archives.”

As someone who is partially sighted, did you cross any hurdles in terms of your sight? What are the logistics of actually tracing a family tree?

“Lots of records are available online now, meaning you can adjust your computer screen to suit your needs. I used the websites Ancestry ( and Find My Past (, although they both have similar records.

When I went to France and looked at old records around the French royal families, I took some equipment to help, such as magnifiers.

Overall though, I think the hurdles are more the language barrier issues rather than a visual one. There is always staff available to help at records offices and libraries.

So where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

Where should people start?

“You need to start with yourself and work back. There’s no point in trying to start with someone’s name picked from memory or your own records. You’ll also need to know both of your parents’ names, as they were on the census.”

Why should people research their family tree?

“There’s a massive spark in interest on family history of late, and the further you go back, the more exciting it gets. You’ll be happy if you get to the 1800s, ecstatic to reach the 1700s, and if you get to the Tudor period (1548- 1603) that’s an achievement in itself. I got to the medieval period and I was delighted. If you can put yourself, through a member of your family, all those years ago, it’s a real talking point. I’d advise anyone: don’t let sight loss stop you – go for it.”

If you decide to trace your tree, do let us know how you get on. Email connectstories@ or call the Connect team on 0303 1234 555.

Tips for jobseekers

Anyone who’s ever been unemployed will know that it can be tough. When looking for work as a blind or partially sighted person, it can be particularly hard.

Mahtab Khan, who is blind and an employment advisor, knows this all too well. He shared some heartfelt advice which might just give you the boost you need to secure that job.

“I have been blind, or partially sighted since birth. Originally I lived in London and now have moved to Birmingham.

I advise people on employment matters, having come from a background of advising people around discrimination in general.

From personal experiences around looking for jobs and attempting to follow a career, at a personal level I know how difficult it can be.

I have had employers ask things like ‘How will you be able to read or write a report?’ which is pretty amazing, considering I have a degree, a postgraduate qualification and I’m a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

We are battling against other people’s assumptions about what we can or can’t do, rather than a gauge of our actual ability.”

To declare or not to declare?

“I was recently invited to an event for disabled jobseekers. Many people asked me about when they should declare a disability.

There’s no obligation for you to disclose a disability; it’s your own decision. But there are some things you might want to consider.

Although you might be uncertain about how an employer or potential employer might react, there are good reasons for telling them.

Employment is covered by the Equality Act of 2010 and this means it is unlawful for employers to discriminate against disabled people in their recruitment and selection procedures. If they know you are disabled, employers must also consider making any reasonable adjustments.

If you don’t declare a disability, employment tribunal might decide that your employer was justified in failing to make adjustments for you. Of course, if they don’t know that you’re disabled, they can’t make those adjustments.

However you do run the risk of an employer discriminating against you if you declare your disability; that’s the experience of many people, and it’s not always easy to take action against them.”

How and when to declare

“It’s mostly unlawful for an employer to ask health-related questions before making the job offer, unless it’s to identify any reasonable adjustments you might need for the selection process.

Focus on your abilities and why you think you’re the right person for the job.

You should also look out for the Jobcentre Plus ‘two ticks’ disability symbol on job adverts. This symbol means that the employer has made a commitment to employing disabled people and that you are guaranteed an interview if you meet the

minimum criteria for the job.

There are many pros and cons for when, if at all, to declare your disability and there are no right or wrong answers that will fit every situation. It is a judgement call and only you can decide the best option for you.”

Advice and support

RNIB and Action for Blind People provide specialist support and advice to help you find employment, start your own business, or stay in work if you are losing your sight. Call the Helpline on 0303 123 9999.

Book review - 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare by James Shapiro

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the death of one of the world’s greatest playwrights. But how much do we know about Shakespeare; the man himself? Vidar Hjardeng reviews this biographic account of a day in the Bard’s life.

“This book focuses on one year, when he was 35 and living in London. It’s a pivotal year in the playwright’s life. It propelled him to become perhaps one of the world’s greatest playwrights, whose legacy has not just influenced English literature but literature as we know it.

The book really gives a sense of who Shakespeare was as a man, showing how his experiences actually influenced his writing.

There are four plays that were written that year: Henry V, As You Like It, Julius Caesar, and Hamlet. Interestingly, the book is very much set against the background of what happened in Elizabethan England during that year.

It’s divided into four sections which reflect the four seasons. There were so many significant historical events taking place around this time. England was under threat of Spanish invasion in 1599. There was a rebellion in Ireland, and high levels of repression of satire and drama by the authorities.