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Plymouth blind veteran praises new research from Blind Veterans UK

Date
1 May 2015 13:00

Vision impaired ex-Army woman Kelly Hart, from Plymouth, has praised “brilliant” new survey results, which indicate changes in the public’s perception of blindness over the last 100 years.

Blind Veterans UK's Attitudes to Blindness survey, conducted by YouGov to mark the charity's centenary year, found that 65% of the general public think that if they were to lose their sight, it would not mean that their lives were "as good as over".

Blind Veterans UK said that these new results, which also include 60% of the general public saying that they do not see blindness as a barrier to being able to lead a happy and active life and 81% saying they think sight loss would not be an obstacle for blind or vision impaired people to start a new job or career, show a "major positive shift" in how the public perceive blindness, compared to views when the charity was founded in 1915 .

Kelly Hart, who lost her sight after suffering a stroke at just 23 years of age, agreed with Blind Veterans UK: "These results are brilliant, as they show that the public realise that blindness is not something that should stop someone from doing what they want to do".

Kelly served in the Army as part of the Adjutant General's Corps between 1998 and 2005. During her Service, Kelly suffered a stroke after being diagnosed with antiphospholipid syndrome, robbing her of her sight. While in recovery, Kelly contacted Blind Veterans UK for support and services to help her adjust to life with sight loss.

Self-confessed action girl Kelly received training, equipment and emotional support from Blind Veterans UK and has also got involved with the sporting activities the charity offers. As a talented footballer before losing her sight, Kelly wanted to keep active and discovered running. She is now in training to run the London Marathon in April and has already completed Blind Veterans UK's 100km walk and has run a whole host of half marathons.

Kelly said: "Blind Veterans UK has been fantastic, without the support and all of the information they've given me, I don't know how I would have coped. Initially after losing my sight, I felt very isolated but Blind Veterans UK changed that.

"I didn't want losing my sight to stop me from challenging myself so I started running with my local running club. I've always believed that you should do things that challenge you and I didn't want that to change."

Kelly also has gone back to college and has already achieved a GCSE in Sociology and is currently studying both Maths and English.

Kelly said: "I think my experiences, and those of many other blind veterans, are just some of the proof that shows that the public is right to not think of blindness as an obstacle to living a full and active life."

Blind Veterans UK's Chief Executive, Major General (Rtd) Nick Caplin CB, said: "These results show a major positive shift in the public's perception of blindness over the last 100 years - thanks in part to the life-changing work of organisations and sight loss charities like Blind Veterans UK.

"When Blind Veterans UK was established in 1915, our founder Sir Arthur Pearson saw blinded soldiers returning from the battlefields of World War I to a public that held a widespread negative view that blindness meant a person's life was as good as over

These findings are extremely encouraging, showing that since then, perceptions have improved significantly."

For 100 years, Blind Veterans UK has been providing vital free training, rehabilitation, equipment and emotional support to vision impaired veterans to help them go on to lead full, independent lives and in many cases, excel in areas such as work, education and sport - just like Kelly.

However, Blind Veterans UK's Attitudes to Blindness survey also identified areas where there is still room for improvement in the public's views - only half (50%) of those surveyed disagree that a blind person would be able to do the same job as well as a sighted person, and just under half (49%) believe that they could no longer participate in sport if they were to lose their sight.

As the charity celebrates 100 years of outstanding achievements by the ex-Service men and women it supports in 2015, Blind Veterans UK is also looking forward to continuing and developing its work during its second century of service.

Nick Caplin said: "We're extremely pleased that the public's perception of blindness has improved, but we also know that that there is still more to be done. Blind Veterans UK currently supports over 4,000 blind and vision impaired ex-Service men and women, and as we enter our next century of service we want to ensure that every blind veteran in the UK has the support they need to realise their ambitions and discover a life beyond sight loss.  

Throughout 2015, Blind Veterans UK is celebrating its 100th birthday with over 100 national and local events throughout the year - for more information, visit www.blindveterans.org.uk.

YouGov carried out online interviews in December 2014 with 2,064 adults (18+) across the UK, 98% of who were fully sighted.