Henshaws has been providing support to blind and partially sighted people across Greater Manchester for more than 180 years; helping to reduce social isolation, increase knowledge, skills and independence, and allowing individuals to lead the life they want.

Manchester Central Library is a hub of knowledge, supporting the local community to access vital services and information that is fully accessible to all. So, in January 2018 Henshaws started to work collaboratively to provide a regular, tailored digital enablement service from the library premises.

The service offers one-to-one assessments and training with visually impaired individuals, with a trained member of the Henshaws Digital Team. The sessions aim to find the digital solution that works for each person, no matter what their level of sight, age, or technical ability. 

Henshaws offer demonstrations and training on all types of hardware and software, from Amazon, Apple, Android, Optelec, Orcam, Synapptic and many more.All sessions are booked through their centralised First Step team on 0300 222 5555, and individuals may be accompanied by a friend, family member or carer. After the assessment, the service user can continue to receive support through a programme of Tech Talk sessions across Greater Manchester, as well as remotely through the videos, blogs and e-books available in the online Knowledge Village resource at henshaws.org.uk/knowledge-village.

Staff at Manchester Central Library have been given basic Visual Impairment Awareness Training (VIAT) by Henshaws staff to ensure they are fully competent to assist blind and partially sighted people who visit the premises.

What we have delivered

Since starting the service 22 months ago, the following services have been delivered from Manchester Central Library:

Unique visually impaired people (VIPs) = 209 individuals

Digital Enablement Assessments carried out = 150 sessions

Training initiatives carried out = 92 sessions

Other initiatives carried out to help VIPs = 68 sessions (such as providing general information, advice and guidance about sight loss support)

Over the last year, we have delivered 50% of training with Apple products, 35% with Synapptic products, and 15% with Android technology.

Customer feedback

Here are just a few things that customers have fed back to us after accessing this service:

“Thank you so much. Your help has been absolutely invaluable. I was almost at the point of throwing my phone at the wall I was so frustrated with it! Now with your help in accessing the phone, and some practice, I can use my phone really well. I can use it in my business now for taking and confirming orders for different items of stock. Just that one session with you has made a huge difference.”

“Thank you so much. I could never have imagined that I could do so much with my phone. I can’t believe that I can look at the news and get directions to places. I am going to be going around with a big smile on my face now.”

“Thanks very much. The training has helped me become more confident in technology. I have been talking about getting an iPhone for years, and I am glad that I have finally got one. I can play with my iPhone now rather than be scared of it. I was worried that by having a sight loss I may lose lots of skills, but with technology I am still able to do lots of things. My daughter even says that I am teaching her new things on her phone!”

“I have found it really useful, thanks. It is great knowing all the things out there and knowing that we haven’t missed any way that we can help dad.” 

“Thank you very much. It has been very good. I am always asking people to help me with things, but now I will be able to read my letters and use my phone without asking for help!”

For more information about the digital enablement service that is provided at the Manchester Central Library, please contact Henshaws on 0300 222 5555 or email mark.belcher@henshaws.org.uk.