Can you be a lifesaver?


On Tuesday the 18th of June, I was delighted to find out I would be featured in the episode of BBC In Touch, to talk about first aid and my views with regards to visually impaired people getting professionally accredited as first aiders. I am writing this blog post to give my views on some points that were made after my piece was heard. Before I begin, I would like to say that all views in this post are my own, and are not influenced by anything in the programme. There is no need for you to agree with my points if your opinion is different to mine. If you want to hear the episode, [click here][1]

The responses from the 2 major companies

During my interview, I was asked who I approached about first aid training, before eventually going through Alan North, who was featured after me. I told the BBC that I approached St John’s Ambulance, and the British Red Cross, who both refused to support me and accommodate my needs in order for me to get my first aid certificate. I want to briefly talk about how I feel with regards to the responses from both companies to the BBC, with regards to whether they will accredit a visually impaired person.

What the British Red Cross said

As taken from the episode transcript, they stated the following:

British Red Cross statement

If someone with a visual impairment or disability would like to learn first aid on one of our courses, we’ll make adjustments to support their learning.  This includes providing accessible resources in a range of formats, for example, larger print copies for people who are partially sighted.  And by inviting the person to bring along their support worker on the day.

I would like to make it clear at this point that neither the statement from the British Red cross, nor St John’s Ambulance, were shown to me before the interview for me to comment on, when Johny spoke to me I was purely speaking from experience. As Johny states after the statement, I did point out that not everyone has a support worker who they can bring on the course. When I enquired about going on a course, I was told that I could go and I would be welcome to bring a support worker. At the time, I had no access to a support worker, or in fact anyone who had the amount of free time I needed to support me and this is still the case today. Nearly 2 years since first contacting the Red Cross, I am sad to see that their attitudes have not changed, and that they still feel one of the only ways they can accommodate a visually impaired person, is to invite the student to bring a support worker. In my case, after speaking to someone from the organisation, explaining that I was unable to get access to someone, I was offered to go on a course which consisted of a smaller group of people, where I would receive more support and attention from the tutor. That course would have not have given me the accreditation I needed. Instead, I would have received a certifcate of attendance which was not what I wanted in the first place. I don’t feel this was a good alternative, I am still wondering today why the courses with smaller groups are not accredited.

###What St John’s Ambulance said

St John’s Ambulance statement

The Health and Safety Executive, a UK government agency responsible for the regulation of workplace health and safety, state that although reasonable adjustment can be used when delivering learning no reasonable adjustment should be applied when doing assessment on our suite of first aid at work courses.

They go on to say:

We inform customers of this fact and do look to offer an alternative course, so everyone can have access to learn first aid.

The first point I want to pick up on is what Johny spoke about on the programe. St John’s Ambulance state that no reasonable adjustments should be made, as recommended by the HSE (Health and Safety Executive), with no statement or valid reason as to why. It is even more confusing that the HSE stated that they are no longer resrnsible for the level of accreditation or copitency that people need, and it is instead the responsibility of the employou. If this is the case, it is not clear what the situation is with regards to reasonable adjustments.

Lastly, I want to talk about St John’s Ambulance’s point about them making people aware of this fact and offering an alternative course to allow everyone to learn first aid. I can only hope that whatever alternative is offered, gives a reasonable level of accreditation to help with employability. When I was offered an alternative, it did not include any accreditation, so was not enough for what I needed.


I would like to thank the BBC for featuring me on their podcast and sharing my story about first aid. I hope it has given some people the confidence to explore all available options and to not give up just because someone has refused you. I also hope that major first aid providers have more understanding of our support needs, and more importantly, understand that not all visually impaired people, working or not, have a support worker to accompany them.

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