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Photo of Norman

Norman Wragg became a trustee of SRSB almost 20 years ago, very soon after retiring from a successful career with the Health and Safety Executive in Sheffield. He brought with him a wealth of professional expertise and personal experience of living with sight loss.

His connections with the charity go back further than that though and he joined the Board of Trustees already knowing how valuable the organisation is to its clients.

“One of the Community Advice Officers was going to be interviewed on Radio Sheffield and asked me to go along and help out and give my own personal experience of visual impairment. It was soon after that I was asked to consider coming onto the board.

“It is very interesting to see how the top level of a charity works. We have quarterly meetings to review activities, the financial situation and looking forward to what new services should be introduced. One of the issues is raising funds because we don’t get any Government funding.

“It is a very worthwhile charity, the main selling point is that by supporting SRSB you are supporting so many people who have significant difficulties with their sight. When we started Rotherham Sight and Sound it was interesting to see how much it expanded in such a short time scale. It showed the need for people to have a focus and somewhere to meet and get help.”

Norman and his wife have also volunteered as liaison officers at the eye clinic at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, helping patients who receive the news that their sight cannot be improved.

“It’s quite a big shock for people who are hoping their eyesight can be made better when a specialist says there is not much more we can do. People can feel that it is a complete and utter catastrophe, that there is no way to continue to live as they did before. We quite often referred people to SRSB and told them about all the various services available to them.”

It was as a result of an explosion in a university laboratory that Norman lost his sight and it proved impossible to restore any useful vision despite several years of eye operations. He had trained as a research scientist.

“At first I was absolutely determined I was going to do everything by myself. I went back to work, I did long-cane training so I could walk and get the bus and for years people would offer me lifts and I would refuse but eventually I accepted it. Over the years I have got to the stage where I don’t go out on my own walking, I go by taxi so sometimes I feel that now I am not an ideal model for a visually-impaired person.”

His career with the HSE brought Norman the honour of an OBE. “It was a really nice thing going to the Palace, but I could only take my wife and two of three children so that presented us with a difficult situation. Meeting the Queen was quite awe-inspiring although there were a fair number of instructions to remember as to how many steps I needed to walk and where I needed to turn,” he said.

Norman can remember all those instructions to the letter 30 years on, which is testament to his remarkable recall.

Another example of that is his expertise at Braille Chess which is played with an indented board and specially-marked pieces. His success against sighted and visually-impaired people has led to competing in international competitions – the equivalent of the Para Olympics.

“It’s a really good game and I can play on a fairly equal basis against sighted opponents. I’ve travelled to a number of places including Spain, Greece and Germany to compete.”

Unfortunately, due to coronavirus restrictions, Braille Chess events this year are being cancelled, along with so many of SRSB’s group activities because, as Norman recognises, it is very difficult for VI people to socially-distance.

But he and the rest of the Trustees will be working to re-open the Centre as soon as it is felt safe to do so. 

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