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Dive into the World of Innovation At Sight Village – North West!

Sight Village – North-West, where admission is free, technology abounds, and connections flourish, all set in the vibrant backdrop of Blackpool’s Winter Garden venue!

Are you ready to embark on a journey of sight innovation and empowerment? Brace yourself, because Sight Village – North-West is back, and this time, they’re bringing the excitement to a brand-new venue at the Winter Garden, Blackpool! Mark your calendars for Tuesday, 9th April 2024, from 9:30am to 3:30pm!

And guess what? Admission is absolutely FREE! Yes, you heard that right. It’s an event for everyone – from individuals living with varying degrees of sight loss to professionals and enthusiasts eager to explore the latest advancements in technology, products, and support services.

Described as the UK’s leading exhibition for blind and partially sighted individuals, Sight Village promises an immersive experience where thousands gather to discover cutting-edge solutions firsthand. Hosted by Queen Alexandra College Birmingham, a National College for People with Disabilities, this event is not just about showcasing innovation; it’s about fostering connections, empowerment, and inclusivity.

Whether you’re an end-user, employer, professional, or part of the public sector, there’s something for everyone. From groundbreaking assistive technologies to invaluable support networks, prepare to be amazed by what awaits you.

Getting to Blackpool is a breeze – centrally located on the North West coast of England, it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump away from major cities across the UK. Plus, once you arrive, navigating the area is a piece of cake with convenient parking options, nearby public transport routes, and easy access to the Winter Garden venue.

But don’t just take our word for it. Here’s what some of the past Sight Village visitors had to say:

“A great opportunity to have hands-on experience of products and technology.”

“Sight Village enabled me to meet other people in the low vision world and see what is on offer in terms of technology and charitable support.”

“A very enjoyable and worthwhile day, thank you.”

We here at atwsolutions will be there, so join us at Sight Village – North-West and let’s embark on a journey of innovation, empowerment, and endless possibilities. Remember, the future is brighter when we come together. We can’t wait to see you there!

For more information and pre-registration, visit or contact 0121 803 5313 / [email protected]. See you soon!

By: Mary Grimes (February 2024)

Sight Village Central Returns to Birmingham in 2024

We’re thrilled to announce the return of Sight Village Central at The East Side Rooms in Birmingham!

Nestled in the heart of the city with convenient access via public transport and ample secure parking nearby, The East Side Rooms offers an ideal venue for this well-loved event.

Taking place on the 8th and 9th of July, Sight Village will include the expected seminar rooms and a catering section, all conveniently located on the ground floor for full accessibility. Attendees can expect a serene environment for exploring exhibits and engaging in seminars, as the exhibition space is separate from the seminar rooms to minimize noise interference.

Mark your calendars for the event’s opening hours: from 10am to 4pm on July 8th and from 9:30am to 3:30pm on July 9th.

Stay tuned for more updates as we prepare to attend another enriching and impactful Sight Village Central experience. We look forward to seeing you there in Birmingham this July!

By: Mary Grimes (February 2024)

Orcam Read: A Festive Fiasco

What did Santa bring you for Christmas? Does it matter to me? Not really, so long as you were blessed with warmth, a roof over your head and peace all round.

Lucky me though, I woke up on Christmas morning to find an OrCam reader sitting upon the credenza – what a lucky boy I am! Or so I believed…

To anyone considering stumping up for an OrCam reader or undergoing the humiliation and pain associated with making an application to Access to Work for the funding for such a piece of assistive technology hear me out; as despite the heavy marketing and constant trade show demonstrations of this technology, there remains some fundamental disadvantages with the OrCam reader.

I am not going to go into endless criticisms of the technology specifications compared with alternative solutions readily available, but I will touch on the obvious bug bears that I have personally experienced.

Cast your minds back, remember the dreaded “The page appears to be blank?” The alert spoken by the KNFB reader when either the page that was scanned was blank or handwritten. Sadly we have something very similar, but this time the OrCam reader tells us that “light levels are too low” which all in all, sounds pretty resolvable; but, despite ensuring every light in the room is switched on, and for extra peace of mind, even turning on my iPhone torch and directing it at the page of text. Yes, you’ve guessed it “light levels are too low” remains the default alert. I even went to the trouble of using the torch on my iPhone, but alas to no avail. I might have well saved myself the considerable outlay associated with purchasing an OrCam reader and stuck with my trusted iPhone with a seeing AI app ):

No doubt once the distributors and sales representatives for the OrCam reader pick up on my small review, then I will be told the error of my ways. But wait, there’s more. As clambering onto my pedestal isn’t as easy for me as it was when I was younger, and far mouthier, I have some more. The concept of reading a book; whilst being familiar to some, is sadly not as ‘plug & play’ to all. OK, so, even a brown bear may pick up on that a book reads from left to right. Do you understand the protocol of the publishers when deciding on what pages they will start printing on? I’m sure don’t, and if I believe what my OrCam read is alerting me too, it appears that either no print is being seen or worse, it’s lying to me.

Come on OrCam!

Anyhow, I am struggling on with my book: enemy coast ahead a memoir by Guy Gibson DSO with bar, Vc and either the book is so badly edited, or something is again not working for me as sold. “Skip 6 lines of text” What the hell does that mean? I feel that I am missing so much of the content of each page as it is so confusing and really doesn’t make sense. For what I have paid for your technology, it could have a lot more functionality built in to help people like me.

By: Colin Fowler (January 2024)

Col & The Gang: The Jolly Boy’s Outing Returns

The so-called traditional Jolly Boys’ Outing, whereby all the atwsolutions® regulars at Wenlock road Shoreditch Work Hub go on an annual coach trip (“beano”) to the seaside town of Blackpool on the Fylde coast is also approaching fast.

Dust off your glad rags and your kiss me quick hat ready to trip the light fantastic at the Tower Ball room or take in a show at the North pier, as we will be putting out our stall at the Blackpool Winter Gardens for Sight Village (North West) on April 9th 2024, and whereas we won’t have any dodgy beta max video recorders or non-excise paid French plonk to be getting shot of, we certainly will have the accustomed patter around Access to Work and how to some it can seem as equally bent and unfit for purpose.

Rose Woodhall of Sight Village says “I am delighted to announce our upcoming event on 9th April 2024 at the newly selected venue in the North West – the historic Winter Gardens in Blackpool, Lancashire, boasting a rich history dating back to 1878.

The Winter Gardens is strategically situated, being both a spacious venue and easily accessible, as the event will be held in the exhibition centre located on the ground floor level. Within Winter Gardens, they have a café that will be serving hot/cold food and drinks. As well, we are located just a brief 3-minute stroll from the Promenade and Blackpool Tower and surrounded by various shops and eateries, serving as the perfect backdrop for the upcoming Sight Village event!

Situated in the heart of the UK on the North West coast of England, Blackpool is conveniently reachable within a three-hour commute from most major cities. Access by car is straightforward, with the M6 motorway directly connecting to the M55 exit at junction 4, leading into Central Blackpool. For those using sat nav, the postcode FY1 4JR will guide you accurately.

While navigating Central Blackpool, please be mindful of the one-way systems and pedestrianised areas. Consider utilising the well-signposted tourist car parks near the Promenade or the two car parks closer to the Winter Gardens.

Given the limited spaces available at this event, we encourage you to complete your booking that is attached promptly, to secure your spot and avoid any disappointment.

By: Colin Fowler (January 2024)

What’s New In JAWS 2024

Like a giddy teenager who has fallen in love for the first time, I am proud to introduce to you the Love of my Life (currently) 😉

This article describes the new features and improvements available in JAWS 2024. So if you are due for a renewal of your Access to Work funding, don’t remain a shrinking violet, afraid to activate your camera during Microsoft Teams and zoom meetings any longer upgrade without delay and participate with independence like your fellow team mates!

Face in View

Video calls have become a standard form of communication in the workplace, in schools, and in personal relationships. Before joining a video call, you want to make sure your setup is right and the camera is correctly focused on you. The new Face in View feature helps with this by alerting you to key visual details like:

  • Is my face centred in the view?
  • Am I looking directly at the camera?
  • Is the lighting adequate?
  • Are there additional items in the picture??

To activate Face in View, press the layered keystroke, INSERT+SPACEBAR, followed by F, and then O. Once enabled, Face in View continually monitors your face position and the lighting level. If anything changes, such as tilting your head left or right, or a decrease in brightness, you are automatically alerted. When focused in the Face in View application window, you can also use TAB or the ARROW keys to review information such as the position of your face in the picture, the current brightness level, and the camera in use.

Note: Face in View is not currently available during an active video call as it needs complete access to the camera.

While Face in View is active, the following layered keystrokes are available:

  • Select a different camera (if multiple cameras are available): INSERT+SPACEBAR, F, C. Once in the Camera layer, use UP or DOWN ARROW to cycle through your cameras and press ESC to exit the layer once you’ve selected the one you want to use.
  • Say detailed description, including face position and brightness: INSERT+SPACEBAR, F, D.
  • Say brightness level: INSERT+SPACEBAR, F, L.
  • Say background description: INSERT+SPACEBAR, F, P.
  • Adjust face detection confidence level: INSERT+SPACEBAR, F, U. This is useful when encountering sporadic “no face detected” messages, even without any movement. The default and recommended detection confidence level is 75 percent. However, raising the detection confidence level to 80 percent or lowering it to 70 percent can improve consistency and allows you to fine-tune face recognition in your specific environment.

Note: The INSERT+SPACEBAR, F, P command is designed to identify potential items in your background using PictureSmart. However, it’s important to understand that the accuracy of results may differ. While background descriptions might not always be completely precise, the intention is to offer hints about what’s within your camera view.

Once you have verified your face is correctly centered in the camera view and the brightness level is good, press INSERT+SPACEBAR, F, O to turn off Face in View prior to activating your video call.

This isn’t going to put your support workers post at risk of being made redundant as currently Face in View isn’t configured with AI, and can’t therefore tell you when you have burger relish down your jumper or shirt, you’re having a bad hair day, or you’ve smudged your mascara ☹

But as upgrades continue to filter through, don’t be surprised if increased facial identification doesn’t improve within the feature.

JAWS 2024 distributed by Sight and Sound

By: Colin Fowler (November 2023)

A Recap of Our Success at Kensington Sight Village 2023

View the Sight Village Kensington presentation here

Mind your backs! atwsolutions® are coming through!

Kensington Sight Village started encouragingly on Tuesday 7th November with crowds of visitors calmly queueing for entrance as we rocked up (late due to the state opening of Parliament by the King that same morning 🙂

We were able to quickly get our stand and banners put up and ready for the thronging crowds thanks to the help received from Michael Page of TouchPoint vision, the UK distributor of Orcam.

Kate and Marnie were soon answering questions on all matters to do with atwsolutions® and how we can help overcome the issues facing people living with sight loss in applying for Access to Work funding.

The venue this year appeared a lot more congested than the previous years; something that on reflection was that 2 years on from the national lock down meant that people were a lot more relaxed and up for attending organised events and being cheek by jowl with their fellow blinkies. There wasn’t a face covering to be seen anywhere (happy smiles.)

All the usual culprits were represented – Sight and Sound , Retina UK , and many others (too many to mention individually.) Despite some disgruntled exhibitors with the lack of Wi-Fi connectivity throughout the venue (which impeded their ability to take card payments), everyone knuckled down and got on with the main reason for any sight village event. Meeting the public and answering questions.

Whether you are a fan of TikTok or have an inordinate enhanced sense of hearing and heard Big Ben strike the half hour, all the way over hear in posh Kensington 11:35 was soon upon us and Marnie and myself decanted the main exhibition hall for the lower seminar rooms in time for us to present “Using an Agency – busting the myths” our carefully rehearsed atwsolutions® fringe event on the advantages of why using an agency to supply individual support needs is the only sensible approach to having a support worker.

As Marnie quickly overcame the struggles of erecting our atwsolutions® display banner, I warmed up the audience; like a seasoned Sight Village raconteur of old would. with a from memory Christmas Cracker joke.

The show went on as it must and soon we had the floor asking questions, and we were confidently and competently answering everything that was thrown at us.

Back in the main exhibition hall, Kate was masterly dealing with enquiries with a happy and endearing smile; our information card supply was diminishing with each enquiry and names and e-mail addresses being taken so we could follow up the enquiry on the day by sending on our welcome pack when we returned to the office.

To sum up – Another great public relations exercise from atwsolutions®

By: Colin Fowler (November 2023)

We’re returning to Sight Village. This time, Kensington!

We are delighted to announce that we will once again be a part of #SightVillage. The upcoming event is scheduled for November 7th 2023. This time, the event will be held in Kensington at the Town Hall.

The heart and soul of #SightVillage lies in its commitment to inclusion and accessibility, making it a must-attend for individuals of all backgrounds and abilities. By attending, you’ll have the chance to explore cutting-edge products, services, and assistive technologies designed to enhance the lives of individuals with various needs and abilities.

But what makes this event truly special is the opportunity to connect with our team! We’ll be there to talk to you about what it’s like to work for us as a support worker, and how we help our clients with finding one to support them in their employment journey. In addition to this, we are proud to be hosting a presentation where we will open up the floor to your questions.

Save the date, book your FREE ticket by clicking here and join us on November 7th at Kensington Town Hall. We look forward to meeting you, sharing our vision, and creating a brighter, more accessible future together.

By: Mary Grimes (October 2023)

An Update From Colin

Buzz buzz buzz, busy, busy, busy 🐝

We have been like the proverbial worker bee over the last week or so. We’re continuing to add to the number of hours that we are providing our invaluable support to our disabled clients each week, whilst maintaining our ever friendly and helpful customer service to people enquiring for the first time.

Enquiries are coming not only from our very successful attendance of the QAC Sight Village show in Birmingham in July, but more and more we are receiving interest from people signposted to us from Blind in Business , Sense , and many many other individuals and organizations that recognize that atwsolutions are genuinely the only specialist agency when it comes to all matters to do with Access to Work.

If you haven’t already booked out the time to come and find out more and attend our QAC SV London and the South East sight village trade show at Kensington town Hall on November 7th 2023 , then what are you waiting for?

Queen Alexandra College

Get Tickets Here

No need to panic! It isn’t a ticket only event, and everyone is welcome. atwsolutions will be represented in strength to reduce the time that people are having to wait to have their questions answered. But, why not? “Avail yourself of our Free seminar on the day and enjoy listening to a genuine business who invests its profits in helping all disabled people by “Empowering & Enabling you to succeed through supported facilitation”  

By: Colin Fowler (September 2023)

A Day In The Life of A Travelling Support Worker

Support Worker Marnie shares the journey of travelling with a client to Belgium for a disability conference via Eurostar.

The destination is Belgium and the time is 7:30am. I had a great opportunity to support a client to Belgium where they would be giving a lecture regarding disability and accessibility at a conference being hosted at the local University.

The morning started very early at the St Pancras terminal where we were to the board the Eurostar. Meeting the client ran very smoothly as we had a designated meeting point as well as had the opportunity to make introductions ahead of time. Passenger assistance had been organized in advance so we went through security and avoided the lines. We were escorted onto the Eurostar by a member of staff when it was boarding time with plenty of time to spare. The journey ran very smoothly while listening to the conversations of a group of ladies traveling to Paris for a three-day birthday weekender.

Upon arrival to Brussels we landed in the Kings Cross equivalent of their main train station which comprised of 26 platforms heading to different destinations across Europe. Even though there were language barriers there were clear and precise directions to several information desks which facilitated our purchase of tickets onto Antwerp. The journey was an additional 40 minute of smooth travelling on a double decker train.

With the assistance of signs and Google Maps we very quickly made it to our hotel. Now in receipt of our room keys I guided the client to their room and gave a tour making sure client was aware of all of the amenities and features in the room. We took an hour to unpack and acclimatise and decided to go on an investigation tour around the area and see where the conference would be held the following day.

As a result of efficient time keeping, we were able to make it to the university just before the introductory keynote speech and were able to take the opportunity to meet some of the patrons and guest speakers who would themselves be presenting over the following couple of days.

On the leisurely walk back to the hotel we stopped off and grabbed some freshly made pizza and we’re able to have dinner and prepare for the next day.

With another early start we were able to meet for breakfast and review the itinerary for the day to come. We attended several conferences of interest and enjoyed the refreshments during the intervals while exchanging ideas, opinions and views with other attendees. Just like the previous day we were led by our noses to another local restaurant where we pick up dinner for the evening then retired to our rooms.

Just let the previous day we met up for an early morning breakfast and checked out of the hotel while leaving our luggage on the premises while we attended the final day of the conference. During the quiet moments it was important to let the client know about the local amenities, places of interest and landmarks just in case they were ever return with friends, family or another support worker. This could be useful for personal and professional reasons.

Now that the conference had concluded we made our way back to the hotel and collected our luggage and had a quick meal and headed back to the Eurostar. It was a straightforward exercise of retracing our steps and grabbing souvenirs along the. With great help from the Eurostar team we were able to access the platform before the crowds became overwhelming. With an arrival time at St Pancras of 10:30pm I assisted the client back to the appropriate gate line and said our goodbyes with the hope of another adventure soon.

By: Marnie Samuels (September 2023)

Campaigning for Equal Access: A Closer Look at Guide Dogs’ ‘Open Doors’ Campaign

Recently, our attention was drawn to a poignant article featured on Metro which recounts Siobhan Meade’s distressing experience of being denied a taxi ride because of her guide dog. Unfortunately, this incident is just one of many instances etched in the memories of Siobhan and the wider visually impaired community.

As a sighted reader, I found myself pondering the question: How can we put an end to such discrimination? Is this not illegal? The realization quickly hit me that it is already illegal. In England, Scotland & Wales, the Equality Act means that assistance dog owners have the right to entire most services, premises, and vehicles with their assistance dog. Likewise, in Northern Ireland, the Disability Discrimination Act extends identical rights to those with assistance dogs.

Delving deeper into this issue, I stumbled upon a remarkable campaign by Guide Dogs, named ‘Open Doors’. Its objective is to eradicate precisely these occurrences. Initiative involved a proactive approach, engaging with concerns voiced by guide dog owners and refining their reporting system. Their free app, compatible with both iOS AND Android, serves as an accessible tool to facilitate this process. Notably, Guide Dogs collaborated closely with businesses to ensure the establishment of welcoming environments for visually impaired people and their guide dogs.

Moreover, the campaign emphasizes the importance of businesses pledging their allegiance to the cause by displaying visible signs of support, such as window stickers. This symbolic gesture not only signifies their commitment but also aids in raising awareness about the rights of assistance dog owners.

Guide Dogs are also seeking to actively seeking to explore how the law might be strengthened to prevent such access refusals from recurring

In a world where equal access should be an undeniable right, initiatives like ‘Open Doors’ are beacons of hope. Siobhan’s article serves as a catalyst for broader discourse on this issue, urging us all to stand up against discrimination and advocate for a more inclusive society.

By: Mary Grimes (August 2023)

Back to Sight Village: Our Joyful Return!

Plus: Catch our founder Colin Fowler’s interview on the See Saw Podcast


On July 17th & 18th, the highly anticipated Sight Village event returned in the vibrant city of Birmingham, and we found it to be an immense success! We met both familiar and new attendees, who gathered to celebrate and explore the latest innovations and support available to the visually impaired community.

Our Stand & Presentation

We had the pleasure of hosting our own stand, and the positive response we received from visitors was overwhelming. It’s clear the need for our service is stronger than ever. We found the opportunity to connect with people who share our passion for enhancing and supporting the lives of the visually impaired community was one we can’t thank Sight Village enough for creating.

We also had the honor of conducting a well-received presentation, brilliantly hosted by our founder, Colin Fowler. Colin’s enthusiasm and expertise captivated the audience as he delved into the various features and benefits our services have to offer. Check out the PowerPoint presentation here!

The See Saw Podcast

During our two days spent at Sight Village, we had the privilege of catching the attention of the See Saw Podcast, a show started in 2020 “with the aim of giving a different perspective on Disability and Visual Impairment.” They kindly offered to feature us in their podcast with an interview, an opportunity fully embraced.

Colin, once again, shone as he artfully described the essence of our organization and the ways in which our services are transforming the lives of the disabled individuals.

If you missed the chance to attend Sight Village, or wish to relive the experience, fear not! The See Saw Podcast has kindly shared the interview recording with us, which can be listened to here!

We also would absolutely recommend checking out the other work the See Saw Podcast have carried out which includes more interviews with inspiring services and people.


Sight Village once again left a lasting impression on all those who attended, us included. We are immensely grateful for the support and encouragement we received during the event.

Our deepest thanks goes to Queen Alexandra College (QAC) for providing us with the opportunity to participate and engage with such an inspiring community. Additionally, we thank the See Saw Podcast for their interest in our journey and for amplifying our mission through their podcast.

By: Mary Grimes (July 2023)

Sight Village: A Whirlwind of Excitement & Challenges

Colin recounts the ups and downs of his recent experience at Sight Village Birmingham

Sight Village Central July 17th and 18th  

Monday 17/07/2013 09:45

St Chads Queensway Birmingham to Dartmouth circus, Aston

Joining the nose to tail traffic on Monday morning heading towards Sight Village Birmingham reminds me of those moments of Deja vu. The google maps is jabbering away yet can’t keep up with the speed of the traffic or the faltering signal. I am getting more and more anxious; sudden braking, swinging suddenly across lanes to take a right turn isn’t helping my anxiety. I absolutely hate being late for anything.

At last, we arrive outside the venue only to find that the prescribed parking is no where to be found. Happy days!

Finally, after failing to register on the just pay app, we abandoned the car and rushed off to find the entrance to Sight Village. I must add that I wasn’t driving, so I can’t blame myself!

Yeah! We’re late, but I think I mentioned that. A kind lady from the show organizers helped us find our pitch and very soon phase 2 of the stand erection was done and dusted and we were ready and prepared to greet visitors. And did those visitors almost overwhelm us? You bet they did. The show had opened its doors at 10:00 and there had been a queue down the street of the keen and eager visitors clambering to find out what was new and to get their grubby paws on the latest gadgets being exhibited across the many businesses and charities displaying at Sight Village Central 2023.

Kate and Marnie were in their element dealing with consecutive enquiries concurrently and without a chance to break the surface and take a breath of air. I did my best in a very noisy auditorium to distinguish when visitors were standing at the table awaiting our attention, but was it noisy? You couldn’t hear the sound of heavy plant equipment redeveloping Birmingham City Centre with the funds that have flooded in after the City hosted the friendly games a few years back, let alone the whispering Bob impersonators enquiring away.

Lunch was upon us very quickly indeed and gave us just a little time to dispatch Marnie off in search of the organizers to check on the time of our presentation and the room location.

Sometime after 13:30 but before 14:00 we rocked up to seminar room 1 to present, prepared only with the prescribed necessities to get going. Alas, no keyboard and we had left the laptop with Kate who was gallantly back in the main auditorium attending to visitors.

The show must go on! So, with the mutual consent of those visitors attending the seminar, it did indeed, the show went on! You can take a sneak peak at what everyone else missed by clicking here

Participation was constructive and apart from the one person hogging the questions. “You always get one” we were most satisfied with its impact.

Back at the show table in the very noisy main exhibitor’s hall we settled in for much the same as before. Those witty and cheeky guys from See Saw Podcast were there recording content for their jolly successful podcast, Eric and Tony soon clicked into interviewer and cameraman pose to record us and get a better understanding of ATW Solutions. Click here for the podcast.

To say that we were like the proverbial cat that got the cream is an understatement, and I don’t like to gloat, but our competitors from Bolton had failed to show up, so they missed out on profiling themselves, oh what a shame.

By: Colin Fowler (July 2023)

We’re Returning to Sight Village. This Time, Birmingham!

We are pleased to announce we will be returning to #SightVillage on July 17th & 18th.

This time, we will be seeing you in Birmingham!

Would you like to come along to meet our team? For more info and to book your FREE ticket, please click here:

By: Mary Grimes (June 2023)

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