Bill Skinner, national service veteran, describes his experience of sight loss.
I first noticed something wrong with my sight during a round of golf – suddenly everything started to look distorted. It was unnerving, and I called my optician as soon as I got home. It was a real shock to find out a couple of weeks later that I had a condition called age-related macular degeneration, and that I was going to lose my sight.
That was about seven or eight years ago and now, aged 81, I’ve got very little sight remaining. But I don’t let it get me down. At first, I thought losing my sight meant I would have to give up a lot of things I enjoy and doing things for myself – but I know now that that is not the case. That’s all been thanks to the support of my wife, children and grandchildren, my local blind association and national charity Blind Veterans UK.
It was a real shock to find out [...] that I had a condition called age-related macular degeneration, and that I was going to lose my sight.
I only found out I was eligible for support from Blind Veterans UK by chance at my local hospital. I was chatting to the ECLO (eye clinic liaison officer) and she asked me if I’d ever served in the military. Of course I said I had – I’d done national service in the 50s – so she gave me the contact details for the charity, and told me to get in touch to find out how they could help me.
Thanks to Blind Veterans UK, I’ve been given lots of tools to help me be independent at home and carry on doing things I enjoy, like reading. I’ve learnt how to use a computer with software which enlarges the text, or reads it out to me. I’ve got lots of other equipment which helps me stay independent at home, things such as a CCTV reader, a magnifier which lets me put letters and newspapers underneath so that I can read things. I’ve got a room at home set up with all my equipment, which is just brilliant.
There are tens of thousands of veterans around the UK who are now battling sight loss, many of whom will have lost their sight years after leaving service just like me, but they don’t realise that they could be eligible for support. That’s why I always ask any blind or vision-impaired people I meet if they served in the military and, if they have, I tell them to get in touch with Blind Veterans UK – the charity could make a real difference to them too.