Anglian Water is launching a new training scheme for staff helping them to understand the day to day challenges faced by people with sight loss.
Over two million people live with sight loss in the UK, and this number is said to double by 2050. Unfortunately, parked cars and other obstacles on our streets and pavements mean they can easily become less accessible for those who are blind or partially sighted.
In a water company first, Anglian Water engineers will be put through their paces in workshops run by guide dog owner and charity volunteer, Jim Watt, and his guide dog, Legend. By using special glasses that mimic different types of sight loss, staff will be able to physically experience what it’s like to live with sight loss and understand the challenges even small changes road surfaces and footpaths can cause.
As a result, staff will better understand how to make roadworks and footpaths easier to navigate for people who are visually impaired in the future.
Fay Darbey, Training and Business Partner at Anglian Water said, “Road works and footpath closures are a necessary part of our day to day work. We need to use them to get to our pipes underground and to keep our staff and the public safe too.
“But it’s easy to forget the impact a wrongly placed barrier or sign might have on someone who is blind or partially sighted, and how disorientating that could be.
“Our new training scheme is a fantastic way for us to make sure we are always putting our customers first. The teams will be experiencing first-hand what it is like to have sight loss and it will help them realise what impact the work we do every day, can have on different people’s lives. It will make a huge difference to the way we work.”
Guide dog owner Jim is a customer of Anglian Water and has recently won a regional people’s award for the work he has been doing with the company. He has now been nominated for a national award along with his guide dog Legend.
Helen Sismore, Diversity and Equality Consultant and is also a trainer with Guide Dogs said, “We take it for granted when we turn the tap, to have fresh clean water. We often take it for granted when we are talking and meeting with our customers that they can all see and hear us. Anglian Water isn’t taking this for granted. Through a series of programmes, they are ensuring staff have the required knowledge and skills to help them serve their blind or partially sighted customers better.
“Being asked to deliver sight loss awareness training for me demonstrates the commitment of Anglian Water are making, ensuring they provide a fully inclusive and accessible service to all. Being blind or partially sighted and trying to navigate a route which becomes blocked because of utilities work can be a major problem. It can cause the person to give up and go home.
“This training is equipping staff at all levels to understand key communication techniques and sight guiding techniques, it also breaks down the fears around sight loss in a fun learning environment. I am honoured to be delivering this training to such a forward-thinking organisation.”
The workshops will be taking place over the next six months in Cambridgeshire for all field-based staff across the region.