Edinburgh mobility officer at Sight Scotland uses experience to help residents who have visual impairment
Marie from Sight Scotland uses lived experience to help visually impaired people across Edinburgh
An Edinburgh mobility officer who has been supporting people with visual impairment for more than two decades has been helping a Capital resident after her guide dog was forced to retire.
Marie O’Donnell, who joined Sight Scotland as a rehabilitation and mobility officer two years ago, has been supporting Margo Scott from Edinburgh to get around the city – from going on walks, meeting friends, visiting the shops and cafés and using public transport safely.
And what makes Marie’s tuition so beneficial is that it is rooted in lived experience - born with a vision impairment called Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), she teaches her clients what she does on a daily basis.
Marie, who ‘absolutely loves’ her job, said: “I am teaching everyone I help what I have to do on a daily basis. Every person with a vision impairment is different, and I don’t pretend to know what others are going through, but I try and show people what is possible.”
Tailoring programmes for each individual, Marie identifies the specific needs for each person she works with, utilising the latest technology like Soundscape – a navigation tool to help locate buildings - to give people greater confidence and independence. Whilst working with Margo, Marie got in contact with Lothian Buses to organise a static bus so she could practice using her cane to get on and off a bus safely.
Margo, 69, who has been blind since birth, has been undertaking long cane training with Marie after her beloved dog Thistle was forced to retire last year. Margo was put on a waiting list for a new guide dog but said Marie’s support has been instrumental in transitioning to using a cane.
She said: “Everyone keeps asking me where my dog is, which is sad. But I am not letting this get me down, and I am still going out and about as much as possible. Marie has been great, and I now feel so much more confident using my long cane. The training on the bus was really good, I now know how to use my cane to get on and off safely.”
Margo’s late husband, Alex Scott, who died in 2016, was a huge advocate for the accessibility rights of visually impaired people, and played a huge part in free public transport for blind and the disabled being introduced in Scotland in 1999.
Marie said: “Margo is an inspiration, she doesn’t let anything get her down and she is always out of her house doing something. She has picked up the long cane training really quickly and she can now navigate her way around confidently sand safely. The training on the bus was really beneficial, and I plan to do more of this for clients, so I would like to thank Lothian Buses for their help.”
She added: “I know people out there need our help and it brings me so much happiness knowing what I do can have such a positive impact on people’s lives. Sight loss can happen to anybody, so no matter what kind of sight loss you experience, or if your loved one is struggling with sight loss or sight loss is impacting your family, please ask for help.”