Rod Matthews spent six years in the Army in the 1960s, stationed in many places across England and Scotland. He’s never lost his adventurous nature and, since joining Blind Veterans UK, he set out with a determination to prove to himself that he didn’t have to.
When he abseiled from the Grand Hotel, he described the moment of ‘stepping out nervously but still getting a feeling of exhilaration’. Rod has also enjoyed the fishing weeks at both the Brighton and Llandudno centres. His competitive nature comes out when fishing through wanting to catch the biggest fish out there, whether that’s in a lake, off a pier, or sea-fishing from a boat.
There have been two things that Rod has been keen to tick off his adventure bucket list: sailing and zip wiring. In 2018, aged 76, Rod took on both challenges.
Before he could tackle the first adventure, Rod sought some help from his community support worker, Kirsty. Living in Emsworth, Rod and Kirsty worked on independent train travel skills, from booking assistance through to Rod making his first solo journey as a person with a visual impairment all the way to Falmouth.
Rod’s other desire was to film his experiences; to show others that both daily tasks and adventurous trips can be done. Kirsty helped him to secure a grant that allowed Rod to purchase a GoPro, sourcing the best one for someone with sight loss to activate and use.
With the Sailability crew, Rod enjoyed his first sailing adventure. He learnt to tie knots, work the boom, and steer the vessel, taking photos and videos of the journey with the GoPro. He enjoyed this so much that he has sailed along the south coast of Britain again this summer!
"I hate people saying you can't do this or that. I have some peripheral vision in both eyes, so can just about see, and I like to prove that I can do things. My own challenge in losing my sight was to prove that I can, and now I'm using new technologies, magnifiers, using my long cane, and booking myself onto trains!blind veteran Rod Matthews
Rod followed up sailing the open sea with a zip wire challenge whilst on a family holiday in Wales. This is the country’s longest zip wire, and Rod went like a rocket! The video was filmed by his son so that he could capture Rod’s daring feat, and yet no-one expected Rod to fly past like a jet!
This year, Rod also added horse riding to his list of accomplishments.
Rod encourages other people with visual impairments to challenge themselves, which doesn’t mean having to tackle some of the heart-racing stunts that Rod has been involved in. “I can either sit on the sofa and vegetate,” he said, “or I can go out and try it.”