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Blind mum claims charity for blind didn't help

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: October 24, 2012

Charity plea: Annette Sylvester. Inset, Annette with Tabitha, 11, Reuben, six, and husband Lee

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ANNETTE Sylvester says a charity for the blind is "discriminating" against her because she is blind.

The 35-year-old wanted to attend computer training courses with Gloucestershire County Association of the Blind at Cheltenham.

But she claims she received no help to get there from her home in Bourton- on-the-Water, from either GCAB or the county council's adult social services sensory team.

Mrs Sylvester, who moved from New Zealand in July with her husband Lee and children Tabitha, 11, and Reuben, six, desperately wanted to be independent and start working again.

She lost her eyesight five years ago when she suffered a haemorrhage following an operation to lower the pressure in her eyes.

"I've never even been on a bus on my own as a blind person and I don't know the area," she said.

"Before we came over I'd emailed GCAB to say I was coming under their jurisdiction. Usually if you lose your sight or move you get mobility training to familiarise yourself with the area and any of your regular routes.

"I heard nothing, sent more emails once we arrived and still didn't hear anything.

"When we got a landline phone I rang and said I wanted to get more au fait with computer technology as a blind person and asked again where did I go to find out about bus services or eligibility for taxi vouchers.

"But it was like talking to a brick wall. Despite a waiting list I eventually got a place on the course. But Lee is going away on work and could only take me twice to the sessions so I lost my place."

She said she had also lost out on the social aspect of meeting other visually impaired people in the area.

"It's crazy – it's a charity supporting blind and partially-sighted people but I'm being discriminated against," she said.

Mrs Sylvester was re-directed to the county council.

"Eventually I was told I might as well teach myself computing at home," she said.

GCAB general manager Steve Martin said: "Our computer training sessions have a waiting list and we ask that people attend on a regular basis.

"It's up to the individual to get themselves to the centre."

A county council spokesman said: "Mrs Sylvester hasn't approached us directly about route training, but if she did require this training we can assess her needs and offer the service if it is feasible for her."

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  • Dave_t10  |  November 03 2012, 1:00AM

    @LeeSylvester "But she claims she received no help to get there from her home in Bourton- on-the-Water, from either GCAB or the county council's adult social services sensory team." and "and asked again where did I go to find out about bus services or eligibility for taxi vouchers" That's what I refer to about transport. "A blind person is not allowed to walk outside with a white cane. This is entirely different to what you are suggesting and IT IS A PRIORITY. By denying this support in the way it has been denied is discrimination." Please point out the law why prevents a blind person not legally being outside becasuse erm, I must have missed that. I still don't get how it is discrimination, If we you your definition of discrimination then the entire population is discrimated against something! Can I claim discrimination because the council don't let me have a Blue Badge? Even if I'm not disabled! Discrimination by your definition surely?

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  • honslknjklyt  |  October 31 2012, 1:57PM

    They get tax relief as a charity.

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  • Steve_Thomas  |  October 31 2012, 1:29PM

    Not sure that taxpayers are paying for the course. It's provided by GCAB, which is a charity. As is the case with many charitable and voluntary services where people ask "Is this what we pay our taxes for!!"; No, actually it's not.

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  • honslknjklyt  |  October 31 2012, 11:37AM

    How did blind people manage before there were computers? My dad hasn't got a computer and he's ok? Nor has he ever touched a keyboard or computer mouse. We are already as taxpayers paying for the course, which if I wanted to go on one I would have to pay for. I am being discriminated against because I can see. Now blindness is a terrible thing and we all take sight for granted, the same as the sense of smell that tells us if our food has gone off or not, the sense of taste that tells us if we are drinking acid or lemonade, and no I would not like to be blind. What have we got to provide next a clothing allowance for her to be able to wear to get there, maybe a laundry and shoe allowance. Where does this end?

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  • Takeaway22  |  October 31 2012, 8:27AM

    by LeeSylvester - I'm sorry but after reading all the posts on this forum and the article, I still find it hard to understand HOW this is discrimination. It appears apparent that you weren't offered/given the services that you are apparently entitled to, but this is hardly discrimination. As Bonkim has stated, if the authorities have fallen down on their duties, go through the correct procedures to put it right and take some responsibility. PS When you stated that you have "been spending a period in NZ", how long exactly is "a period"? 12 months, 12 years, 30 years? Was there a reason for avoiding detail?

    |   -7
  • ladygray  |  October 30 2012, 10:04PM

    Dave t10, what is your problem? This family are not asking anything from you.Can you imagine how terrifying it would be to travel on public transport, it would be uncomfortable enough for a person with sight. I have a disabled daughter and am sick of the prejudice of able bodied people. Why do we have to fight for everything because we have the misfortune of having a disability.

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  • Dave_t10  |  October 30 2012, 9:24PM

    @LeeSylvester "Providing a requirement for the basic human rights of an individual. This takes priority over a large number of expenditures the Government and Council may have." Sorry have to disagree with you here. Providing free transport is simply not a basic human right, neither does it take priority over many ther council services. The courses are being provided, thus they are discharging their statuatory obligation. You can not expect these organisations to provide a taxi service on top. I do feel for anyone is this situation, but this certainly is NOT discrimination on ANY level.

    |   -4
  • ladygray  |  October 29 2012, 7:02PM

    My last comment was deleted for some reason. For all the horrible commenters on here, walk a mile in her shoes, close your eyes as you walk,how scary does that feel? Imagine that for the rest of your life.she will not see her children grow up or open their christmas presents or walk down the aisle. All she wanted was a better life for her family and not live on benefits. Shame on you all for your negative comments, karma.

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  • geraint2010  |  October 29 2012, 2:02PM

    Out of interest did Annette consider getting trained up in her native country, or was transport an issue there too?

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  • Ms_Superstar  |  October 29 2012, 1:38PM

    As GCAB have said, they are simply providing the course. It is well outside their remit to sort out how people get there. The County Council have pointed out that they may be able to help with this. Perhaps GCAB should have referred Mrs Sylvester to them. I agree that disabled people do have a hard time, but there are limitations on how much assistance they can be given. This comes down to economics, and is not discrimination. Some people do manage to overcome their disabilities through their own efforts. Professor Stephen Hawking is a prime example, as well as the Paralympic athletes. We each have to live within our capabilities, whether disabled or able-bodied. I'm not saying that Mrs Sylvester shouldn't receive more help than she has, but it's unfair to call it discrimination.

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