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Photograph of Andy at Rotherham Sight and Sound

The reasons for people losing their sight are varied. Some conditions are hereditary, some age related, some can be caused by accidents, and others in connection to illness.

For one of our new clients in Rotherham, life changed drastically a few years ago as a result of illness.

Andy had spent 25 years as a workaholic joiner who loved his work and also led an active life outside work with his interest in kayaking. Then one day while out 

shopping, he began to feel unwell, and out of the blue he had a cardiac arrest. He was revived and thankfully his life was saved, however, he was left with some incredible challenges to face. As a young man who had been leading a busy life, these were not easy challenges. The right side of his body was affected, his memory was affected, he couldn’t speak and he had lost his sight.

Understandably, Andy fell into depression. He couldn’t work, lost his confidence, had to face many changes, and says that he ended up feeling like a prisoner in his own home, not knowing where to turn.

He received some initial support from various organisations about benefits, he had some mobility training that enabled him to regain some control over his home environment and began to learn a route to the shops.

During the period in his life which Andy describes as feeling adrift, he was invited by the Rotherham Eye Clinic Liaison Officer to a consultation at Rotherham Council, where he was alongside 10 other visually impaired people desperate to get a service up and running in the town. They were all asked to tell their stories and it was a very emotional experience. Andy had visited SRSB and passed on his experience of the service in Sheffield.

Andy says that the real turning point in his life was when he was introduced to the beginnings of Rotherham Sight and Sound (SRSB’s new sensory service in Rotherham).

SRSB had been approached by Rotherham Council, who had identified a need for this kind of service and wanted to develop an organisation that replicated SRSB’s service in Sheffield with the addition of services for hearing impaired people too. Rotherham Sight & Sound will be supported by Rotherham Council for the initial 2 years, after which it needs to become self sufficient in the same way as SRSB.

It was at this point that Andy met Steve (SRSB’s General Manager) and Joanne (SRSB’s Deputy Manager) from SRSB.

Andy also attended an Action for Blind People ‘Living with Sight Loss’ course in Rotherham where he met Liz (one of SRSB’s Community Engagement Team).

In the early stages of Rotherham Sight & Sound, a peer support group began, to start to develop the service while a property was found and the details of the contract with the Council were finalised. Andy describes how he felt “It was a turning point. I was with like-minded people, I heard their stories and met people who, like when you are at school, become friends for life and who will be there for years to come. I was in a place where I found it hard to think outside the box and didn’t realise about all of the things that are there to help you carry on. I found new hobbies like going to the theatre, art, cricket, talking books and baking. I have been involved in projects where I have given feedback for research into theatre performances and been on familiarisation sessions for the trams. And, who would have thought that one day I’d meet the Mayor of Rotherham, Lord Mayor of Sheffield, Mayor of Barnsley and Mayor of Doncaster?”

He is also volunteering to help give something back and is part of a group who are actively and passionately raising funds for a new minibus for Rotherham Sight & Sound. Transport is a huge issue for visually impaired people, who have to rely on public transport, so a minibus to support their activities will be an extremely valuable addition to the service. Andy has walked on Fire and done a Blind Driving event to raise funds for this project.

Andy has described his survival instinct kicking in, and he has realised he can do things he thought he wouldn’t be able to do again. He has found a new focus in his life and says “Rotherham Sight & Sound has turned my life around, I have made new friends and am still making them! I have had my life changed and I want to help change other people’s lives, because I realise the impact of losing your sight. I know all the downsides, but now I know the positive sides too. I have become more confident and independent and have gone from someone who was scared to say yes, to someone who now says Yes!”

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