An Aberdeenshire veteran with sight loss has commended the “life-changing” specialist support he receives from charity Sight Scotland Veterans which he says has restored his independence in lockdown.
Peter Walker, 89, of Huntly was diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration eight years ago. His vision’s steady deterioration eventually made reading extremely difficult, stealing away one of his favourite pastimes of studying old texts.
But thanks to expert rehabilitation support and a specialist video magnifier – a Vario Digital FHD – provided free of charge from Sight Scotland Veterans, a delighted Peter can read independently again.
And as Sight Scotland Veterans strives to support even more veterans with sight loss in Scotland, with its first ever TV advert campaign live this month, Peter is encouraging fellow veterans with sight loss in Aberdeenshire and the Highlands to get in touch with the charity for support.
RAF veteran Peter, who served for 22 years, said: “The video magnifier has changed my life. The old books I study have tiny printing, but I just slide them underneath this beautiful machine and I can get back to reading my favourite books again.
“Reading had started to become difficult four or five years ago. There was a big black spot in my right eye which turned to a white spot, but now it’s just misty and it’s impossible to read with it. I can’t normally read with my left eye but with this machine and some magnifying glasses Sight Scotland Veterans got me I can manage. It’s absolutely amazing.”
Sight Scotland Veterans, which prior to lockdown provided its one-to-one practical and emotional support to veterans with sight loss across Scotland face to face, has adapted to continue supporting veterans remotely via telephone and email throughout the pandemic, posting out specialist equipment to home addresses.
Peter started receiving support from Sight Scotland Veterans just before the first lockdown began in March 2020. Sight Scotland Veterans rehabilitation officer Cheryll Hilton carried out equipment assessments and training with Peter over the phone.
The charity has also provided him with a tablet with Synapptic software designed for people with sight loss, as well as specialist lighting to help him regain independence with daily tasks such as shopping. His Sight Scotland Veterans Outreach Worker, Ingrid Penny, has helped him strike up new social connections remotely, too.
Peter said: “When it comes to reading and tasks like that the charity has made my life completely independent again. Ingrid gave me a portable ‘TravelBright’ light, and with a portable magnifier and the help of this little light I can now see the labels on tins and things at the supermarket.
“Ingrid also put me in touch with another veteran with sight loss in the area who is ex-RAF too, so we have a natter on the phone which has been great during lockdown. I’ve got a Synapptic tablet now as well and I have managed to do an email or two with it. Next I would like to learn how to get onto Skype so I can talk to family in Australia.”
Peter says he has experienced a “new lease of life” since he started receiving support from the charity, which continues to welcome enquiries for its support throughout lockdown.
Peter said: “I would recommend any veteran with sight loss get in touch with the charity for various types of support they can offer. The support and equipment has given me a new lease of life and independence. I now don’t have to rely on other people to tell me what something says. It’s amazing. Cheryll and Ingrid both ring me up regularly to see how I’m doing and keep in touch. They have been so good to me and I’m so thankful.”
Clair Bryan, Interim Director of Services, Sight Scotland Veterans, said: “I’m delighted to hear from Peter about the huge difference Sight Scotland Veterans’ support has made to his life. Despite the current restrictions there is still a lot the charity is able offer veterans with sight loss remotely – whether it’s specialist equipment, expert practical advice to adapt to life with sight loss or a friendly, listening ear through these challenging times.
“We know there are thousands more veterans with sight loss in Scotland , including those who served National Service, who are eligible for our support. The majority of the veterans we support today have sight loss as a result of age-related conditions such as macular degeneration or as a result of an accident or illness. Following much research and consultation, the charity changed its name from Scottish War Blinded to Sight Scotland Veterans in October last year, to support our goal of reaching out to even more veterans with sight loss and this month we have launched our first ever television campaign.
“If you are a veteran with sight loss, or you know a veteran you think we could help, we would love to hear from you. Our dedicated staff continue to provide support to individuals in any way they can as restrictions continue, and we look forward to the day we can recommence our support face-to-face along with our social activities and events across Scotland.”