“I was born with Retinitis Pigmentosa, which is a genetic condition that leads to the gradual degeneration of the retina. Many people who have this condition are fully blind by my age, so I have been lucky that my degeneration has been very slow, and I am grateful I have some vision still. I have no vision in my right eye, and in my left eye, I have some decent central vision but no periphery vision. I wear glasses with a strong lens.
Joining the National Training Centre was valuable as I was finding it hard being out of work. It gave me the opportunity to try new things, get retrained and meet new people. As soon as I got here, I loved it. I come here two days a week and do a range of the courses. I like that you can make the timetable your own and you decide what classes to do depending on your interests.
They always want you to focus on what you are going to do when you leave and identify your goal. In some cases, it is further education in others it can be to do things for yourself which you might not have been able to do before even something as simple as making dinner. Or by doing the mobility training to learn how to get around by yourself confidently instead of relying on other people which is a huge thing for someone with sight loss.
The mobility training is practical and useful. Having a full-time mobility officer is brilliant as you can get that one-to-one training. Personally, I don’t need the long cane, but I do use a cymbal cane to let people know I am visually impaired. I was initially reluctant to use it because I was very self-conscious but realized it is important especially if I accidentally bump into someone, they are more understanding when they see me with a cane. Now carrying that stick is like my security blanket but if it wasn’t for this place, I wouldn’t be using one.
The self-advocacy class was good because it got you used to speak out. You can be used to being in the corner, nearly invisible letting other people do things and say things but here you get the confidence to voice your opinions or requests. The yoga was great for balance and peace of mind. I also completed the ECDL course, and I can use a computer without using Zoom text or JAWS.
In here you meet people who are in the same boat as yourself and you can be yourself. There is no judgement. We have someone to talk to, bounce ideas and learn from each other. I know I have learnt just as much from other visually impaired people here than participating in the direct classes. Everybody has their own story to tell with some being blind from birth through to others who have lost their sight suddenly or later in life. It builds our self-confidence then.”