Gadgets make sight problems easier for Norfolk woman

They are some of the simplest inventions, yet they make a world of difference to those who struggle with their sight.

Now a north Norfolk woman, who herself is registered blind, is keen to spread the message to others with vision problems that there is help and hope out there.

Widow Edna Ambler, 86, from Cromer, started to go blind seven years ago, but still lives independently in her own home, cooking every day despite her worsening sight.

The gadgets she has in her home to help her are a mixture of items bought with savings and also some which have been donated or loaned by organisations such as the Royal National Institute of Blind People and the Norfolk and Norwich Association for the Blind (NNAB).

Some of the things she has include an electronic device which magnifies whatever is put under it so it can be read easily, a telephone with larger numbers and press pad, a talking watch and clock which also tells the temperature, and an audible food labeller so she can distinguish between different types of foods. She has also had special bright lights fitted in the house.

Mrs Ambler, who has one son, said: 'I want to be independent and I get angry when people in my position say they cannot do things. I still cook, I even baked a Christmas cake this year. It is amazing what you can do, and how much help there is out there. You have to be positive.

'What worries me is those people who are not positive and have the wrong sort of attitude.'

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As well as the gadgets in her home, she says the NNAB also provide her with social activities, as she regularly goes to meetings and get-togethers they organise as well as some of their trips and holidays.

The NNAB have examples of the sort of equipment now on offer to help blind people live life independently in their purpose-built kitchen at their Bradbury Activity Centre in Magpie Road, Norwich.

The fully functional kitchen includes equipment as diverse as devices for peeling and coring apples, safety guards to stop people burning their fingers on a hot iron, and scales and measuring jugs that speak to make sure measurements are correct.

Dorothy Bowen, the NNAB's equipment and information centres manager, said: 'Our key aim is to assist people to live independently and with confidence in all facets of their lives.

'We have people coming into our equipment centre here wondering how they are going to be able to cope with finding their way around their kitchen when they have started to lose their sight, and leaving saying: 'Yes, I can do that', and realising it's not the end of the world.'

The NNAB provides one-to-one home visits where trained community workers will advise a newly visually impaired person on how to adapt their kitchen.

Mrs Bowen added: 'We are teaching people life skills to go with their changing life.

'Our message is that with a bit of forethought you can make it far more easy for yourself and that in turn gives people confidence and self-esteem.

'There are so many gadgets out there, it's a question of working with the person concerned to make the best use of their other senses, whether that's touch, hearing or residual vision.'

The NNAB can be contacted on 01603 629558.