Close your eyes. Now drive. Or walk out your door and get on a bus.
Sounds like an impossible task.
But for 36,000 people in Lancashire who are blind or partially sighted this is what they face on a daily basis.
Galloway’s Society for the Blind, based in Penwortham, is working hard to ensure its service users get access to transport so they can lead full and independent lives.
But it needs your help.
Today the Lancashire Post and Galloway’s arejoining forces for an appeal - Gallowheels - to raise £50,000 for a new minibus.
One of the biggest barriers to independence of those living with sight loss is travel and inaccessible transport.
As an organisation committed to providing opportunities and empowerment for visually impaired people, Galloway’s Society for the Blind’s ability to provide transport is paramount.
As the charity needs to raise £50,000 for a minibus, the Post is launching a campaign - Gallowheels - in conjuction with Galloway’s.
Its current minibuses each clock up around 15,000 miles every year as they are used to transport visually impaired service users to: Galloway’s appointments; other appointments; guided activities; leisure activities; holidays and day trips; and training.
The charity now needs to buy two new minibuses to keep up with demand and to support its service users.
Claire Warner, head of fund-raising and communications, said: “We now have a pressing need to purchase two new minibuses. The development and popularity of our Get Active Programme and the many service users who now use the new “A new minibus will enable us to offer and guarantee the safe transportation of these new visually impaired service users to their various activities, events, courses and training programmes.
“Without a designated vehicle, these people will be reliant on ring and ride and other private forms of transport, where possible, but which are not really suitable for their specific needs.
“They are also notoriously difficult to rely on, which is why we offered our own designated transport service in the first place.
“Without transport, these service users become isolated unable to benefit from the independence afforded to them by the activities and experiences that Galloway’s offers.”
Case study: Chance meeting changed my life
Two years ago Tom Rogers felt lost and suicidal.
He had lost most of his sight and was trying to adjust to his new life.
His only hope was for his vision to get even worse so he could have cataracts to help him see better.
But a chance meeting with a woman pushing a tea trolley has opened up his life.
The 55-year-old from Moor Nook said: “I had diabetes type one and after about 40 sessions of laser treatment I lost my peripheral vision in my left eye. Then I lost my peripheral vision in my right eye.
“I have had injections in my eyes to stop the bleeding and I am nearly blind in my left eye.
“Doctors can’t do anything until I can’t actually see in front of me. A specialist said my eyes would need to get worse to get better.
“So I have to wait until things get really bad, so they can’t get any worse, until I can get sorted.
“I have to carry on with the way I am going until it gets to the stage where I can’t cope anymore.”
When Tom was delivered the news he was beyond devastated.
The father-of-four could no longer work as a taxi driver and he had to move out of the home he loved into a more suitable bungalow.
He added: “When the doctor said I was certified blind I had tears coming from my eyes.
“But as I was in the waiting room, there was a woman from Galloway’s pushing a trolley. She gave me a cup of tea and a Digestive biscuit. She said to me ‘it’s not the end of the world. Come to Galloway’s.’
“It was the best thing that ever happened to me because it put me on the right level again.
“Before then I was depressed and suicidal.
“I had worked all my life since leaving school. My independence and everything had gone. I could not drive. I could not do anything.
“I fell down the stairs in my house three times. I broke my arm, my toes and fingers and was unconscious.
“Social services came to measure me up for a stick and I was put on a list for a bungalow. I eventually moved to Moor Nook.
“It has made a terrific difference to my wellbeing and I am even able to do a bit of gardening.
“My life is a lot easier. I even have a talking microwave and a Breville one cup kettle which dispenses just one cup of boiling water so I don’t burn myself.”
Tom, who has 13 grandchildren, attends Galloway’s once a week, visiting on a Tuesday for the social meet ups.
The minibus collects him and takes him to the centre in Howick Park Avenue, Penwortham.
He added: “I am so happy when I get picked up by the minibus and it takes me to Galloway’s where all my friends are.
“I have a white cane and I do go into Preston city centre to go shopping but it is struggle. People don’t always notice me.
“The minibuses do everything for us. Volunteers pick us up to go on organised holidays, to watch shows, or to go out for Christmas dinner. I can’t wait for the next planned holiday - a week in Whitby in October.
“It is vital these minibuses carry on. Without the minibuses no-one would be able to get out and have the support they desperately need.
“There have been times when Galloway’s has organised holidays and asked for people to make their own way to the bus station and half of the group don’t turn up because they can’t get there.
“So you can see these minibuses are so vital.”
Offering support for more than 150 years
Galloway’s is one of Lancashire’s oldest charities.
Established in Preston in 1867, it has been supporting people living with sight loss for more than 150 years.
Today, the charity covers Lancashire and Sefton and supports more than 7,000 people every year.
As well as its main site in Penwortham, Galloway’s is located in 1 Farrington Street, Chorley; 12 Victoria Street, Morecambe, and 22 Wright Street, Southport.
The services offered are in seven key areas:
• Early reach support for newly diagnosed people
• Accessible information, advice and guidance
• Holidays and trips
• Social and community groups
• Audio services, including one of the UK’s largest Talking Newspaper services
• Seven independent living bungalows
• Equipment to enhance daily living
Galloway’s is a registered charity and has to raise £1m this year to maintain its services.
It now needs £50,000 for a new minibus to transport its service users to the centre in Penwortham and to social outings.
The Post has launched a campaign - Gallowheels - in conjunction with Galloway’s to raise £50,000.
To make a donation visit www.galloways.org.uk/gallowheels; Call: 01772 744148 or Send a cheque payable to Galloway’s to: Galloway’s Society for the Blind, Howick House, Howick Park Avenue, Penwortham, PR1 0LS.
• Are you holding any fund-raising events to support Galloway’s?
Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
• Galloway’s is hosting a sight loss conference for anyone needing support at Leyland Civic Centre on November 23, from 10am until 3pm.
To book a place call 01772 744148.