Sport Elise Christie of Great Britain (centre) competes in an ISU speed skating event

Training against their male peers has given Britain’s female contingent an extra edge going into Sochi – raising hopes of the team’s best return since 1936

Fears over eye tests

MORE people will become blind unnecessarily because of the Government decision to end free eye-testing for adults, doctors say. A survey of patients referred to Bristol Eye Hospital for glaucoma which causes blindness if untreated, found that numbers have dropped by nearly 20 per cent since free eye tests were ended in 1989.

Guide dogs stolen

Two labradors in the final stages of training were stolen from a marked Guide Dogs for the Blind van near Southampton city centre while their trainer walked a third dog. Kitty, a black bitch, and Gavin, a yellow dog, both 18 months old, were due to join new owners in August.

Computers: Guide disc for the blind: Invaluable advice for visually impaired people has been put on computer format. Kevin Carey reports

There are more than a million blind and visually impaired people in the United Kingdom and one of their obvious problems is getting information about their condition, what it means, how they can be helped and help themselves. This information is also vital for an even larger potential market of family, friends, carers, colleagues and officials.

Blind man attacked

A blind man who tried to protect his guide dog after a man kicked it when he let it go for a run in a park was attacked and suffered a broken nose. Philip Smith, 37, of Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear, said: 'It has shaken my faith in human nature. People are usually so helpful and kind.'

Travel Departures: Braille brochure

ACTION for Blind People (071-732 8771) has produced taped and Braille versions of its brochure with selected holidays in Jersey for the blind and visually impaired.

Talking statements

BANK of Scotland has become the first UK clearer to introduce statements in large print or on cassette tape for blind and partially-sighted customers. The 'talking' statements typically run to 15 minutes. Details on freephone 0800 838113.

Travel Departures: Aid for disabled

ENGLISH Heritage has produced a guide to its 100 properties for disabled visitors. It details access, parking and toilet facilities, whether wheelchairs are available, and if the site provides tape tours or Braille guides. For visually impaired visitors, it lists the features that may appeal to touch, smell and hearing.

Braille encyclopaedia gives visually-impaired children access to knowledge

Martin Melus, 13, of Trinity High School, Greenlays, Manchester, examining one of the 59 volumes of the Oxford Children's Encyclopaedia produced in braille, at the National Library for the Blind in nearby Stockport. It is the first set published since 1940.

HEALTH / Common complaints: Colour blindness

ABOUT one in 12 boys has difficulty in distinguishing red and green lights and so cannot become a sailor, a pilot, or an engine driver. This red-green colour blindness is, in fact, due either to a defect in red vision or in green vision, rarely in both. These defects are much less common in girls, affecting fewer than one in 100. Complete colour blindness, in which the world is seen as if in a black-and-white film, does occur but is extremely rare.

Upbeat: Blind corners

THE Royal National Institute for the Blind, Capital Radio and Artsline (the London-based information service for the disabled) join forces next week to launch The Smooth Guide. This handbook provides details on how 50 music venues in London make provision for the disabled - from access arrangements and ticket discounting to how easy it is to find loos.

'Personal video' deal in sight

A BRITISH inventor of the 'personal video' - a set of goggles that can transmit moving images just inches from the eye - says he is close to making a deal with two foreign companies about developing the device to help partially- sighted people see.

Health Update: Dickens of a word

DYSLEXIA, or word blindness, was recognised by doctors only at the turn of the century - yet Charles Dickens gave an accurate description of the condition at least 50 years earlier. A report in the Lancet points out that through the character of Mr Krook, the elderly, eccentric marine-store dealer in Bleak House, Dickens gave a detailed description of word blindness. Although sufferers can recognise individual letters, together they convey no meaning at all. Dickens knew a great deal about dyslexia and probably knew someone with it, the report suggests.

Letter: Books for the blind

Sir: We were most interested to read about Luke's Story, a computer programme giving disabled people access to the Bible (Science Update, 7 December). Research by the Royal National Institute for the Blind reveals that nearly a quarter of all blind and partially sighted people (22 per cent) attend churches.

Charities Update: New job technology

THE BLIND in Business Trust has recently been founded to raise awareness about technology to help visually impaired people to get or maintain a job. Co- founder Richard Hanson, who is partially sighted and works as a solicitor, says: 'Technology has advanced in leaps and bounds in the last five years but not many people know about it.' Magnified computer screens, screens with synthesized voices, talking calculators and soft braille outputs - a line of braille characters, tucked underneath an ordinary keyboard, worked by moving pins which can be read by touch - are all available. 'We feel that if people are exposed to the right technology at the right time they are in a better position to persuade employers that they are employable. Employers, too, must realise that the problems are not insurmountable,' says Mr Hanson. Blind in Business Trust, 55 Princes Avenue, London N3 2DA, telephone 071-702 2345.
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