The other day I attended a sensory awareness session held in the SIWB as part of Professional Experiences Week.
During the class the students were given a number of tasks to do to give them some ideas about what sensory loss actually is. The class was for pharmacy students, and the aim was to raise awareness of the needs of people living with a sensory loss, including people who are blind, visually impaired, Deaf, hard of hearing and deafblind. With greater awareness, the hope is that pharmacists will feel better equipped to meet the needs of patients.
The trainer explained what sensory loss is, how it affects people’s vision and hearing and the barriers that this can create.
They identified the many ways of recognising that someone may have a visual impairment or be deaf or hard of hearing.
They explored the barriers to communication by trying out some lip-reading, a skill often relied on by people who are deaf or hard of hearing. They identified ways of making it easier to lip read, while also recognising the limitations of lip reading.
Students tried reading information including
- medicine boxes
- pouring some water into a cup
- Trying to sign your name, while wearing sim specs, which gave them an insight in to some of the day-to-day difficulties of living with a visual impairment.
They then talked about ways they could make it easier for someone to use the pharmacy like
- Offering clear descriptions of medications
- Offering to provide information in different formats
- Reminding people of any special instructions
- Writing information down so they are easy to read, or advising about using different gadgets e.g. eye droppers.
The students practiced how to guide someone who is blind or visually impaired. In this particular session the students were given blindfolds and partnered up. One student had to wear the blindfold whilst the other stood beside them as their guide. The task was for the guides to help the visually impaired out of the class room and through the corridor while describing what was happening to the person blindfolded where they were going and what objects they had around them such as chairs, tables, and people.
The lecturer then asked what the class thought about the task and a few expressed their views
One said “I felt isolated, but I could hear everything very clearly”
Another stated how they felt about being guided and that “You have to put in a lot of trust”
Those that were guiding said
“I have never been told to guide before, it’s good to know now”
“You become aware of your own surroundings more as you are their eyes”
The Students were taught how to use the BSL Fingerspelling Alphabet. They then had a chance to try to spell their own names. The trainer explained that fingerspelling is a very useful tool to support communication with people who use sign language.
Please visit the North East Sensory Services – Achieving independence for blind and deaf people.