28th January 2013 — Technology Gadgets Demo and Transport Updates

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Minutes of General Meeting

Held on 28th January 2013 at 2:30pm
At Wherry Way Communal Room, Caister Road, Great Yarmouth

There were twenty Members present with friends and family, and guests including Richard Polley, Equipment Adviser (NNAB), Diane Lambert, Assessment and Advice Officer (SENSE), Jo Howes (DIAL) and Tracy Jary, Community Worker for NNAB. The local PCSO and Penny from Yare Care also attended, but were unable to stay for the whole meeting. They would be invited to attend the next meeting

Introductions

The Chairman, David Wilkinson welcomed everyone to the meeting, especially the guests and new Members, Mrs & Mrs Church and Mr & Mrs Raven. Everyone present introduced themselves.

David introduced the first guest speaker, Richard Polley, Equipment Adviser from the Norfolk and Norwich Association for the Blind, who had brought various items of assistive technology for blind and visually impaired people, which he demonstrated. Details can be found as an Appendix to these minutes. During the summer months, Richard takes the mobile display of these items, and a selection of other aids which can also be purchased at the NNAB Equipment Centre on Hall Quay, to various venues around the villages. He also visits residential homes and clubs to give talks and demonstrations of the various pieces of equipment (see Appendix A for details).

At the end of his talk, Richard was warmly thanked for his interesting and informative talk and demonstration.

David then introduced Diane Lambert from SENSE, a national charity supporting and campaigning for deafblind people, which has a local office based at Dereham. Diane is an Assessment and Advice Officer who works with small groups and deafblind people in their own homes to help them access appropriate support. SENSE organises forums for people to seek information and share experiences of the particular problems encountered by people with sight and hearing loss. She had been able to pass on information provided by Shaun to hearing aid manufacturers to help them understand the particular problems for deafblind people, and equipment manufacturers who only provide details of products in visual format.

Tony, who is blind and also suffers hearing loss, said that due to financial constraints and reorganisation he had lost the support of his Communicator Guide, and had been told that he would have to fund this service himself. Arrangements were made for Diane to make a home visit to discuss this matter further.

David thanked Diane for taking the time to come and meet the Group, and invited her to attend future meetings.

Chairman’s Update

David updated the Group about various on going discussions.

1. St George’s Theatre

David and Shaun had attended a local residents’ meeting with Glen Holmes, Construction Services Manager at Great Yarmouth Borough Council, about the St George’s Theatre redevelopment, and Tim had also attended an on-site meeting. The Theatre was now in use. There were concerns about the ramp to the main entrance which had no handrail and there were steps at the end of the slope, which they felt were quite dangerous for disabled and visually impaired people. Mr Holmes’ response was that the Building Regulations had been approved and signed off, and that it would be difficult to make changes at this stage of the redevelopment. There was adequate disabled access at another entrance.

There was an unresolved dispute between the architect and the builder about aspects of the new building.

In regard to the Building Regulations, Ian Hardy explained that they were not always as effective with existing properties as with new buildings. In the case of the existing building at St George’s, the Regulations had been complied with, but not necessarily in a way which best met the public’s needs. He encouraged the Group to continue to be involved at every stage of the redevelopment, particularly in consultation about access issues in and around the outside performance area.

2. Transport

David reported that he had been working for the past year on a project with the rail franchise holder (Greater Anglia) on behalf of the Great Yarmouth Community Trust.

In addition they were now looking at provision of bus transport within the Borough, and Tony Rozier was in the process of assessing both good and bad aspects of current bus services, in particular where services are not available but there is a definite need. If any Members have comments on this, please let David have them, and he will pass them on to Mr Rozier. The scanning machines for disabled bus passes now seemed to be working well, and Darren commented that the bus service seems to have improved recently with the provision of wallets for bus passes and with drivers being more polite.

There would be several changes to local bus stops and some route diversions beginning on Monday. If anyone wishes for further information and a copy of the revised services, please see Wendy at the Equipment Centre on Hall Quay.

3. North Denes Crossing

Robert West, Highway Engineer (Norfolk County Council) said that there was unlikely to be funding available for the implementation of new pedestrian crossing points. If budgetary circumstances change, North Denes Road is on the crossing assessment list. Ron was asked to identify a specific location along North Denes Road, so that Mr West could investigate other possibilities to improve the situation.

4. Pedestrian Crossing near Sainsbury’s

Following complaints that there was not time to cross the road whilst the green man was flashing at the crossing from Sainsbury’s to the town centre, David reported that one second had been added to the time which the traffic lights remained red.

DIAL Updates

David then invited Jo Howes from DIAL to update the Group. For the benefit of new members she reminded the Group about the DIAL outreach opportunities for people to discuss problems at various locations as follows:-

Tuesday 10-1 DIAL, Broad Row, Great Yarmouth
Wednesday 10-4 MESH Office at Magdalen Way, Gorleston
Friday 10-4 Independent Living Centre, British Red Cross, Beacon Park, Gorleston

DIAL, the Disabled Information and Advice Line will give free and impartial advice on the welfare benefits system, debt management and help with form filling. For advice and appoints the DIAL telephone number is 01493 856900.

The charity shop in Broad Row is always looking for saleable goods and rags to sell
for recycling which all goes towards funding the work of DIAL.

Any Other Business

David asked whether anyone had experienced any particular access issues. The on-going problem of A-boards in Gorleston High Street was mentioned. Maggie had encountered
Lamppost in the middle of the High Road near the Three Tuns pub, and only her glasses
Had saved her from damaging her face. Shaun said that lampposts were being replaced along Beccles Road. The workmen scanned the pavements to locate wires and other underground hazards and then just drilled holes for the new lampposts where there were no obstacles.

Ian Hardy said that some areas such as Market Gates were in private ownership and so the Borough Council had no control over obstructions in the shopping complex. There had been issues about shops encroaching onto the pedestrian area in Regent Road, but it had transpired that some businesses owned legitimate rights to display goods on their forecourts, so eventually a line was drawn on the forecourts behind which shop proprietors should keep their goods, and this seemed to work quite well. The Meeting agreed that tolerance and understanding on both sides was always the best way forward.

David said that he was hoping that, following the success of implementing the use of yellow and black scaffolding tape in Norfolk, he could persuade similar VIP User Groups in other parts of the country to campaign for legislation to make this a legal requirement.

He reminded Members of the Safe at Home (Trusted Trader) information facility was still available at the Town Hall. Advice about repairs, aids to independent living, and reputable traders was free for over 60s, disabled and people on income related benefits.
Telephone 01493 846190.

The PCSO (Police Community Support Officer) had left a message to say that he would try to attend the next meeting, so David invited the Group to bring any concerns to the next meeting to discuss with him. Wendy has his telephone number if anyone wishes to contact him before the meeting,

David and Shaun had recently recorded their visit to the talking ATM machine at Barclays Bank, and reported that it was a good system. Users would need to take their own headphones with a standard stereo connection. As there was no information available on websites, Shaun had written an article about the visit and instructions for using the machine, which he would put on the VIP website and also ask Grapevine to publicize it. Barclays in both Great Yarmouth and Gorleston had this facility, and David asked users of ATM machines at other banks to check whether they had been upgraded. The headphone socket was on the right hand side of the machine near to where the bank card is inserted.

It was suggested that someone from the Ambulance Service be invited to speak at a future meeting, and it was felt that the Group was long overdue for an update from the Eye Clinic at James Paget Hospital. Linda said that as she now had to have a scan before her appointment at the clinic, the whole appointment took anything up to 3-4 hours. Judy suggested asking for an appointment near the end of the working day, when staff would be anxious to finish the clinic.

Tim reported on a recent visit to JPH for an investigative procedure, accompanied by his Guide Dog and John. He felt that they were very well looked after and that they had all been treated with very good and efficient service. A nurse had provided a bowl of water for the dog, and Tim was kept fully informed of what was being done at every stage of the procedure

David and Shaun would be going to a meeting at the Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People on 1st February, for a talk about a five year plan for the future of trains in the region. Judy M said that she travels a lot by train and always books assistance in advance, and has never had any major problems, apart from access to toilets. Linda said that on 28th December she and her son had travelled from Norwich to Great Yarmouth on a single carriage train on which people were packed like sardines and there was no room for luggage.

Other News

Ten pin bowling would take place on Tuesday at 1.30 pm. Tracey would make enquiries about the programme for walks.

The meeting finished at 4:25pm.

Appendix A

This appendix has all the details of the demonstration that Richard Polley, NNAB Equipment Adviser, gave the group.

Pen Friend

Penfriend is obtainable from NNAB at approximately £60, which includes 300 labels. Further supplies of labels can be purchased for £10 to £12 for each additional 400 labels. The labels should be bought from NNAB as they are supplied for use in chronological order. The Penfriend is a black voice labeller which looks rather like a small handheld microphone, which can be worn with a lanyard. It has 4 tactile buttons, and audible instructions for use can be activated by passing the device over the box supplied with it. It stores up to 72 hours of recordings, and requires 2 AAA batteries. The Penfriend comes with an internal microphone, earphone and a USB/computer lead for downloading music etc and to enable backing up information from the Penfriend to a computer. To quote Richard, “its use is only limited by your own information”, but suggested way of using it, for example to label canned food before storing it, making a speaking diary, recording instructions and directions and by placing important documents in a folder labelled with one of the labels. By holding the Penfriend over the label it will tell you what the food can, diary, folder etc contains. Wash-proof cloth labels are also available for clothes, so that blind or visually impaired people can use the Penfriend labelling system to identify colours of clothes.

Amazon Kindle

The Amazon Kindle is very useful for visually impaired people because print can be enlarge to a very large font, and in particular the new “Paperwhite” model has a very high contrast screen. The newer models have 3G but the voice is not particularly good for listening to long pieces of script. Prices of the Kindle start at around £70 for the basic model.

Trekker Breeze

The Trekker Breeze is an audio GPS (sat nav) system for people with sight impairments. It is about the size of a large mobile phone with buttons. It is mainly for pedestrian use, but can be programmed to use on buses to count down roads to the required stop, or to voice-tag obstacles on frequently used pedestrian routes. The satellite system is programmed to accept postcodes on most main pedestrian routes. The cost is about £500.

Magnifiers

The Ruby is a hand-held electronic video magnifier with a 4” screen supplied by Sight and Sound Technology. There is also an optional stand which is useful to sit the Ruby on for example for filling in forms or signing cheques. Electronic magnifiers can range in cost from £200 to £1,000. The Ruby can be set to different levels of magnification, and different screen/text colour combinations (black and white, white and black, yellow and blue, yellow and black). It has a freeze-frame function, which is useful for finding prices on high shelves out of the normal range of vision. NNAB sells the Ruby at cost, i.e. £350. The normal retail price is around £420.

There are more sophisticated magnifiers from Optilec, which have a high definition 5” or 7” screen, and retail at between £700 and £1100. The larger one is not really a portable model, but could be used in an office environment.

Advanced Vision have produced a CCTV camera with a 24” screen, which costs £1275.

Document Scanners
There is a scanner/reader about the size of an old transistor radio, with tactile buttons, with a pop-up screen which is held steady with 2 lugs in front of a clear reader. It will scan and read what is beneath the screen, and there is a pause/play facility, with back and forward facility, so you can either listen to an entire chunk of text, or play it one word at a time, and also replay or fast forward. It doesn’t store information, but the newer model can be connected to a computer monitor. The basic model is £2,000, the adapted model £2,300. There is provision for a headphone to be plugged into the scanner, or a hearing loop to be held in front of the speaker.

Also the latest blue-tooth technology in mobile phones provides for a camera to scan images and read out what is there.

Conclusions

Technology is improving and advancing all the time and Richard is always pleased to share information.

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