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Skegness blind ex-Army veteran praises new research from national sight loss charity that indicates encouraging changes to public’s perceptions of blindness

Date
1 January 2015 14:44

Skegness veteran has praised new research from Blind Veterans UK, the charity for blind and vision impaired ex-Service men and women

64-year-old Carol Davies, from Skegness, has praised new research from Blind Veterans UK, the charity for blind and vision impaired ex-Service men and women, after a survey, conducted by YouGov to mark the charity's centenary year, found that 65% of the general public recognise that going blind does not mean "a person's life is as good as over".

Blind Veterans UK's Attitudes to Blindness survey also found that 60% of the general public do not see blindness as a barrier to being able to lead a happy and active life. It further found 81% of the general public thought that sight loss would not be an obstacle for blind or vision impaired people to start a new job or career.

Carol, who is severely vision impaired, joined the Women's Royal Army Corp in 1968 at the age of 17. After she had done her training, she then went on to work for the Royal Signals as a telephonist in Northern Ireland until she was discharged in 1969. Carol was diagnosed during the 1980s with sarcoidosis and uveitis after her optician referred her to a specialist.

Despite this Carol set a new record in her category at the British Blind Sport Archery National Outdoor Championships at Lilleshall in 2014. This demonstrates that sight loss is not an obstacle to success.

Carol says: "I am pleased by the research findings because of my own achievements. I decided to take a positive approach to my blindness and not feel sorry for myself. Having a disability doesn't mean you can't do, or compete in sports.

'I wasn't sporty before I became blind. I had no interest in sports and didn't realise I would be any good at it. I like archery because it's something you can do on your own. You are in control of the bow. I was introduced to the sport when I was on my induction week at one of Blind Veterans UK's rehabilitation centres. The coach commented that I should take it up."

Carol found out she was entitled to receive free support from Blind Veterans UK, after a couple her and her husband met at a local blind club recommended she get in touch as she had served in the army.

Carol said: "Blind Veterans UK is like a safety net. When I meet others in the local blind community who aren't entitled to free help, it makes me realise just how lucky I am to be supported by the charity. My welfare officer is brilliant and I've been able to get involved with a group called GOAL at Blind Veterans UK, which stands for 'Get Out And Live'. It's very sociable and I have got to meet lots of other people in the same position as myself."

She continues: "I've realised life is too short to waste. You have to take what you have and make the most of it. I also think it's also important to try things, as you just don't know what you might be capable of. My husband is totally blind and although it can be very difficult at times, as I am also his carer, he is still very independent!"

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.

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."

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 continues: "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.