Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Edinburgh visits Sensory Services by Sight for Surrey

Yesterday, Wednesday 19th April, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Edinburgh, visited Sensory Services by Sight for Surrey, a charity that supports over 8,000 people with sight and hearing loss in Surrey.

HRH was greeted at the entrance to the offices in Fetcham, Surrey, by Clare Burgess, Chief Executive, and Christine Wilmshurst, Chair of Trustees.

The Duchess was then introduced to Tony Greene, Resource Centre Coordinator, Satwinder Ghotra, Low Vision Dispensing Optician, Jane Wemhoener, Hearing Loss Advisor and her interpreter Julie Goudge. Tony explained the benefits of coming into the Resource Centre in person and showed her various pieces of equipment including magnifiers, a talking clock, tactile bump on stickers and a large button, loud speaking phone.

The Duchess is sat talking to a service user in the Resource Centre surrounded by lots of helpful sight and hearing loss equipment.The Duchess then met John Mitchell, a service user and volunteer for the charity for 33 years, who was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa 40 years ago. John told The Duchess about taking up target shooting when he was registered blind.

HRH also discussed with Jane Wemhoener, Hearing Loss Advisor, who is Deaf, the hope that on-going developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) could enable advancements in British Sign Language interpretation.

The Duchess & Deanne Weller in a kitchen setting. A table setting is in front of them with a bright yellow table cloth. On the top is a blue chopping board, pink knife, red vegetable holder and a finger guard.The Duchess moved onto the kitchen where she met Deanne Weller, a Sensory Specialist Worker, who demonstrated specially adapted cooking equipment for people with a vision impairment (VI) including a tomato holder.



A group of people sat round a table with various pieces of tech equipment laid out on the table.The Duchess then joined a real-time ‘Let’s Talk Tech’ session. These online monthly sessions cover a range of topics and show attendees how to use specialist software that will allow anyone with a Vision Impairment to continue using their mobile phone, computer and iPad, to stay connected in a world with many accessibility barriers. The Duchess met Tech Trainer, Gary Eady, who explained the advances of technology and explained how an Orcam My Eye works.

HRH then moved on to meet some of the charity’s volunteers and trustees, including Deafblind Trustee, Russell Gilmore, who uses hands on BSL to communicate which amazed The Duchess.



Meeting the creators of a collaborative piece of artwork was next on the agenda for The Duchess. Here she met representatives from the charity’s various social groups including a Deafblind Friendship group, Deaf social group, Children & Young People’s Service & Blind and VI communications group. Group leader, Julie Barclay, explained the concept of the tactile art session taking place to commemorate the Royal visit. The finalised artwork will hang in the front entrance at the charity’s office.

The Duchess spoke to a group of blind and VI children about the artwork they were making and spoke of her three dogs and tortoise, Marmite, who loves grapes. Two vision impaired children supported by the charity, Rylie and Amy, presented The Duchess with a goodie bag and a hand woven bird feeder crafted by members of the children and young people’s group.


The Duchess is cutting a cake which displays the logo of Sight for Surrey alongside a large button telephone, iPad and mug with a liquid level indicator, all made of cake.The Duchess also unveiled a Braille plaque to commemorate her visit and cut a stunning cake demonstrating the work the charity has done over the last 100 years before she departed.

Clare Burgess, Chief Executive of Sensory Services by Sight for Surrey said, “it was a privilege and great honour to introduce The Duchess to some of our service users, volunteers and staff and highlight the crucial work we do supporting people who are blind, vision impaired, Deaf, hard of hearing and those with a combined sight and hearing loss.”