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Photo of Andy

Andy is a man on a mission. He wants to improve the lives of people with visual impairment. He spends a lot of his time in his volunteer role at SRSB in the Computer Training Room and he also trains both clients and sighted people too. He reckons that way, everyone wins.

His positive attitude tends to be infectious. “People who come in for training don’t go away full of doom and gloom, they go away and want to get on with it,” he said.

Andy was just six years old when he was diagnosed with macular degeneration. His sight has got worse over time. “I have massive blindspots in the middle of my eyes, they don’t focus and everything is milky and hazy. I can see stark contrast but that is all.”

But despite that Andy considers himself lucky because at 48 he has had 42 years to get used to it.

“I do count myself as very lucky. I’m very aware that there are some people who have been in a road accident, knocked out and woken up blind. But you deal with the hand you are dealt. In the long run it best to pick yourself up and move forward.”

Andy has led a very successful life developing a big garden centre business literally from the ground up and working as a singer on the entertainment circuit for many years. That experience led to him setting up an audio acoustics business too. But he speaks about depression from the experience of having a very difficult period in his own life a few years ago.

“I had counselling, I know what it’s like but I don’t know why people continue to live like that. Things aren’t that bad, it’s just that your eyes don’t work. I use technology. I learned to use a computer in 2004 and I have not looked back since. If I am on an internet site I can ‘see’ everything because the computer or the phone reads it out.”

Andy wants to share that experience with other people with sight problems, so he helps to teach clients to use technology. He’s also involved in the induction course training sighted volunteers at SRSB and has just written a new training course for our My Guide service, which he will help to deliver.

“The My Guide Service is all about getting volunteers to help visually impaired people to achieve a goal. They might for example want to learn how to cook a meal. So there will be sessions in their homes on using the microwave and hob, buying ingredients by going to a local shop. It’s all about promoting independence.”

He also goes out on the Mobile Information Unit helping the team on that and promotes the work of SRSB by talking to young people taking part in the  National Citizenship Scheme which also encourages them  to get involved in fundraising.

“Sheffield is fortunate to have SRSB. Many other places do not have anything like it but it is absolutely essential for what visually impaired people need. The centre itself, the social side, all the help people can access, the training given to families, it’s all vital. We are very, very lucky to have it.”

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Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind links