Campaigning for Sense helped me give my brother a voice

A boy smiling
Saima’s brother, who is supported by Sense

My name is Saima and I have been campaigning for Sense for a number of years. I got involved in campaigning after personally experiencing the difficulties of getting the right support and service for my brother.

My brother is supported by Sense in Luton, and has been for several years. The team there are fantastic. Since my brother has attended, he has transformed into a confident, happy and independent young man, and it is all down to the hard work of the team. I have been a supporter of Sense since then.

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How accessible and useful is the Amazon Echo?

Two men seated by a table with a black cylundrical device
Tony Lodge and Steven Morris with Tony’s Amazon Echo

You may have heard about Amazon’s Echo, a hands-free, voice controlled device that uses Alexa (Amazon’s version of Siri, a talking digital assistant) to perform various tasks such as play music, control ‘smart’ home devices, read the news, set alarms, add items to shopping lists and more.

I met up with Sense member Tony Lodge to learn more about using the Echo and how it might be of help and accessible to disabled people. Tony brought one with him and we and put it through its paces.

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What I’ll be asking from the next government at the Disability Hustings Event

Picture of Emma, smiling in orange Sense t-shirtA hustings is a meeting where potential candidates for an election talk to voters. On Tuesday 30 May I will be at a Disability Hustings Event where disabled people pose questions to these candidates, raise issues, and tell them what they think should be prioritised if they are in post after the general election.

My name is Emma Blackmore. I am a 29 year old who was born with Congenital Rubella Syndrome. My lifelong ambition is to help others and that’s where Sense comes in. Not only have I been a member of Sense since I was 14 years old but I work at the Sense Woodside Family Centre in my home town, Bristol. I am also part of Sense’s Campaigners’ Network.

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The Monday Ramble and the benefits of bringing people together

Group of people at picnic tables wavingThe Monday Ramble activity session at Sense has been a regular feature in many deafblind people’s lives over the past six years. It was an opportunity created specifically to get deafblind people from across the Midlands region together to do regular, gentle exercise, and improve fitness levels.

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Celebrating access to the arts with a new sensory festival

Black and white photograph of manhole cover on pavement with blurred edges to show Marcus' point of view
A photograph exhibited by Marcus Inniss at Moorfields Eye Hospital

Access to the arts is so important, but can often be misunderstood as simply a ‘nice thing to do’ rather than as a fundamental right. Creativity gives us the tools to make sense of the world and articulate our thoughts and feelings, and we’re yet to find ways of making this available to all.

At Sense we’re interested in ways to empower people to find their cultural voice, and we’re doing this through working collaboratively and experimentally with artists and participants to interrogate access to art through the senses.

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Why I volunteered for Sense for 25 years

Woman supporting a young girl in a pink tube down a slopeI first started volunteering for Sense almost 25 years ago. I was a key-worker for a blind woman with communication difficulties who often asked to go on a Sense Holiday. In the days before the internet it took me a while to eventually discover what she was referring to! But finally I went along with her.

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Time for parties to commit to social care

Lady caring for an older manFollowing Theresa May’s surprise announcement that we would be having a snap general election, all the political parties have jostled for air time, trying to capture the public’s imagination with their key messages.

So far, Brexit has remained top of the agenda.

However, there are vital domestic issues facing the country as well, top of my list would be the crisis-stricken social care sector.

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Being part of a special event in someone else’s life is a privilege

Marie with her family
Marie with her family

I started visiting Marie as communicator guide in her nursing home in December 2013. I took this up as part of my care role at the Sense Tanglewood residential home, mainly to do something a little different. Marie’s previous communicator guides had to travel a long way to be with her and I lived quite close by. It was through this role that I had the opportunity to assist Marie on a rare visit home.

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Five commitments to put disabled people at the heart of the general election

Blank note pad with pencilThe general election on 8 June 2017 is an opportunity for the next government to listen and respond to the concerns of disabled people.

We know that in 2017, disabled people continue to face barriers to access to a range of services, and especially for people who are deafblind, have sensory impairments, or complex needs, it can be a struggle to find the right tailored support.

That’s why we would like to see the next government put disabled people at the heart of their agenda, and ensure that they are supported to live full, independent lives and realise their aspirations just like everybody else.

We want to next Government to commit to:

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Pairing a landline phone to my hearing aids

A man holding a landline cordless phone
A DECT phone being discussed at a Sense technology training day

As a user of hearing aids, my latest technology experiment has been to hook up a new Bluetooth cordless DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Technology) home phone to my Oticon Streamer Pro – this is a Bluetooth streamer allowing the sound to be transmitted directly to my hearing aid.

I have always used an ordinary cordless DECT handset and have sometimes struggled to hear the person on the other end of the phone line clearly. In the past I’ve resorted to plugging in wired headphones with a boom microphone connected to the handset. However, even this was prone to problems with quiet connections, and I couldn’t increase the volume level any further.

This is why this new setup, using the Bluetooth wireless technology is so brilliant. Not only in removing those pesky wires, but it also has the ability to increase the volume level. Even better, I can turn off my hearing aids’ own microphone to cut out all background noise and boost the clarity of the incoming call. This means that I can now have a complete hands-free operation and have perfect clarity of sound of whoever is talking to me.

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