Tech Club Social Event

This April and May Focus Birmingham's Technology Club are holding it 'Tech Social’ Free Social sessions for people with Visual Impairments and Sight Loss.

Tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided. We just need you to come along to the event. Come and meet new people and discuss the latest technology and gadgets. We would love to have you share ideas in an open discussion.

Event Information

  • Thursday 26th April & Thursday 24th May
  • The event starts at 1pm until 3pm
  • It will be held at Focus Birmingham, 48-62 Woodville Road, Harborne, B17 9AT

For more details about the event please contact Mohammed on 0121 478 5216 or you can email him on mohammed@focusbirmingham.org.uk.

We look forward to welcoming you to the event.

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Focus launches Sensory Garden Appeal

Focus Birmingham, based in Harborne, are celebrating their 50th anniversary of its day care service by launching a fundraising appeal to transform the charity’s outdoor space.

We are calling on people to help us reach our £65,000 fundraising target to create a specialist sensory outdoor learning environment for adults who are blind or partially sighted, or have multiple disabilities and complex care needs.

Focus Birmingham, which works with more than 7,000 people each year, has been running a specialist day care service for 50 years, providing social activities and learning opportunities for nearly 100 people with sight loss and multiple disabilities, including siblings Tara and Cardell Bishop.

After consulting with service users, families and professionals, Focus has developed a plan to transform one of its external places into an interactive learning environment.

The fundraising appeal aims to create a fully accessible multi-sensory environment that service users can explore and engage with independently, using light, sound, movement and vibrations.

Susan Hoath, Chief Executive Officer at Focus, said: “As we celebrate 50 years of our day care services, it is important that we continue to move forward in our commitment to being a centre of excellence that supports people across Birmingham affected by sight loss or disability so they can have an independent, happy and fulfilling life and future.

“Our plans to develop our external spaces to create interactive sensory environments will make learning more engaging for all our service users and visitors, through a combination of light, sound, vibration and textures in a fully integrated and accessible outdoor facility.

“The needs of most of the adults that attend our specialist day care services can often limit their opportunities to engage or interact with their surroundings, especially the outdoors. We believe that our sensory learning environment will break down these barriers and provide opportunities to improve physical mobility, creativity, social interaction and greater levels of independence as they can access all the different sensory elements within the area at their own individual pace and level.”

The initial design for the outdoor learning environment includes a colourful and tactile sensory pathway through the garden which is accessible for wheelchairs and can even be walked on barefoot for an additional sensory experience.

It is also hoped to install a wobble bridge so service users can experiment with movement and vibration, as well as water features and sensory plants, a tactile panel which people can explore with hands, and sound through the use of wind chimes, static musical instruments, and outdoor speakers.

Added Susan: “Our service users have limited opportunities to engage or interact with outside environments such as gardens or parks, so our aim is to break down these barriers, enabling life skill sessions to move outside.”

The Difference we make 

Siblings Cardell and Tara Bishop “would be lost” without the day care services they look forward to so much at Focus Birmingham’s Elizabeth Gunn Centre.

So says their father Ray Bishop who has no doubt that life would be very different and difficult for his adopted children if the services provided by Focus did not exist.

Mr Bishop, aged 68, from Sutton Coldfield, is a full time carer to Cardell, aged 31, and Tara, 33, after adopting them when they were both very young.

Both children have been attending day care services at Focus for 12 years due to visual impairment and other disabilities or learning difficulties.

Mr Bishop, who is married to Beryl, also has two other adopted children and four birth children, and also continues to foster. He said: “Life would be very difficult without the service that Focus provides. Tara and Cardell would go Saturday and Sunday as well as during the week if they could.

“They would be lost without it and would probably regress if they didn’t have this service. It has also prepared them, more so Tara, for independent living.”

Mr Bishop said Cardell and Tara were able to take part in various activities, go on days out into the community, enjoy arts and crafts sessions and make use of the sensory areas at the centre.

He said Cardell, who has multiple learning difficulties as well as limited vision, was fostered by him and his wife from the age of five and a half months, and then adopted when he was five years old.

Tara, who has Downs Syndrome, was adopted from the age of two. They had both been taught in special schools prior to accessing day care services at Focus.

A Just Giving page has been set up in support of the fundraising appeal, which can be visited by clicking here

For more information about Focus Birmingham please visit www.focusbirmingham.org.uk or call either 0121 478 5200 or the charity’s helpline on 0121 478 5222.

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Premiere of “Elephant” by Gurpreet Bhatti

Focus Birmingham are working in partnership with the Birmingham REP in association with Tamasha to present this great family drama. Focus will be hosting this production at Focus Birmingham on 14th March in the Activities Room at 2pm and then at The Old Joint Stock in Birmingham on Saturday 24th March from 3pm (in partnership with RNIB).

Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s latest play, Elephant, made its world première at Birmingham Repertory Theatre in February 2018. Supported by The Sir Barry Jackson Trust, the production will tour to venues across the West Midlands during March 2018. Directed by Lucy Morrison, Elephant tells the story of a family built on untruths, a family whose lives are at odds with their belief system and asks the question whether it is possible to forgive and forget?

About the play 

This is family. Real flesh and blood, not out of a catalogue or an Oxo advert. Vira hasn’t seen her sister Deesh for years. Deesh’s kids, Amy and Bill, want to know why but nobody’s telling them anything. When Deesh invites her sister to Amy’s flashy party, Vira reckons it’s time to come home and move on. Time to stop watching the telly, get out her council flat, stick on a glitzy sari and embrace her nearest and dearest. But is it possible to forgive and forget? And when a family is built on lies, will it be destroyed by the truth?

  • Running time 90 mins (no interval)
  • For ages: 15+

Elephant Reviews

“Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s potent characters have a vivid authenticity…The play’s fury lends it persuasive force.” “Yasmin Wilde captures Deesh’s fear, cowardice and compromise, whilst Ojla’s Vira switches movingly between a wryly wisecracking, oddball outsider to a damaged survivor and, finally, to defiant heroism.” The Times

“Sparky family drama” “In a play where almost everyone has something to conceal, Lucy Morrison’s pared-back, neatly acted production – played out on Camilla Clarke’s minimalist design – means no one has anywhere to hide when the beans are spilled.” The Guardian

★★★★ “Bhatti’s explosive writing addresses the foundations of her culture head on.” “Bhatti gives a wonderful message of courage and solidarity to survivors. Through the secrets of Vira, this play gives hope to other people in silence. Vira still has intentions for her family to hear her own account of the past, in spite of knowing that will not be believed, and even shunned for it.” Behind The Arras

“Balancing tragedy and humour… some wickedly dry one-liners in Elephant will make an audience laugh out loud.” What’s On Stage

★★★★ “Sharp and intricate.” Sincerely Amy

“Entertaining, compelling and powerful.” Bum On A Seat (Blogger)

“Thought provoking.” Plays To See

So don’t miss the chance and grab your tickets now at £4 per person by clicking here for both showings or contact Jasmin at jasmin@focusbirmingham.org.uk. The production will be audio described.

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RBSA are working with Focus Birmingham

Exploring arts engagement for people experiencing sight loss

The RBSA is working with Focus Birmingham, the sight loss and disability charity, to bring art to a wider audience.

The project, funded by West Midlands Museum Development, involves a series of workshops and the creation of a film promoting the work of the RBSA with specific groups.

A session at the Focus centre in Harborne today saw artist and RBSA member Lynn Jeffery join forces with volunteer art group leader Ian Reynolds, who himself has a visual impairment.

Lynn said: 'It has been quite amazing to see people who are exploring a material, but all by touch. Those who have limited sight don't necessarily find it easier than those with no sight at all, but what's clear is that the social interaction is just as important.

'Working in a tactile way taps into memory. Helen Keller observed that it was memory that made all the difference.'

Ian Reynolds, who went to art college and became an art teacher despite his sight loss, added: 'Everyone taking part today seemed to thoroughly enjoy the experience - there was a momentum to the group activity. We work a lot at Focus on an individual basis, but there's a lot to be said for group work.

''It gives a different perspective, and the involvement of the RBSA means we have proper clay and will see a glazed and fired result. It's great, having access to more professional tools and materials.

'The people in our art group may be struggling with the emotional impact of sight loss, and it has been proved that there are positive mental outcomes from art sessions where people meet others with a shared experience, and create something.

'I'd recommend the RBSA to other groups. This has been our second workshop session and both have been highly successful. The results justify the efforts put in.'

Charlene Kerr-Spencer came to the session and found working with clay new and exciting. She has experienced sight loss quite recently and said: 'It has been really good to find another way of being creative. It's very important to have input and direction. It may sound crazy, but being blind is dark... and Focus is my light.'

Natalie Osborne, Learning and Engagement Manager at the RBSA said: "We have been lucky to get funding to develop our outreach work. As one of the oldest art societies in the UK we run exhibitions and events at our Gallery through the year.

'But we also want to help people who may struggle to access our shows by providing sessions where they can experience our permanent collection or enjoy making some art of their own at our specially designed workshops and guided tours.'

In addition to outreach workshops, groups can arrange sensory or guided tours of the RBSA Gallery, to get closer to the Permanent Collection and experience exhibitions and events without some of the barriers people may usually face.

To find out more, contact the RBSA by calling 0121 236 4353 or emailing natalie@rbsa.org.uk.  

Ian Reynolds has set up a website for artists experiencing visual impairment called Painting with Sight Loss and if you would like to visit it please click here

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Local MP Preet Kaur Gill visits Focus

What a way to finish off the year with a visit from Preet Kaur Gill MP. 


We were delighted to welcome her to Focus Birmingham where she was able to see firsthand the services we provide and the impact we make in the local community. It was encouraging to see the interactive discussions with RNIB, Guide Dogs Birmingham Mobility Team, Birmingham Sight Loss and local service users led to some comments that helped raise awareness around sight loss and disability and issues affecting this community.

As an organisation that champions people living with sight loss and disability in Birmingham we were very encouraged that Preet Kaur Gill MP will be working to make communication stronger for those who need it most and inviting everyone to share theri thoughts and concerns as well as solutions to her advice surgeries, listening panel and street surgeries which will be launched in the New Year.

If you would like to know more or even attend one of her listening panels please click here


If you would like to get involved with Focus Birmingham either by volunteering, fundraising please email info@focusbirmingham.org.uk. 

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Happy New Year from Focus Birmingham

Seasons Greetings to you all from everyone at Focus Birmingham. We will be closed from Friday 22nd December at 3pm and will re-open 9:00am on Tuesday January 2nd 2018. We wish you all a Happy New Year.

Thank you for your support this past year and we hope that this will continue into 2018 when we celebrate our gold and silver anniversary year. We will be celebrating 2 of our vital services, Focus Day Services will be celebrating 50 years of providing day services and Low Vision clinic will be celebrating 25 years of service to people living with sight loss in Birmingham.

Watch this space for lots of exciting celebrations and ways you can get involved!! Happy Holidays.

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DIG OUT THOSE CHRISTMAS JUMPERS FOR FOCUS

Christmas jumpers are as much a part of the festive period as turkey, tinsel, and loads of presents around the Christmas tree. Click here to learn more

Focus Birmingham specialises in supporting people affected by sight loss or other disabilities. This year we are hoping to go one step further by asking everyone to wear a Christmas jumper on Friday 15th December to raise help raise awareness for those who are living with sight loss and disability in Birmingham. Let us come together as a community to look out for one another at this time of the year and tackle isolation and loneliness, especially those most vulnerable.

“More than 29,000 people in Birmingham live with sight loss, which has devastating consequences. It prevents people from driving and working, it may restrict social interaction, cause isolation, and remove a person’s independence. And it can lead to low self-esteem, lack of self-confidence or depression.

“This Christmas we are asking for people’s support, by wearing their n Christmas Jumper with pride on Friday December 15th. This will help raise awareness for those who are living with sight loss and disability in Birmingham.  This will be a chance to do something fun and support Focus for one day by wearing the wackiest Christmas jumper you can find in all its knitted glory.”

In addition, we are encouraging everyone to take an ‘elfie selfie’ by snapping a fun photo of themselves in their Christmas knit and sending it to Focus via the charity’s social media sites on our handle @focusbirmingham. All posts will be shared to raise awareness as well as to thank people for their support.

So, if you aren’t able to dedicate a day to wearing fun Christmassy jumpers then why not create your own event! Get as creative as possible by putting your own Christmas knit design on a wonderfully homemade cupcakes to share with family, friends and colleagues.”

If you would like to know more about getting involved with Focus Birmingham you can click here or email jasmin@focusbirmingham.org.uk or call her on 0121 478 5239 for a fundraising pack full of fun seasonal ideas.

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Focus Birmingham - Services update

Focus Birmingham would like to advise all staff and service users to stay safe during the snow. If you have any concerns please contact your local emergency services by telephoning 999.

Important Notice: Please Read

Focus Birmingham have decided to close all our service provisions tomorrow (11th December) due to the hazardous weather and driving conditions.

Please follow @UKSnowUpdates or visit your Local Met Office Weather website for up to date information regarding the snow and we hope to be up and running as normal on Tuesday 12th December.

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Better Healthcare Access Report published

Better Healthcare Access for people with visual impairment - Report published

This published report summarises a piece of work completed in Birmingham to help identify and break down barriers experienced by people with visual impairment when accessing GP healthcare services. Work was undertaken by Focus Birmingham and funded by the West Midlands Clinical Networks, NHS England.

Changes that sight loss brings can have a significant impact on many areas of everyday life including affecting a patient’s ability to engage with their GP. We believe that people with sight loss face unintentional, but very real barriers when trying to access primary care.  This may mean that people with VI:

  • are more reluctant to attend routine appointments
  • have poorer quality information to help them manage their health
  • neglect support, meaning chronic conditions worsen unnecessarily

Andrew Miller, Lead Optometrist at Focus Birmingam, said,“Over the last 12 months it has been lovely to work with several GP practices all across Birmingham. It has been really pleasing to see how keen the staff have been in trying to understand and support the needs of people with sight loss.”

To download and read the final report please click here.   If you have any questions or would like to get in touch please go to our Contact Us page. 

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TLC Lottery celebrating 20 years

Three Birmingham based charities have said thank you to local people for helping raise £5 million in vital funds in just 20 years. Focus Birmingham, Birmingham Saint Mary’s Hospice and Acorns Children’s Hospice have received the impressive amount from the TLC Lottery, an organisation which has been supporting the charities since 1997.

Players of the TLC Lottery pay £1 per weekly draw competing for prizes ranging from £10 to £1000 and the money raised after running costs and prizes is split between the three charities.

Lynne Carter, Head of Fundraising at Acorns Children’s Hospice, said: “On behalf of everyone we support at Acorns I want to say a huge thank you to the commitment of the loyal players who have contributed to the Lottery over the past 20 years. Your generosity means we can continue our vital work.

“We have to raise nearly £10 million every year to provide our services, which means not only care for children, but also a network of specialist support for the whole family.”

Hamish Shilliday, head of fundraising at Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice, said: “The TLC is a fantastic initiative which allows players to have fun whilst raising vital funds for three local charities.

“I would like to thank all the players who have taken part over the past 20 years – with your continued support, we are able to provide expert care to local individuals and families living with terminal illness.”

Jasmin Rana, Marketing and Fundraising Manager at Focus Birmingham, said: “The TLC Lottery initiative has allowed Focus Birmingham to provide specialist support and services to people living with sight loss and disability in Birmingham for the past 20 years. We are truly grateful to the contributions made by the players over the years. Thank You.”

The TLC Lottery is holding a thank you and celebration event on 20 October at locations based at the three charities. For more information and to sign up to the lottery, please visit www.tlclottery.co.uk

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