As many readers will be aware, in response to the UK’s national lockdown in March 2020, we launched our Stay Safe: Stay Connected campaign “to minimize the impact of social isolation on blind and partially sighted people and work out what practical support we’ll be able to offer our community”. The response was overwhelmingly positive, at a time when nothing was certain and many other organisations were forced to suspend their services, and we are humbled by all the feedback and encouragement we have received.
The mainstay of this campaign was our community call at 6:00 PM every Friday, which has continued virtually uninterrupted since its inception. However, as the UK’s Coronavirus vaccination programme continues to gain momentum and the Governments have announced plans to gradually, but permanently, re-open the country, we anticipate that more social contact will occur within our community and local face-to-face support services will begin to re-open. We have also seen the steady emergence of other telephone and internet-based activities for blind and partially sighted people, some of which are likely to continue beyond the pandemic.
We have therefore taken the decision to bring our Friday Open Forum to an end over the next few weeks, with the final session taking place on Friday 14 May 2021. This is in-line with the anticipated move to step three of the four-step roadmap for England, which permits groups of up to six people from multiple households to meet indoors and indoor hospitality to re-open.
We will, however, continue to offer our very successful braille Masterclasses, our Book Club will carry on as normal, and our newly formed Braille Clinics will provide a safe space for people to ask their braille questions. Our Braillecast podcast, which has grown in popularity in recent months, will continue to be produced, and we will be looking to introduce some face-to-face Braillists events in the coming months. Braillists are also welcome to stay connected via our email discussion forum and social media channels.
We appreciate that this decision will come as a disappointment to some and, as such, we will collect information about alternative social events in the coming weeks and make this information available via our website. If you know of any events which you think should be included in this list, please get in touch. We also welcome enquiries from individuals/organizations who would like to explore the possibility of taking ownership of these sessions moving forwards.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank the many guests and volunteers who made our Stay Safe: Stay Connected calls possible, and also to thank everyone in the community who participated and made the sessions so worthwhile. We are enormously proud of the positive impact of our calls on the lives of blind and partially sighted people, and hope you will continue to join us as we enter into a new chapter of promoting braille usage.