A Larbert veteran and bowling champion with sight loss has hailed the power of camaraderie in helping to adapt to life with a visual impairment.  

Diagnosed with macular degeneration over 20 years ago, Ian Graham, 63, says he was determined to move forward in life after the initial shock of his sight loss. 

His vision quickly deteriorated in both eyes, leading to retirement from his role in finance in his forties.  

Ian found a new lease of life through bowling. A keen footballer and athlete at the time of his sight loss diagnosis, Ian says he somewhat unexpectedly got into bowls through connections at Forth Valley Sensory Centre. 

Now a British Indoor Blind Bowling B2 champion and Secretary of the Scottish Association of Blind Bowlers, Ian’s “greatest pleasure” is recruiting new participants and witnessing how they flourish on the bowling green. 

The veteran, who served with the army from 1976 to 1993, says support from the charity Sight Scotland Veterans has also been ‘life-changing’ as he adapted to life with sight loss.  

Ian said: “The rehabilitation team and the outreach team at Sight Scotland Veterans have been brilliant. I now have a monocular for long distance viewing and a hand held magnifier and electronic magnifier for close work such as reading.

“There is a lot of support out there for disabled people but not everybody knows how to get it. The Sight Scotland Veterans outreach team are able to point us in the right direction. They are totally invaluable, and I don’t want to think about how things would be if they weren’t there. Whatever help we need as a family, the charity is there for us.” 

As well as receiving support from Sight Scotland Veterans’ outreach and rehabilitation teams, Ian has also been a regular attendee of the Linburn Centre – the charity’s West Lothian activity hub for veterans with sight loss – since 2013. 

Ian said: “The centre facilities and staff are top class. I mainly use the IT suite and the fitness suite there. The IT instructor will always sort me out with advice on how to make things with IT easier – I can’t praise him enough. The equipment is accessible too.  

“The thing that runs through is the camaraderie. People coming out of the forces find that outside of that there is no camaraderie like it, so it’s good to have organisations like this who know where we are coming from too and who understand sight loss. The Linburn Centre is doing people a lot of good.” 

With the number of people in Scotland with sight loss increasing, Ian is encouraging veterans with sight loss and their families to reach out to Sight Scotland Veterans for support. 

Ian said: “Try it because it will change your life. There are the three As when it comes to coming to terms with sight loss: acknowledge, accept and ambition. When you’re stuck on your own, working through those three As would take a heck of a long while. But having the support of the charity, it alleviates all that. It’s an amazing thing.” 

Sight Scotland Veterans offers support to all veterans with sight loss based in Scotland – including those who served National Service. For more information about Sight Scotland Veterans or to get in touch with the charity for support, call 0800 035 6409, email hello@sightscotlandveterans.org.uk or visit sightscotlandveterans.org.uk