Personal Safety for the Blind and Visually Impaired

“The Disability Rights Commission – Hate Crime Against Disabled People in Scotland Report”

  • 57% of blind or visually impaired people have experienced hate crime because of their disability.
  • 73% reported being frightened or attacked, experiencing verbal abuse and intimidation.
  • 35% were physically attacked.
  • 45% did not try to stop the attack, as they were frightened and concerned about repercussions.
  • Only 40% of victims report incidents to the Police.
  • Respondents described feeling scared, embarrassed, humiliated and stressed by the attacks.
  • The majority surveyed felt feeling afraid was something that they had to live with due to their disability.

There is a growing body of research to support these findings and the issue of crimes perpetrated as a consequence of a person’s ability has now been recognised as a designated hate crime by Police Scotland.

The Procurator Fiscal Crown Office Scotland have confirmed that hate crimes against disabled people has risen by 14% in the past year.

Studies undertaken on behalf of the World Health Organisation by Liverpool’s John Moore’s University Centre for Public Health revealed the extent of the problem indicating, overall, people with a disability “are more likely to be a victim of violence than those without a disability, while those with mental health conditions are at nearly four times the risk of experiencing violence.”

This evidence is supported by more anecdotal evidence drawn from many conference reports and media commentary that suggest disabled people are much more likely to be the victims of crime including violent crime than able-bodied persons.

In 2016, we received funding from The Big Lottery’s Investing In Ideas to develop a Personal Safety for the Blind and Visually Impaired course although it would be 2017 before we made any progress.

We teamed up with Scottish War Blinded, a charity which helps blind veterans, and latterly, the Forth Valley Sensory Centre in Falkirk and since then our courses have grown from strength to strength, receiving lots of media coverage along the way.

In our Social Impact Report 1997-2017, we mentioned the two registered blind instructors we now have – David Black, who provides our courses at the Forth Valley Sensory Centre and Michael McAllister who runs our courses from our Barony St. John Centre in Ardrossan.

 David, Registered Blind

“As a blind person, like many blind people, I have actually felt unsafe.

When I lost my vision, depression and other things took over and it took me a while to come to terms with it. I was scared to leave the house – all the usual stuff. Getting a job at the Forth Valley Sensory Centre helped me but getting there was a problem because I had to leave the house to get there.

You are taught safe routes and safe ways to get to places but still, unfortunately as a blind person, I have suffered verbal and physical abuse.

….I got in contact with Alan Bell through the Sensory Centre and he put me through a training course with The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety – and through that course they have taught me safe and easy ways to defend myself as a blind person – as a vulnerable person. My confidence has rocketed….. if it was not for Alan and the training he has given me, I wouldn’t be standing here.”

We have had a significant amount of media coverage for our Personal Safety for the Blind and Visually Impaired courses and David’s transformation was featured in local and national newspapers, BBC News, BBC World Service, BBC London, STV2’s Live at Five, BBC Radio Four and various blogs for the blind and visually impaired.

Michael, Registered Blind

“… prior to my first meeting with Principal Trainer, Alan Bell and his staff, I was an entirely different person. Frightened to walk alone at night and jumping at any perceived threat or raised voice, I walked with a hunched posture, eyes to the ground and listening for any sign of threat.  On a social level, I felt limited and emasculated

by my disability.

Now, I find myself standing tall as a qualified instructor, surrounded by colleagues who helped build me up to be the confident person I am today.  When I am in public spaces, I move with confidence, safe in the knowledge that were I to be confronted by an aggressor, my training would kick in and I would know when and how to defend myself.”

Michael’s courses also received a lot of local publicity and Michael was nominated and then won Martial Arts Illustrated’s Hall of Fame Student Award 2017 which was presented to him by the MP for Ayrshire & Arran, Patricia Gibson.

Principal Trainer Alan Bell was a finalist in the RNIB’s Vision Pioneer Awards 2017 in the category of “Teacher of the Year” for his work with people with low or no vision. And in 2018, our Personal Safety course for the Blind and Visually Impaired won the Pioneering Project at The Scottish Charity Awards.

People with vision impairement whom we have helped include;

Yvette, Registered Blind

 My name is Yvette. I am registered blind and also suffer from Asperger’s Syndrome. A rehab worker named Norma Baillie, who works with sight loss clients on a daily basis, put me in contact with Alan and Michael who run a personal safety / self defence class in the Barony St. John Centre in Ardrossan for people who have sight loss.

When I first went along I thought “Wait a minute, these guys are amazing!” as Michael is registered blind himself.

The training has built my confidence up immensely and brought my anxiety levels down greatly. I can even go out at night time now without any horrible fears. Now all I can say is that the class has helped me great so anybody with sight loss should give these classes a try as the two instructors are brilliant. Thank you guys for giving me light at the end of the tunnel.”


Our FREE “Personal Safety for the Blind & Visually Impaired” courses run every Tuesday in the Deafblind Scotland Learning & Development Centre in Kirkintilloch,  every Thursday in our Barony St John Centre in Ardrossan and every Friday from the Forth Valley Sensory Centre in Falkirk.

For a “Personal Safety for the Blind & Visually Impaired” course specifically for your group or organisation, there will be a fee. If you would like to know more, contact The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety via our contact page.