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Technology will be key for people with sight loss struggling to save energy

  • Nine in ten blind and partially sighted adults currently find it difficult to reduce their energy bills or think they will soon
  • Four in five said that knowing how much energy they use each day would help them reduce it and save money
  • 67% say that more should be done to provide support for people with sight loss
  • Two thirds of blind and partially sighted people say technology has enhanced their lives

More than nine in ten (93%) blind and partially sighted adults in Britain currently find it difficult to reduce their energy bills, or think they will soon.

The new research, published today by Smart Energy GB, also revealed that four in five (79%) people with sight loss said knowing how much energy they use each day would help them to reduce it and save money.

To help those living with sight loss, an accessible in-home display (AIHD) which connects to a home’s smart meter has been developed with support from the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB). This differs from the standard in-home display as it has additional accessibility features, such as tactile buttons and text-to-speech functionality, to help more households take control of their energy use and better manage finances. 

A survey of 1,000 blind or partially sighted people found that the two things they find most difficult is to save money on electricity (62%) and gas (54%). More than two in five (44%) have a sight condition that requires additional energy use and therefore extra costs and are worried about how they will afford it.

As a result, half (48%) feel that they have been left behind during the cost-of-living crisis, and two thirds (67%) think that more should be done to provide support for their community.

But another two thirds (68%) say that technology has made life easier. With near-real time, audible information on energy use now available with an AIHD, more blind and partially sighted people could better manage their energy use during the colder months and beyond.

Requesting an AIHD at no additional cost when booking a smart meter installation will ensure that people with sight loss receive accurate bills and are able to keep track of the energy they use more easily.

While 72% of the 1,000 blind and partially sighted people surveyed said they had a smart meter, only two in five (40%) of those with a smart meter had an AIHD. This accessible version features a high contrast display, text-to-speech and buttons with tactile feedback to make it easier for people with sight loss to use.

Additionally, two in three (65%) had to ask someone to help them read their electricity or gas meter, in many cases because of where it is located. And three in four (76%) said they had felt nervous or worried about letting someone into their home to take a meter reading.

Smart meters send readings automatically to your energy supplier, eliminating the need to send readings manually and the worry of letting a stranger into your home. They also ensure that you receive an accurate bill and only pay for the energy you use.

Smart Energy GB and RNIB have joined forces with visually impaired British sprinter Zac Shaw to highlight the difficulties that blind and partially sighted people are facing during the cost of living crisis and how new technologies like smart meters can help them to feel more in control of their lives and finances.

Zac Shaw said:

“Living with sight loss myself, I know how difficult it can be to keep track of household finances, and anything that can offer a bit of control would make life easier. Like many people, the cost of living crisis has added extra pressure for the blind and partially sighted community, but knowing how much energy you’re using will help more people to make simple changes to reduce their costs. A smart meter with an accessible in-home display is a great tool that can help to get that control – and for me, getting one will mean I don’t have to worry about someone having to take meter readings for me, as they’re sent automatically. With so many blind and visually impaired people being unemployed or struggling for work, it’s so exciting there is a device to help us. This is a huge step forward and I’m so happy a company is taking the time to think of us in this difficult time.”

David Clarke, Chief Operating Officer at RNIB, said:

“RNIB is pleased to be working with Smart Energy GB to highlight some of the challenges people with sight loss face when trying to manage energy bills. With cost of living at the forefront of people’s minds, it’s crucial blind and partially sighted people have access to the same energy information as everyone else.

“As this survey shows, blind and partially sighted people continue to experience a disadvantage, especially when it comes to increasing costs born out of necessity and not choice, which makes it more difficult to proactively find ways to reduce bills.

“RNIB strives to make the world more inclusive and has worked closely with the energy industry to help develop an accessible in-home display that works alongside smart meters; these are available at no extra cost from energy suppliers and can help you to feel more in control of your energy bills.”

A smart meter with an AIHD is not the only way that the experiences of people with sight loss are being brought closer in line with the rest of society.

Devices and technology that blind and partially sighted people say have had the most impact on their lives are mobile phone accessibility features (45%), smart speakers and voice assistants (39%) and integrated smart home appliances like lights and heating controls (30%).

Technological advancements have been valuable for this community, with three in five (61%) of adults living with sight loss saying they are more independent and another three in five (61%) saying they are more confident as a result of accessible technology.

But there is still work to do in a number of areas of life. Blind and partially sighted people said the areas that still need better technology or services help bring their experience more in line with wider society include management of household energy use and spending (37%), public transport (37%) and banking (35%).

Smart Energy GB has pulled together a list of technology solutions that are already helping blind and partially sighted people to feel more in control of their lives and finances.

 Phillippa Brown from Smart Energy GB said: “This winter is going to be a difficult time for many people when it comes to affording energy bills, but knowing how much energy you are using can help you find ways to reduce your spend. For blind or partially sighted people, smart meters with accessible in-home displays have been specially designed with extra features to give you an easy way to monitor and manage your energy use. Just contact your energy supplier to find out more about smart meters and the accessible in-home display.

“From smart home devices to online banking and all the accessibility features built into mobile phones and computers, there is a huge variety of technologies helping people with sight loss to feel more in control of their lives and money. These will be even more vital as the cost-of-living crisis continues.”

Contact your energy supplier to request your smart meter installation and an accessible in-home display, or visit to find out more.

Technology giving blind and partially sighted people more control of their lives and finances

Accessibility built in

Most common tech items like mobile phones, computers and tablets come with accessibility features such as screen magnification, text-to-speech and audio description built in as standard. These can be easily turned on and customised to suit your individual needs, and open up all of that device’s functions – like browsing the internet for money-saving tips – to blind and partially-sighted people.

Remote controls for your home

If you can afford to go that extra step, you can also buy smart devices for your home like plugs, light bulbs and heating controls that can be controlled directly from a mobile phone app or your smart speaker – giving visually impaired people even easier control over the appliances in your home.

 Managing your money

Almost all high-street banks now offer online banking and banking via mobile app. This means you can keep track of your money easily from your phone or computer, and perform many simple actions like paying for services or transferring money between accounts without having to go into a bank.

Manage your energy with a smart meter

A smart meter can help you manage your energy use and your bills by ensuring your bills are accurate, so you only pay for what you use. They come with a handy in-home display (IHD) to help you track your energy use and budget effectively. An accessible IHD has also been developed with the Royal National Institute of Blind People, with text-to-speech functionality and larger buttons to help people with visual impairments and sight loss. Contact your energy supplier about upgrading to a smart meter for free and the option of an accessible IHD.

Tap your card to pay

Shopping in person has also been made more accessible over the past few years, and even more so during the pandemic, through the rise of contactless payments. Paying for your shopping is now much easier thanks to contactless bank cards, as well as Google and Apple Pay allowing you to use your phone to pay for products in store.