John Hippisley, Kent Assoc for the Blind

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The history and the importance of the Kent Association for the Blind was described to members of the Rotary Club of Dover by John Hippisley, volunteer with the Association, in a very interesting and light-hearted address recently. John, who speaks eight languages, explained the Association assists people with sight impairment to live independent lives.

KAB was born in 1920 to address the needs of the many soldiers returning from the World War One battlefields with sight impairment caused by mustard gas. At that time it attended to the needs of some 900 sight impaired people each year but currently it assists some 11,000 such people per year.

Explaining that sight impairment can affect anyone from children to senior citizens John demonstrated, with a power point illustration, what loss of sight means in terms of an inability to appreciate the beauty of nature, of not seeing people and items such as planes. With bases in Maidstone, Canterbury, Bromley and Medway KAB provides a range of services to people across Kent and South London including mobility training, help to learn new skills for daily living, the provision of specialist equipment, advice and, through a network of local clubs, leisure activities where social support is given to sight impaired people.

Eye Clinic Liaison Officers provide support to people in hospital eye clinics where people often receive the bad news that nothing can be done medically to help their sight loss. At what can be a traumatic time ECLOs provide on-the-spot emotional support and practical advice about the range of help KAB and others can provide. A range of courses in assistive technology is available and free talking newspapers help sight impaired people to be aware of events and news in their local community. On behalf of the Rotary Club President Dave Smith presented John with a cheque for £250 for the work of the KAB.