THE future of a vital communications link used by a charity for the blind has been guaranteed, thanks to the generosity of a city’s freemen.

Blind Life in Durham, which meets at the community centre, in Framwellgate Moor, provides wide-ranging support to improve the lives of more than 70 members across the county.

A key tool used in its service delivery is a special printer used in the production of monthly CDs posted to members.

Blind and wheelchair user Jim Welch, the organisation’s chairman and founder, said: “The technology provided by our existing machine gave us the ability to print directly onto the face of a monthly CD we post out to members.

“These custom-made labels are important in helping each recipient understand what each CD offers and avoids confusion.

“But the machine was simply worn out and a costly replacement, along with the inks it needs, was not easy to find.

“Without it, we would have been in a fix but the freemen’s generous £300 gift means we can now keep this important link going.”

Mr Welch and his wife Margaret, the group’s treasurer, launched the service in 2004 aimed at promoting the welfare, independence and quality of life of members while, also voicing awareness of problems facing the blind and partially-sighted among service providers and other organisations.

Their work is supported by two part-time employees, backed by a further 15 volunteers.

Mr Welch is also a board member of Health Watch County Durham, and a volunteer for promoting blindness and disability awareness for Durham Police and other bodies.

Social activities for members include Skype chat groups, a book club and monthly meetings at the community centre.

Activities also offer up to three events a week, including new-age kurling and bowls, plus Boccia.

Blind Life also organises regular days out in better weather as well as theatre trips.

Eric Bulmer, who chairs the freemen’s charitable trust, said: “It is a privilege to support a locally based charity which helps its members become more independent and, at the same time, raise awareness among the wider community of the problems of being blind or partially sighted.”

More information about Blind Life in Durham can be found on www.blindlifeindurham.org.uk, or by ringing (01388) 763501.

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