WWII veteran with sight loss regains love of reading with new gadget provided by Scottish War Blinded

Posted: 14/03/2019 | Scottish War Blinded

A World War Two veteran with sight loss has regained his love of reading after being given specialist equipment by Scottish War Blinded.

Thomas, 96, has macular degeneration and in the last four years his sight has now deteriorated to the point that he can no longer read.

His sight loss meant that reading post and personal documents was a real struggle and it was eating away at his independence.

But now with the help of an EasyRead 2 – a specialist piece of sight loss equipment given to Thomas by Scottish War Blinded – the RAF veteran is overcoming these challenges.

Thomas sits with his EasyRead 2 device on a table to the right

The clever gadget is able to process and read out loud any document Thomas places underneath its scanner within seconds.

And together with a USB player he has also received from the charity, which can play audio books, the avid reader is delighted to be regaining independence at home and enjoying one of his favourite pastimes again.

Thomas said: “The EasyRead 2 has been marvellous. I can now read letters. It amazes me how a machine can read something and say it out loud to you. It can be things I’ve received through the post and letters from the bank.

“The USB player amazes me too – it’s so convenient. I can take it out with me to sit in the garden and listen to my books. It’s fantastic.”

Thomas was assessed by Scottish War Blinded Rehabilitation Worker Sharon McAllister, who worked closely with him to determine which kinds of specialist equipment would suit best.

He has also seen a huge difference in life at home thanks to a number of other items, all provided free-of-charge by Scottish War Blinded, including a talking clock, a one-cup hot water dispenser and stickers to help around the kitchen.

“Sharon showed me quite a few pieces of equipment – I thought the EasyRead 2 was the best idea for me,” Thomas explained.

“When I was diagnosed with macular degeneration, the specialist told me there were three things I’d no longer be able to do: drive, read or watch television.

“I’d thought, if I could have one out of those three I would pick reading. But I’d always thought of that in the context of reading a book or a magazine. At first, if I got a large print book I could read it, but that was only for a few months. I can’t read them now.

“What started getting more difficult was that I couldn’t do any shopping because I couldn’t read what was on the packets, and I couldn’t read my post.

Another thing which is a great help is the talking clock – especially when it’s dark mornings.”

In addition to Scottish War Blinded’s rehabilitation team, Thomas is supported by Scottish War Blinded Outreach Worker for Dumfries and Galloway, Mick Seed.

He also attends Scottish War Blinded’s monthly lunch group at the Cairndale Hotel in Dumfries with his daughter, Julia, and has been getting to know other veterans with sight loss.  

And he’s also had the opportunity to take breaks away with his two daughters with stays at Scottish War Blinded’s holiday cottage, based at its Linburn Centre in West Lothian, during which he has full use of the facilities and activities on offer there for veterans with vision impairment – from archery and shooting to cookery.      

“It far exceeded my expectations. I really enjoy going to Linburn,” added Thomas.

“When they were saying I’d be able to do archery and shooting there, I thought, ‘This is crazy!’ But I realised when we came to do it that it’s all very controlled. The staff there can never do enough for you.”

Thomas became a Scottish War Blinded member two years ago after discovering he was eligible for support as a veteran with sight loss.

The father-of-two and grandfather-of-two, originally from Sunderland, had joined the Royal Air Force in 1940 just after his 18th birthday, and served for five years.

He served as a navigator and has very fond memories of his flight training days in Canada before returning to be based across Scotland during the war.

He was even based for a period at Heathhall Airfield, Dumfries, and was amazed to discover the old bombing target at Sandyhills Bay that he used to use for practice still stands today.  

“I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones,” Thomas said.

Rebecca Barr, Director of Scottish War Blinded, commented: “We’re very keen welcome more veterans with sight loss in Dumfries and Galloway, like Thomas, into our community and help them to regain their independence through the various branches of support we offer: from specialist equipment and rehabilitation, which we can provide free-of-charge, to lunch groups and social events with fellow veterans.

“We offer the camaraderie many of our veterans remember fondly from their time in the forces with the knowledge and skills to help each individual cope with the impact of their sight loss.     

“Whether you’re a veteran yourself with sight loss, or if you have a friend or member of your family who you think could be eligible for support from us, please give us call. We would love to hear from you.”

Scottish War Blinded gives free support to ex-servicemen and women of all ages, no matter if they lost their sight during or after service. The charity’s services include rehabilitation and training to adapt to sight loss, grants for equipment to assist with independent living, funded respite care and home modifications.

 

If you or someone you know could benefit from Scottish War Blinded’s activities and support, call us free today on 0800 035 6409 or contact us online at www.scottishwarblinded.org