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Improving accessibility in the Bristol

University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust have joined up with the regional Sight Loss Council, and Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to develop the first NHS audio guides for blind and visually impaired people.

The new tools will help improve accessibility across hospitals in Bristol, Cheltenham and Gloucester.

Navigating a busy hospital environment can be challenging for anyone, but for those who are blind and visually impaired, it can be particularly difficult. A lack of accessibility can create anxiety, restrict independence, and impact on access to some health services.

To ensure our hospitals remain as accessible as possible for all our patients and visitors we are delighted to have partnered with Bristol Sight Loss Council to coproduce a series of audio guides.

The 12 new guides will provide information about accessing the Bristol Royal Infirmary Emergency Department. They have been created using Artificial Intelligence voice-over, enabling rapid development and testing and significantly reducing costs.

The guides are available on the hospital website and can be accessed from smartphones and tablets, and is believed to be the one of the first NHS navigation audio tools ever developed.

The audio guides provide clear, step-by-step instructions, allowing blind and visually impaired people to navigate hospitals independently and with confidence, ensuring that are able to find their way to appointments and services and reducing anxiety.

It is hoped that further collaboration with the Sight Loss Council and other partners will open up the potential for wider development of more audio guides across other health services.

Professor Deirdre Fowler, University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust Chief Nurse and Midwife, said:

“We want to extend our deepest thanks to the Bristol Sight Loss Council for supporting us to make our BRI emergency department a more accessible, and welcoming place for everyone.  

“We understand that needing emergency care is stressful, and we hope that these guides will make visiting our BRI emergency department easier for people with a visual impairment. We want everyone to feel reassured and confident about receiving care with us.

“We will continue our work to improve the experience of our patients across all of our hospitals in both Bristol and Weston and hope the introduction of the audio guides are significant step in a journey to making the experience of care even better at UHBW.”

Alun Davies, The Engagement Manager from Thomas Pocklington Trust who support the West Of England Sight Loss Council and Gloucestershire Sight Loss Council said:

“We very much applaud University Hospital Bristol And Weston and the Gloucestershire Hospitals Trust for working with us to develop the audio guides for their respective venues. Going to a hospital is stressful enough for anyone. When you have a visual impairment it is potentially much more of a concern. These guides will hopefully take some of the worry away by helping people who are blind or partially sighted orientate themselves before they visit and give them some directions when they get there.”

Alun added:

“The Sight Loss Councils are working with both Trusts on other issues such as the Accessible Information Standard and Training of visual impairment awareness. Both Trusts in our experience are firmly committed to improving the experience of their blind and partially sighted users and visitors.”

The Bristol Audio Guides can be found here