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Army veteran from Ardersier praises work of sight loss charity

By Neil MacPhail

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A former soldier from Ardersier has praised the work of a sight loss charity that has been revamped.

Royal Blind, one of Scotland’s oldest charities, was renamed Sight Scotland by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon last week as new research shows a growing number of people living with sight loss.

Its sister charity, Scottish War Blinded, was renamed as Sight Scotland Veterans (SSV).

Someone in Scotland starts to lose their sight every hour and there are currently nearly 9000 people in the Highlands living with sight loss.

Both charities plan to reach out in an effort to support significantly more people with sight loss across Scotland.

John Baptie (72), who is registered blind and receives support from SSV said: “If it wasn’t for charities like Sight Scotland and Sight Scotland Veterans, I feel there would be little other support for people with sight loss.

“The way SSV has helped veterans with sight loss to meet and make connections keeps people going.

“Previous to Covid restrictions I attended my local lunch clubs run by the charity, which have been a big help.

“Last year I took part in activities like zip wiring and rock climbing.

“I’ve been to their annual events around the country, and I’ve had help with a lot of specialist equipment.

“Sight loss can stop you from getting out, so it’s been a great boost to me.

“If I hadn’t had the charity’s support I never would have attempted to jump on a train to travel.

“It’s given me confidence and independence.”

He added: “When I first started losing my sight I was in shell shock.

“Through SSV I’ve been able to speak to others going through the same experiences and the charity has been with me through all stages as my sight loss has become worse.

“Sight loss certainly made the lockdown experience more difficult because I’m completely dependent on public transport and now I’d only use it in emergencies.

“The charity’s lunch clubs and activities have been postponed, but the outreach team have kept in touch with me throughout, which has been helpful. But because I’m not meeting with other veterans with sight loss due to these restrictions it does cause problems for my morale.

“There definitely needs to be more public awareness about how sight loss makes social distancing more difficult.

“There’s not much attention paid to that. The majority of sighted people don’t recognise the signs that someone is having difficulty with their sight, or even notice someone’s white cane.”

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