Vision impaired Royal Navy Commander supports new findings in public’s perception of blindness

1 May 2015 13:00

A vision impaired Royal Navy Commander and prize-winning public speaker has praised new findings released today, which indicate that 81% of the UK population disagree that blindness would stop a person starting a new career.

Iain Upton, who set up his own public speaking business this year with the help of Blind Veterans UK, has said that he is "really pleased" with the findings.

51-year-old Iain spent over 31 years in the Royal Navy before being diagnosed in 2011 with nasopharyngeal cancer, a rare form of the disease affecting the uppermost part of the throat. After receiving both chemotherapy and radiotherapy, Iain was left with severe damage to his optic nerve, robbing him of his eyesight, as well as damage to the nerves in his mouth, leaving him with speech and swallow problems.

Iain says: "I absolutely loved my time in the Navy and that was where I developed a love of public speaking.  It was always my plan to set up my own business once I'd left Service, but my diagnosis meant it had to go on hold.

"As I recovered from my treatment, I was in a very bad way. As well as having to learn to cope with my other disabilities, I felt like losing my sight had removed so much of my independence and it stopped me from doing many of the things I used to love - that was really hard."

Iain has been receiving vital support from Blind Veterans UK since 2012, helping him to overcome the challenges of sight loss and rebuild his confidence to set up his own business. The charity has also provided IT training to help Iain develop and expand his own website (

Iain says: "Blind Veterans UK has helped me so much, especially in encouraging me to overcome my fears. I've recently been to the Brighton centre and rode on the back of a tandem bike. It was utterly terrifying, but so very good to remind me that I can still do things.

"Blind Veterans UK gave me a great opportunity to speak in public, one of my first engagements since becoming ill, at one of its social events last year - being given that chance was so encouraging for me."

As well as this, Iain has also received emotional support from the charity to help him come to terms with his disabilities.

Iain says: "I'd always been very positive, but it has been very hard over the past three years. It has been so good to be able to talk about what has happened and there's no doubt about how much it has helped."

For 100 years, Blind Veterans UK has been providing vital emotional and practical support to vision impaired ex-Service men and women to help them discover a life beyond sight loss. This year, Blind Veterans UK is celebrating its 100th birthday with over 100 national and local events - for more information, visit