You may be aware of the Royal Mail’s Articles for the Blind scheme which allows accessible documents and assistive equipment to be sent by post, free of charge, to people registered as sight impaired or severely sight impaired.
It is a fantastic scheme which allows SSW’s 500 service users (who are visually impaired) to remain informed and updated with our services and activities by post, at a reduced cost to the charity. This, in turn, helps us to continue to resource our services and activities.
Although we are wholly supportive of the scheme, SSW believes that the wording ‘Articles for the Blind’ should be modernised.
Letters and parcels sent under the terms of the scheme must be clearly marked as ‘Articles for the Blind’. The primary concern is that this wording reveals personal information about the recipient, which they may not want shared with others. This is at odds with the Data Protection Act 2018 and is particularly relevant for people living in accommodation with a communal entrance, or where their mail is left somewhere visible to others. Our members have the right not to disclose their disability and some prefer not to, particularly if they are vulnerable. The current wording effectively removes that privacy if they want to benefit from the scheme.
A further issue is related to the terminology. Our position is that describing people who have visual impairments as a group, namely ‘the Blind’, is outdated and discriminatory. We are experiencing an increasing number of service users asking if they can opt out. ‘Blind’ is no longer used as a classification and when registered as such, people are now legally and medically referred to as severely sight impaired.
The three most common perceptions held on the scheme by our members are:
1. The wording is humiliating to be highlighted on their mail.
2. They are not totally blind, which then insinuates that they are either not eligible, or they are ‘cheating’ it.
3. They do not want to be defined by their disability in this way.
Sight Support Worthing respectfully request that the name of the scheme be updated to better reflect modern terminology and comply with privacy laws.
We will be writing to our local MPs, Royal Mail and other stakeholders to request that changes are made to the wording used within the scheme. Keep an eye on our blog, emails, and social media for updates.