By Tahnee Campbell
We all incur expenses during the course of our daily lives: food, heating, rent, etc. If we have children, or we are caring for vulnerable relatives, these unavoidable costs soon mount up. To those on the outside looking in, my life may appear unburdened with such things. I live alone in a rented apartment with no dependents and a secure job. Yet, similarly to how having children can bring with it unexpected costs, so too does my visual impairment.
The biggest cost for me at the moment is transport. Due to having no peripheral vision and poor long-distance vision I’m unable to drive or use buses. Therefore, I’m wholly reliant on taxis and the kindness of friends and relatives to get from A-to-B. On the surface this may not seem like a problem, especially if one is accustomed to taking a taxi on an occasional basis. For me, though, it has a major impact on my life. Aside from the fact I have to take into account taxi waiting time (both it being on time and late) whenever I’m planning to go anywhere (including work), there is an immense cost involved.
Only this morning the cost of my taxi fare into work went up by a £1. Again, this may seem quite insignificant in the grand scheme of things. An extra £5 a week isn’t a massive increase, after all (only the morning journey has increased in price). Again, we all incur those inevitable expenses, such as paying a substantial amount to fill our car with petrol. Yet, when I reveal I was already paying over £80.00 a week to get to-and-from a job in the same town where I live, one may understand why £5 is such a problem. To some, taking a taxi is a luxury. For me, it’s essential for being independent in my working life.
Fortunately, I’m enrolled in the Job Centre’s Access to Work scheme. It provides me with a grant that is allocated specifically for the reimbursement of a proportion of travel costs to-and-from work. I have to contribute a certain amount per journey as well as pay the taxi fares up front and apply for reimbursement from Access to Work on a monthly basis (they manage the grant monies in-house rather than me being given them up-front). Yet, in spite of this, the Access to Work scheme is an absolute lifeline. Without it, I couldn’t afford to travel to work. This in turn would mean I couldn’t earn a salary, which would result in me being unable to pay tax and National Insurance contributions. With it, I’m given the same access to work as someone with 20/20 vision. Therefore, if, like me, you’re visually impaired and working, I’d strongly recommend getting in touch with Bucks Vision to find out more about the Access to Work scheme and how to apply.