Updated: Aug 3, 2020
What it's like to be blind, the first thing I have to say is I am not black blind, there is only a small percentage that are! I have around 15 percent vision in my left eye and can only see light & dark in my right eye. The picture below is roughly what I see when I am taking a shot of a football game, the further away something gets the less I can see as the blurry part gets smaller and goes completely. so from around 10 to 20 yards I see very little with out the aid of a camera lens or monocular.
For those that don't know my eyes started to get worse in 2000 -2001and from then on it just went down hill. For the first part of my blind life so to speak I went out very little and if I did my wife had to be there, this went on for some 10 years there was other mental issues that came along and I ended up being in a very dark place. I couldn't accept the fact that I was going blind and felt very sorry for myself. l just shut myself away and even switched off from my family causing lots of tears and heartache. Looking back I did not realise how much suffering and pain I caused them and I am glad to say my wife and boys are still with me now and they all helped to make life better for me.
I knew about a charity for blind ex service personnel called St.Dunstans as I was told to contact them in 2005 but at that time I was not in the right frame of mind I was angry and very bad tempered but in 2010 after a dreadful instant at home I decided it was time to seek help or worst would happen so off to the doctors I reluctantly went.
After some intense therapy and several conversations I was accepted as a member of St. Dunstans which is a charity for Blind ex service people now known as Blind Veterans UK and this is where my life changed for the better once I allowed them to help! The journey began with a trip to their centre in Brighton for my induction week. My wife was with me and as we arrived at the front door a guy called Martin welcomed us and shook our hands I reluctantly gave him my hand to shake( unbeknown to us at the time Martin was black blind) and he commented that he could tell that I didn't want to be there and I just grunted! During this week we were in a group of 21 people which included other blind or partially sighted people and their partners. Up until this point I didn't know many others who were in a very similar position to myself and gradually I began to open up and began to mix with the group a little! After a few days we were sat in the bar chatting and things really clicked for me as I didn't feel like the odd one out any more and at the end of the week we were asked what we most valued about the week and for me it had nothing to do with the equipment or all the other exciting stuff I had been shown it was Martin he was such an amazing character you have to understand that guy looked after 21 people all week showed us everthing in our rooms and how it all worked and all around the centre and grounds, he also made sure we were all in the right place at the right time during the week and he was Black Blind he never had a guide dog and very rarely used a cane he was an inspiration to all that met him!
So what does Blind Veterans UK do they encourage you to get on with life and use your vision to the best of your ability and believe me members do from marathon runners to the first blind man to row across the pacific, black blind mountain climbers including Kilimanjaro, artist in all mediums, wood turners and potters. I find a large part of the general public think blind people should sit on a sofa and vegetate until they die not at Blind Veterans UK.
When I started moving on things got brighter and I began to do more, as you know I am a photographer this would not be the case without Blind Veterans UK as I was encouraged to carry on, and then they taught me mounting and framing and even supplied the tools that would help me complete this task. I still didn't have enough confidence to go out by myself but I was out a lot more with my wife guiding me, it took about 3 to 4 years to get me to Brighton on my own and now I don't stay away!
3 years ago another great charity joined my journey to get a better life and this was Guide Dogs and in January 2017 along came Echo my Lab/golden retriever and this is when I started to really move on. Having a guide dog was such a break through for me as I began to trust her more and more as time passed and began to get out and about with just me and her, she has stopped me getting knocked over twice and she very rarely puts a foot wrong when in harness which I am very thank full for as when I am out and about my vision is not the best and some times becomes quite confusing for me but she is there to steer me in the right direction I have to say she is my best friend and she looks after me 24-7 including when at home. I don't need to explain what Guide Dogs do as it says what it does on the can and just like Blind Veterans UK they're life changers!
You may see visually impaired people doing things that you just don't understand how they can do them, the thing is visually impaired people have to adapt and do so very well, I can move around my local area without to much worry but put me somewhere I don't know its a whole different story and can be very frightening when I go somewhere new like a friends garden last week with lots of gazebos and things around so I had Echo to help me check things out as she doesn't have to be in harness for her to do her stuff.
If you see a visually impaired person doing something that you may find confusing please don't criticise them as it has taken them a lot of time and effort to get there and criticism can bring doubt into their mind and knock their confidence badly. If you don't understand how they manage then please just politely ask as most people will try and explain although this can be difficult, However please don't be offended if they just carry on or say no as sometimes having to always explain can also be damaging.
A few helpful tips if you are around people with sight loss are
Don't ask what happened to their eyes as some people don't like to talk about it as they may have gone blind in a horrific way!
Don't force your help on them, ask if they need any assistance!
Don't tell them it's safe to cross before the crossing has indicated so
Don't interfere with a guide dog in any circumstance, harnessed or not! Do not try to take the Guide Dog from them!
Don't shout across to them and expect them to know who you are always introduce yourself!
Don't be offended if help is refused!
Do assist them if you are asked or offer help if you feel they may be in difficulty or in danger!
Please be respectful as not everyone with sight loss is obvious and please also bare in mind that Guide Dogs no matter how clever they are have not been trained to Social distance so please move out of their way if at all possible and they will not be aware of any floor markings or queues outside shops and will head straight for the door.
I would like to say a big thank you to every body that has donated to either Blind Veterans UK or Guide Dogs as with out your support these Wonderfull things couldn't happen with ever charity you support just remember you are helping to change a life for the better.
I was interviewed about this blog by Somer Valley Fm Richard Burgess you can listen on this Link and my part starts at around -29:22 or by clicking the file below which will firstly down load and play
Thank you Somer Valley FM