Derry campaigner shortlisted for Royal National Institute of Blind People awards

Derry man Rory McCartney, who lives with sight loss, has been shortlisted in the Campaigner of the Year category.
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The category is sponsored by Microsoft, and this Royal National Institute of Blind People award will recognise individuals who have shown great commitment and courage in campaigning to improve the world for blind and partially sighted people.

Amongst Rory’s work campaigning to break down the barriers that exist for blind or partially sighted people, for World Sight Day in October 2023 Rory organised a ‘Dining in the Dark’ event, which brought together business leaders, community influencers and others. Guests enjoyed a four-course meal whilst blindfolded in order to gain some understanding of living with sight loss.

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At the time Robert Shilliday, Country Director for RNIB in Northern Ireland, said: “If you were to ask someone to eat a meal whilst blindfolded, I’m sure most people would find it extremely challenging. They might worry about missing their mouth with their food or creating mess or spillages. But this is why we really value this kind of engagement event. It gets people talking and if people are talking about sight loss, then they are a step closer to understanding what needs to change in our society to remove barriers for blind and partially sighted people.”

Rory McCartney - shortlisted for RNIB Campaigner of the Year Award.Rory McCartney - shortlisted for RNIB Campaigner of the Year Award.
Rory McCartney - shortlisted for RNIB Campaigner of the Year Award.

In the same year, 2023, he also invited counsellors from Derry City & Strabane District Council to take part in a blindfold walk so they could experience a little of what it’s like to navigate a city as a blind and partially sighted person. As a result of Rory’s tireless campaigning, Derry City & Strabane District Council unanimously passed a motion to make the council area a ‘visually aware space’ and make it more accessible – this is the first time a motion of this type has been passed by a council in the UK.

“There are an estimated 57,500 people living with sight loss in Northern Ireland and the reality is that half of all sight loss is avoidable. World Sight Day is an opportunity to actively think about sight loss differently, to emphasise the importance of having our eyes tested regularly and highlighting ways that we can all work together to improve the quality of life for people who are blind or partially sighted.

“We at RNIB, strive to remove barriers for people with sight loss; barriers to safe streets, employment, education, transport, healthcare and to promote equality overall,” said Robert Shilliday.

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RNIB CEO Matt Stringer said: “The RNIB See Differently Awards will celebrate those who dedicate their time, passion, and skills to help build an inclusive world for blind and partially sighted people. Congratulations to the shortlisted national finalists, you’re all fantastic with incredibly moving stories and we wish you the best of luck.”

Talking about being shortlisted, Rory said: “I’m really happy about being shortlisted for an RNIB See Differently Award. After Derry, the world! If this works, I want to put together guidelines for other cities to follow suit.”

The award winners will be announced at a ceremony which will take place at a hotel in Central London on Tuesday 21 May 2024.

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