Blind Army veteran Richard encourages other blind veterans to seek free support

Richard Downs has lost his vision to age-related macular degeneration and has been receiving support from us since 2015.

The Gravesend Army veteran thanked us for helping him to discover a love of archery and other hobbies he never thought possible since going blind.

Born in 1936, Richard enlisted in the Royal Engineers at 21 years old and was posted to Germany where he built bridges and worked alongside the Royal Canadian Engineers. In 1959 he was discharged as a Sapper and worked in a drawing office until he retired.

Veteran Richard Downs Archery
Richard Downs enjoying archery at our Brighton Centre

Richard said: “I loved my time in the Army. We were on the go all the time and the work we were doing in Germany was really important. The camaraderie of the Forces was great and though we worked hard, it was good fun too.”

It was years later that Richard started to lose his sight to age-related macular degeneration, a condition that over time has left him severely vision-impaired.

This National Eye Health Week, we are reaching out to vision-impaired veterans like Richard who could benefit from free, life-changing support. Regardless of how a veteran lost their sight or when they served, we will provide free, lifelong support to them and their families to help them discover life after sight loss. We estimate that there are currently 59,000 blind veterans that would be eligible to access its specialist support, most of whom are not currently aware of it.

Richard said: “Losing my sight was hard at first. It was difficult to hear that nothing could be done to save my vision and that it would continue to get worse. I couldn’t read my letters or the newspaper anymore and there was a computer sitting in the house that I thought that I’d never be able to use.”

Fortunately for Richard, when he was at his local opticians for an eye test, his wife, Jacqueline saw an information leaflet about us. Jacqueline read the leaflet to Richard and they immediately phoned the charity to apply for free, specialist support. As well as free equipment, Richard has also had a week away at the our rehabilitation centre in Brighton.

Richard said: “I don’t know what I would be doing now if my wife hadn’t picked up that leaflet. Blind Veterans UK is a brilliant charity that has given me the opportunity to try so many new things at their Brighton centre. I never thought I would be able to learn archery but they showed me how. I couldn’t even see the target but I was able to get four out of six shots in! I tried so many new activities like bowls, shooting and even craftwork.

“Blind Veterans UK have taught me that even though I’ve lost my sight, there are so many activities that I can still enjoy. The technology is ever so clever and I felt very inspired by all the other veterans there with me.”

We also taught Richard how to use the specialist equipment we provided for him. As well as receiving talking scales to help Richard in the kitchen, he has received a video magnifier that allows him to magnify documents to a high level.

Richard said: “When Blind Veterans UK first showed me how to use my video magnifier I was amazed. I hadn’t been able to read a letter since losing my sight but now I can. Getting in touch with Blind Veterans UK was one of the best decisions I have ever made and I cannot recommend them highly enough."