(Luton, UK – 05 February 2014) – The Monarch Foundation and charity partner, Blind Veterans UK have teamed up to deliver ‘sighted guiding’ training into Monarch Airlines’ cabin crew training programme to mark this year’s centenary of the charity. The training will raise awareness of the difficulties faced by vision impaired passengers when travelling and advise the crew how they can make travelling a better experience for blind customers.

Blind Veterans UK, founded in 1915 and formerly known as St Dunstan’s, celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. It is the national charity for blind ex Service men and women that provides emotional and practical support to blind veterans no matter when they served or how they lost their sight.

The new ‘sighted guiding’ training initiative complements Monarch’s status as the world’s first airline to be awarded ‘WorldHost Recognised Business’ in 2014 and its commitment to providing an outstanding customer experience. Monarch cabin crew are learning from blind veteran Simon Brown, who tragically lost his sight whilst serving in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers in Iraq. Simon was shot whilst rescuing colleagues whose vehicle had broken down and the injury to his face caused him to lose his left eye and left him with only 20% peripheral vision in his right eye.

In order for the crew to fully appreciate how difficult it can be travelling with a disability, Simon is talking to the crew about a typical travelling day enabling them to fully appreciate the needs and expectations of blind and vision impaired people.

The training, which started for new cabin crew starters at the Airline’s London Gatwick base this week, will also be run at bases in Birmingham, Luton and Manchester. The Airline will then look to roll out the training to existing cabin crew during 2015.

Pauline Prow, Chair of the Monarch Foundation, said: “The Monarch Foundation is extremely proud of its partnership with Blind Veterans UK and we are delighted to be the first airline in the UK to be working with them to offer our staff this ‘sighted guiding’ training. We constantly strive to improve the levels of service we offer and this training will enable our staff to experience first-hand the challenges that our blind and vision impaired customers face and exactly what their needs are when flying. The result will be a much better travelling experience for them.”

Chief Executive of Blind Veterans UK, Major General (Rtd) Nick Caplin CB, said: “This is a very exciting partnership and the Monarch Foundation should be praised for taking the lead in providing this training. Sighted guiding training will make such a difference to the blind and vision impaired passengers that fly with Monarch every year. I know that the skills and expertise garnered through Blind Veterans UK’s 100 years of service will be put to good use in training Monarch’s cabin crew.”

Over the last 100 years, Blind Veterans have provided vital support for thousands of ex- Service men and women. Today they help over 4,000 blind veterans discover a life beyond sight loss. If you know someone who served in the Armed Forces or National Service who now suffers with sight loss from any reason visitwww.noonealone.org.uk or call 0800 389 7979.

Left to right: Stuart Penfold (ROVI, Blind Veterans); Jackie Ball ( Group Manager – High Value Relationships and Trading, Blind Veterans) Simon Brown, Blind Veterans UK; Francesca Mortain-Cogar and Nichola Iafrate(Cabin Crew Training Specialists, Monarch).

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