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My name is Amanda Burt and I am a member of the Scottish Accessible Information Forum, I am a blind person and I have recently started attending events.
I have both good and bad experiences with regard to my attendance at events. I have been to events where people have said that they will guide me from place to place and help me choose my lunch however this hasn’t happened, luckily other delegates were kind enough to help me. When this happens, it’s extremely frightening because you don’t know whether people will help.
I recently had to cancel one of the events I wanted to attend because I received a phone call saying that the company who were organising the event were restructuring which meant that they were getting rid of staff and would not longer be able to assist me at the event. They asked if I could bring someone along to help me which I couldn’t do so I had to cancel my booking. I had to decline the invitation, the cost to attend was £300 and given the fact that I wouldn’t be guaranteed help I couldn’t take the risk. It’s a real shame because I attended the same event the year before and the help I received was excellent. They guided me around the building and gave me the material I needed in accessible formats so it’s a real shame this has happened now.
I have been to loads of events though where I have been helped around the building. When that happens, I feel comfortable because I know that I will be helped and I won’t have to worry about whether I’ll get lunch, coffee, help to the toilet or to a taxi. It makes me feel included in the event when I get the help I need.
The other thing about attending events is receiving the material in accessible formats. Sometimes I receive material in PDF files which I can’t read or in power point which is inaccessible with my screen reader. Luckily, most times when I say that I can’t read things which are produced, people will be kind enough to convert the file in to Word format which is excellent. It means that I will be able to read the material like everyone else.
Sometimes, when I attend events, people don’t always explain what is on their power point presentation and that’s really annoying because I can’t always grasp what they’re meaning if they don’t explain their power point presentations. At one event I attended, someone put on a video which I soon discovered had no audio apart from loud music. There were just pictures on the video which was useless to me as I had no idea what was happening.
I once attended an event where we had to use voting pads. I found this difficult as I could not see the pads and the speaker did not read the questions that were on the screen. Luckily someone was able to read the questions to me and selected my answers on the voting pads so I was happy with that.
The advice I’d give then is that when a blind person wants to attend an event, please make sure that they receive any material in an accessible format, make sure that there is someone to help them during the event and make sure that people explain their presentations if there are pictures so that the blind person knows what’s happening.