Veteran with sight loss regaining confidence with vision impairment-friendly smartphone from charity

Press Release | 10/10/2019

A Royal Navy veteran with sight loss is regaining his confidence after receiving a vision impairment-friendly smartphone from charity Scottish War Blinded.

 Joe Gallie, 49, of Aberdeen, has very poor vision as a result of his diabetes. Also living with kidney failure, the veteran has dialysis three days a week.

 His sight condition has made the lengthy dialysis sessions even more challenging, as he is unable to read or navigate a standard smartphone to keep his mind busy while receiving treatment.

 But a smartphone fitted with Synnaptic software provided to Joe free of charge by Scottish War Blinded has proved a “lifeline” for the dad-of-two. 

The in-built magnification and speech of the software allows him to browse the internet for audio books and entertainment independently while in hospital, as well as keep in contact with his family again.

 Joe, who is married to wife Nikki, 46, said: “The trouble with a traditional phone is the screen is so sensitive and if you get onto the wrong bit you have to start all over again. Things with this phone are so easy.

 “It’s my lifeline when I’m on dialysis. I download books onto it and listen to it during dialysis. Otherwise, I would be sitting for four hours just trying to remain sane. I can now get that enjoyment of a book again.

 “I had a phone before this but it was quite limited. I can now go online on my phone and find out what I want to know, which I couldn’t do before.

 “It’s a bit of independence again. Having it in my pocket and knowing I can make a call with it – it’s such a piece of confidence it’s ridiculous.

 “I can also let my wife know if I’ve been held up at dialysis by just giving her a quick call.” 

Before his sight loss, Joe was a keen technology user, and regularly used his laptop for work and to stay in touch with friends and colleagues.

 His vision, of which he has just half remaining in his left eye and just light perception in his right, means he can no longer use standard keyboards.

The former Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm helicopter mechanic joined Scottish War Blinded last year, and has been receiving regular one-on-one visits and support from outreach worker Ingrid Penny.

 The charity’s expert rehabilitation team have also carried out assessments with Joe and identified a suitable vision impairment-friendly keyboard for Joe, which the charity have also provided free of charge, enabling him to use his home PC once again.

Joe said: “The most challenging aspect of my sight loss was not being able to read anything – I used to read a lot. And not being able to work my computer. Everything I did at one point was on a computer. It got to the point where I couldn’t see the keys anymore.

“I met the Scottish War Blinded rehabilitation team at the charity’s Northern Gathering event in Inverness and they assessed me for a suitable keyboard. This one has white keys.

“I’ll be able to see what I’m doing to type. It’ll help me to play a couple of games I enjoy as well – they are driving simulator games. I’ve even managed to drag my wife into liking it as well.

 “I’d always enjoyed driving before my sight loss, so being able to play the games means it’s helping me to regain something of what I’d enjoyed before.

 “Ingrid, my outreach worker, has also given me a portable light, that’s fantastic. I can put it in front of the keyboard and light up the keys.

 “They’ve also given me TV glasses that help to focus my left eye when I’m watching. Without them I can’t read anything on the screen or see detail. My sight is worse if I’m outside and it’s bright, so I have anti-glare glasses too, and a one-cup water dispenser and level indicator for making drinks safely as well.”

Now in his third year of dialysis treatment, Joe is pleased to be noticing improvements in his wellbeing, and has been putting it into action by attending Scottish War Blinded’s Northern Gathering event in Inverness earlier this year.

 “We’re able to do things now that we weren’t before,” said Joe.

 “It’s great having the ability to get out now. At one point I didn’t have the ability just to move from the bedroom to the living room. I was housebound for a while.

 “I’ve definitely come a long way. “Ingrid’s been fantastic. she’d bend over backwards to help us.

 “I hadn’t expected anything like the level of support the charity gives us.”

Scottish War Blinded gives free support to former servicemen and women of all ages, no matter if they lost their sight during or after service.

 Visit www.scottishwarblinded.org or call 0800 035 6409 to refer a veteran to the charity.