A Galashiels veteran with sight loss is enjoying local walks independently again thanks to Sight Scotland Veterans' specialist support.

David Murray, 91, was diagnosed with glaucoma over 20 years ago and is now severely sight impaired, “unable to tell if it’s light or dark”.

The army veteran and keen walker says he used to do laps of the same spot outside his home, unable to venture any further safely, until he started receiving long cane training from Sight Scotland Veterans.

Now well versed in the skills and know-how for navigating with a long cane – a mobility tool used to detect objects and provide information to the user about the environment just ahead of them – David is back to walking around Galashiels independently to his heart’s content.

David, who has lived in Galashiels nearly all his life, said: “I love walking, always have done. Before I had the long cane, when I was on my own all I could do was walk back and forward at home with my short cane and walking stick. I couldn’t go out to the roads. People used to ask me how many laps I’d do in a day.

“Learning to use the long cane has been great. It’s been a blessing to me. I’m very fortunate that my training sessions had started a couple of months before the lockdown started. It was enough to help me keep getting out for walks.”

Sight Scotland Veterans Rehabilitation Officer, Sharon McAllister, began long cane sessions with David just before the first lockdown in 2020. With face-to-face visits now resuming, she has been able to continue her work with him.

The charity has also worked in conjunction with Guide Dogs Scotland’s My Sighted Guide service, which has supported David with volunteer walkers who have been able to accompany him for local walks.

David says it’d be “impossible” to carry on getting out independently without the training and support he’s received.

David said: “Using a long cane gives me a lot of confidence. I can go around the town and out for a coffee and a bacon roll.

“The training has made things much easier for me to get around and I feel much safer around roads. I’ve loved every moment of my sessions with Sharon. When you’re out with the cane, people pay more attention to you too and give you more space. The help from my My Sighted Guide walkers from Guide Dogs Scotland, Sue and Lynne, has also been fantastic.

“I’m out every day. I’ll do it for as long as I can. I want to be independent. Without having had this training I wouldn’t be able to do what I do.”

In addition to expert rehabilitation support, David also receives support from Sight Scotland Veterans’ outreach worker based in the region.

And the veteran is now encouraging other veterans with sight loss in the Scottish Borders to reach out to Sight Scotland Veterans for support.

David said: “Sight Scotland Veterans has made a big difference to me. They’ve been marvellous. It’s all given me a lot of independence. That’s a great thing. You’ve got to keep your brain working.”

Sight Scotland Veterans Rehabilitation Officer, Sharon McAllister, said: “At Sight Scotland Veterans, we work closely with veterans with sight loss to find out what matters most to them. We focus on doing all we can to help them to regain and maintain independence, and to live well with sight loss.

“It was hugely important to David that he was able to carry on enjoying walks around the area that he loves and knows so well. We’re delighted to have been able to provide this mobility and orientation training to help him reclaim his independence to walk whenever he pleases in his home town.”

Find out about how Sight Scotland Veterans can help or to get in touch with us today.

Veteran David Murray stands with his long cane at a road crossing