"Give the blind a fairer deal" demands MP

September 25, 2008 12:00 AM
Cam Sight

Checking out some of the gadgets designed to make life easier for the partially sighted are (from left) Bob Simms, Miriam Reynolds, MP David Howarth and Cynthia Smith.

Cambridge MP David Howarth is fighting for a fairer deal for the blind and partially sighted in a bid to get them more cash help from the Government.

Mr Howarth visited the city's Cam Sight charity yesterday (Thursday) to hear first hand about the problems people face when their sight starts to fail.

He is supporting a campaign by the Royal National Institute for the Blind which calls on the Government to allow people with severe sight loss to be eligible for a mobility payment through the Disability Living Allowance.

The charity will lobby Parliament on October 15 and Mr Howarth has signed an Early Day Motion urging Labour to change the eligibility criteria for the allowance.

He said: "When people lose their sight they also lose their independence. They can no longer drive and can find themselves isolated because they cannot afford to pay transport costs.

"I am urging the Government to make the DLA eligibility criteria fairer for people who find themselves in this situation.

"The Government is in the process of undertaking a whole reform of disability benefits and now is the opportunity to put this right."

Bob Simms, who is a regular visitor to Cam Sight, lost half the sight in each eye after suffering two strokes.

He has been fighting for five years to get a change in the DLA's eligibility criteria which would give him an extra £98 a month.

"It must be discrimination to treat people with visual impairment differently from those with a physical disability," he said. "A person with a physical disability can drive an adapted car but I can't drive at all. I used to play golf four times a week but you lose your independence, and that is the biggest thing.

"The Government can spend millions on bullets and bombs and they can't look after their own people. This is not about the money, it's about discrimination."

Miriam Reynolds, 72, became partlally sighted after two strokes in her early 30s.

An audio typist, she has found it hard to stay in employment and is now learning computer skills.

She said: "It feels sometimes like your brain is failing rather than your eyesight. It's extremely difficult; you feel isolated."

Cam Sight chief executive, Anne Streather, said: "It would cost £3 million for the Government to put this right.

"Losing their sight has a profound impact on people. It can lead to isolation and depression. Suicides are dramatically higher among blind and partially sighted people."

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