A 100-year-old World War Two veteran with sight loss has been regaining independence with reading with an audio scanner which reads print out loud, thanks to a charity’s support.
Cath Drummond, of Freuchie, Fife has the eye condition macular degeneration and is registered as sight impaired. Her deteriorating vision means she now cannot read books, impacting her much-loved hobby, and stopping her being able to check her mail.
But with expert support from sight loss charity Sight Scotland Veterans, Cath is delighted to now be enjoying printed text once again with an OCR Hark audio reader.
The portable gadget uses OCR (optical character recognition) technology, scanning print within seconds and reading it out loud.
And the Royal Air Force veteran, who turned 100 years old on 7 April, has even been able to enjoy printed text birthday cards with the device – including her special birthday card from the Queen.
Cath, who joined up with the RAF aged 19 in 1941 and served until 1944 as a wireless operator, said: “It was wonderful being able to read the printed wording inside the card from the Queen.
“It was the one card I was looking forward to receiving and it was wonderful to put it on the Hark audio reader and hear what was written inside. I really felt honoured to receive this prestigious card and hear what the Queen had written.”
Cath has been supported by Sight Scotland Veterans since 2019. The charity’s expert rehabilitation team have introduced her to various pieces of specialist equipment to help her adapt to life with sight loss and regain her independence with daily tasks.
Cath said: “My sight is very poor now. Looking at the television is just a blur. It’s not a nice thing. I used to love reading but I can’t do that now, and when the postman delivers the mail, I can’t see who it’s addressed to.
“A lot is taken for granted in this life. It’s amazing how you can come down to earth when you lose your sight.
“But I have this machine now, it’s lovely. I lay the paper on top of the machine, then it takes a photograph and tells me every detail that’s on the letter.
“It’s the best thing since sliced bread. Being able to use this machine helps me keep up to date with what’s going on. And I don’t need any help to use it, I can just sit at the table and do it myself. That makes all the difference as you’re not depending on anyone else.
“I’m going to start reading a novel with it too. You’re never too old to learn!”
In addition to rehabilitation and outreach support from the charity, the grandmother-of-two and great-grandmother-of-three also attends the Linburn Centre – Sight Scotland Veterans’ West Lothian-based activity hub for veterans with sight loss.
Cath said: “I now have things like tinted glasses and I’ve got a talking clock at my bedside. To have these pieces of equipment and the support of the charity, it gives you back your independence.
“Fiona McCormick, the Sight Scotland Veterans Rehabilitation Officer who helped me with my Hark reader, is lovely. Nothing is a bother. All the staff are there to help you.
“I’ve also been attending the Linburn Centre and met other veterans with sight loss. It’s been marvellous. I think they’ve helped me in so many ways. You get to meet people in the same position as yourself and I’ve made friends. It’s great to have something to look forward to when I visit.”
And Cath is now encouraging other veterans with sight loss to reach out to Sight Scotland Veterans for support.
Cath said: “There are so many things out there that you may not know about which can help you live well with your sight loss. There’s company through the charity too, which is great because there are a lot of lonely souls out there. Sight Scotland Veterans will make a great difference to your life.”