A charity worker who helps the blind and partially sighted regain their independence told how she has become a “professional problem solver” for the people she supports.
Laura Ramsay, a rehabilitation worker with North East Sensory Services (NESS), helps those with visual impairments to rebuild their lives and learn daily tasks like cooking, cleaning, using technology, outdoor travel and visiting shops.
She helps build their confidence by mapping out routes outside their homes, crossing roads, taking care of themselves, and identifying and overcoming dangers and risks.
The mum-of-three, 42, from Carnoustie, highlighted the importance of listening to her service users as individuals and explained that no two cases will ever be the same.
Laura said: “When someone is newly diagnosed or they have sight loss that is deteriorating, the first thing I will do is to carry out an assessment.
“I’m looking to find out about their condition, how it affects them daily, what they are no longer able to do and what they want to achieve.
“We then build up a plan, looking at the orientation and mobility side of things – how are they when they are out and about, are they able to see/hear the traffic, do they see kerbs, colours, identify landmarks.
“I will also look at their independent living skills. That includes things like how they are in the kitchen, and whether they are safe to make a cup of tea or to put on the oven. Can they see the buttons on the microwave or the washing machine, are they safe to chop and prepare food, do they enjoy reading or do they have hobbies that they want to continue with?
“It’s about trying to find different ways of doing things that are going to suit that person. Two people with the same eye condition don’t have the same experience.
“Every single person is different, and you must go in with an open mind and just listen to them. At the end of the day, it’s their life, it’s their home, and it’s about how they want to live it.
“We are basically professional problem solvers.”
Laura started working with NESS seven years ago as a fieldwork assistant, after previously spending more than two decades in a caring role.
She previously received support from the charity as her son Ben, now 12, is profoundly deaf.
During the Covid pandemic, NESS and The Angus Society for the Blind provided funding for Laura to obtain a degree in Rehabilitation work (Visual Impairment) from Birmingham City University, and she became fully qualified last July.
The main objective of the charity, which supports around 6,500 people in the northeast of Scotland, is to help people with visual and hearing impairments become more independent.
Laura described her joy at watching her service users, who have often lost their confidence, master new skills that boost their independence.
She said: “This job is so rewarding that most of the time it doesn’t feel like a job.
“When you see the person out when you’re not working, you think, ‘I’ve helped that person do that’. It’s a brilliant feeling.
“I see what we do at NESS and the difference we make, and I get really excited about my job and going to work.
“I’m so proud of the way our service users trust us to work with them.”
Recently, Laura has also been giving talks to local organisations and church groups around Angus to spread the word about the services NESS offers.