Improving safety for blind and vision impaired people experiencing domestic violence – Vision Foundation
Exit Site

Improving safety for blind and vision impaired people experiencing domestic violence

Our funding has helped charities spearhead an accessible toolkit for blind and vision impaired people who are victims or survivors of domestic abuse, which could encourage more to seek help.

Regional charities Beacon Vision and Dudley-based domestic abuse charity CHADD co-developed the toolkit, working with people with lived experience. The project was a response to research, also funded by us, which revealed that many refuge spaces are inaccessible, which presents a barrier to reporting domestic violence and leaving an abusive relationship.

In addition, fewer than 1 in 5 domestic abuse professionals have received specialised training to support blind and vision impaired people.

Blind and vision impaired people worked with rehabilitation officers and DV professionals to conduct accessibility audits on a selection of CHADD’s refuge spaces. They found that physical environments could be adapted to better support the needs of blind and vision impaired victims and survivors. Such as clear and accessible entry points (people had to ring a bell to let their arrival be known), contrast in rooms e.g. coloured towels in white bathroom, information made available in multiple formats and a proper walk around and induction to the facility.

In response, a training programme was developed that included visual awareness training, advice about specialist kitchen equipment, orientation guidance, and methods for producing accessible resources, e.g. for use with screen reading technology.

Nathan, Sight Loss Advisor at Beacon, who advised the project, said: “It’s so important to ensure that no blind and partially sighted person feels isolated in any situation but especially when it comes to domestic abuse.

This project is helping some of the most vulnerable visually impaired people feel like they are not alone. Everyone should have equal access to the same services, and projects like this help ensure that can happen.”

A blueprint for future work

Dudley-based CHADD and Beacon Vision, which helps people in the Black Country and Staffordshire, designed the toolkit not just for their own facilities but to share UK-wide so others can benefit from their work. The toolkit has been sent to over 100 local sight loss charities and to Rehabilitation Officer (VI) and Eye Care Liaison Officers across the UK, reaching over 20,000 people living with sight loss, and this number continues to grow as more organisations receive the resources.

The toolkit is the first of its kind and is designed to give charities and agencies all the knowledge they need to ensure refuge spaces are as accessible as possible. Key features include:

  • Advice on how refuges can adapt their physical environment to accommodate the needs of blind and partially sighted individuals.
  • Tips for communicating effectively with individuals who are blind or partially sighted, including providing important information such as contact details in audio format.
  • Guidance on training refuge staff to better understand the unique challenges faced by individuals with sight loss who are experiencing domestic abuse.

The toolkit is available in PDF, audio, and large print, as well as through the Beacon Centre’s website.

“We are thrilled to launch this toolkit, which represents a significant step towards ensuring that domestic violence refuges are truly accessible for everyone,” said Lisa Cowley, Chief Executive at Beacon Vision.

“By equipping refuges with the knowledge and resources they need to support blind and partially sighted individuals, we can help break down barriers and ensure that all survivors of domestic abuse can easily access the assistance and care they deserve.”

Download the toolkit

An evidence-based approach

This project, to launch a toolkit for DVA refuges to be accessible to vision impaired victims/survivors of abuse, was part of a £160,000 programme tackling the most serious issues identified in our 2022 report The Unseen.

The report focused on the prevalence and experiences of domestic violence and abuse for blind and vision impaired people.

Delivered jointly with DVA expert organisation SafeLives, the research unearthed the shocking scale and nature of the issue. At least 1 in 12 blind or vision impaired people in the UK is a victim or survivor of domestic abuse. That’s around 188,000 people.

The research revealed that fewer than 1 in 5 domestic abuse professionals have received specialised training to support blind and vision impaired people and the inaccessibility of refuges was identified as a major barrier to people reporting abuse or leaving an abusive situation.

In some cases, blind and vision impaired people were being encouraged to stay with the abuser, because it seemed like the best option, and an accessible refuge space could not be identified.

“This project is a great example of a partnership between organisations with different specialisms. The need for this work was evident in our research and the resources that have been created will not only make things safer for blind or vision impaired victims and survivors but will increase the capacity of the voluntary sector to respond appropriately to their unique experiences of abuse.” Eleanor Southwood, Director of Social Impact

Lisa Cowley spoke to local radio WCR-FM about the launch of the toolkit. Listen here now. 

Other projects we’re funding with domestic violence and abuse-related grants


With your help we can fund more programmes and projects which address the greatest need