Henshaws is leading the digital revolution

Henshaws is leading a digital revolution for people with visual impairments by moving some of their services to local libraries in Greater Manchester.

After successfully bidding for access to Manchester Central Library, Henshaws has been given the green light to extend some of its services to other Greater Manchester libraries. These are: Wigan Library, Tameside Library, Sale Library and Salford Eccles Gateway Library. They are also based in dedicated centres in Bolton and Oldham and share premises with another charity in Bury.

Henshaws offers visually impaired people access to printed texts using special technology, and since the revolution of the internet, smartphones and tablets they have been doing the same but for the digital and online space. It’s part of their digital enablement program. You can give visually impaired people access to magnifying glasses, special text-to-speech devices, and other gadgets and tools.

Henshaws hopes that moving its digital services to libraries will allow more visually impaired people to have better access to the online world and use the digital skills they have learned to shop, manage their finances and find information online. These are all things that many sighted people take for granted but are much more difficult for people with a visual impairment. Henshaws services help improve trust and accessibility, enabling people to live more independently.

Mark Belcher, Head of Enablement (Community Services) at Henshaws, says: “Many people don’t realize that visual impairment is a spectrum and with a little help, many visually impaired people can use technology to enhance their independence.

“Moving some of our services to libraries is a game changer. It allows people with visual impairments better access to help and support and allows Henshaws to offer more to a larger group of people. We hope this will encourage people with visual impairments to come along and see how they can best be supported.”

And Henshaws has already begun training library staff to know and understand the services that visually impaired people may need. Twenty colleagues from Greater Manchester libraries met at Manchester Central Library in January to learn how to guide visually impaired people through the services it offers and to help them understand how they can better support the visually impaired. Simulation glasses were used by the staff.

Mark adds, “We hope attendees found the day beneficial, and we also hope to provide more staff with the tools and knowledge to support those who come to their library who are visually impaired. “

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