A Hawick World War Two veteran with sight loss is enjoying books again with an audio scanner which reads print out loud, thanks to the support of charity Sight Scotland Veterans. 

Jean Strathie, 99, of Hawick, struggles to read due to the sight condition age-related macular degeneration, which affects central vision. Her vision has gradually deteriorated since her sight loss diagnosis in the early 2000s. 

 But with expert rehabilitation support from Sight Scotland Veterans, Jean has been getting to grips with a new Hark audio scanner to aid her independence with accessing print. 

The portable OCR Hark device works using OCR (optical character recognition) technology, scanning print within seconds and reading it out loud. 

Jean, who served with the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) during World War Two, said: “With my sight loss I can’t read a thing – I’m dependent on the machines I’ve got. This new machine is great. It’s so quick. You just need to put your book on it, it flashes to scan it and it immediately starts to read. It’s wonderful.  

“I’ve started to read books with it now. I used to read a lot, and this has given me the chance to enjoy it again.” 

Jean has been supported to adapt to life with sight loss by Sight Scotland Veterans’ outreach and rehabilitation teams for several years. She praises their intuition and expertise, and says they often have ideas for things to help her maintain independence with her sight loss that she would never have thought of without them.  

When pandemic restrictions have allowed, Jean has received home visits from Sight Scotland Veterans Rehabilitation Officer, Sharon McAllister, who has worked with her to identify the most suitable options for her reading needs.  

Jean said: “I was told about my sight loss at an optician’s appointment. He looked at my eyes and said, ‘I can’t do anything for you.’ 

“I hadn’t heard of macular degeneration before, I had to ask what it was. I was shattered at the time. 

“Sight Scotland Veterans have been an awful lot of help, for example they’ve introduce me to equipment to help make tea independently. Anything I mentioned, my outreach worker would be away finding a way to help. 

“What a difference these things have made. I’ve got information from Sight Scotland Veterans I might not have got otherwise. With this machine, reading things is much easier now. It’s a pleasure.” 

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

The charity has an outreach worker dedicated to supporting veterans with sight loss in the Scottish Borders, and the Sight Scotland Veterans rehabilitation team offer one-to-one training and support throughout Scotland. 

Jean said: “The team are so kind. You don’t need to be scared to ask them something. It’s very reassuring. They see things that could help before you do sometimes as they have the expertise. 

“I think it must bring a lot of relief to the veterans with sight loss the charity supports; that they know that they can get in touch with somebody who will help them.” 

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