‘It is my silver cloud.’ Life after losing my sight

Simon says that he still feels fulfilled in life despite his blindess Picture: SIMON DAWS

Simon says that he still feels fulfilled in life despite his blindess Picture: SIMON DAWS - Credit: Archant

For people who have 20/20 vision it seems that sight governs everything we do - but what would happen if we couldn’t see anymore?

Simon Daws still enjoys sailing Picture: SIMON DAWS

Simon Daws still enjoys sailing Picture: SIMON DAWS - Credit: Archant

Simon Daws started going blind in his early forties when a degenerative disease began to ravage his eyesight.

He has spoken openly with the EADT about his struggle with blindness, the barriers that he faces day-to-day and how he found happiness and fulfilment.

Mr Daws said: “Blindness is my silver cloud.

“I wish it hadn’t happened but I think that I feel more content and fulfilled than I did when I was sighted.”

Lemar, Mr Daws' current guide dog Picture: SIMON DAWS

Lemar, Mr Daws' current guide dog Picture: SIMON DAWS - Credit: Archant

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But Mr Daws was not always so pragmatic.

When he began to lose his sight Mr Daws who found it hard to come to terms with his situation.

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He said: “In all honesty when my sight started to decrease I was in denial for a while,

“I didn’t really go outside or do things publicly, I tried to stay inside for as long as possible at home.

Simon's old guide dog Lennox Picture: SIMON DAWS

Simon's old guide dog Lennox Picture: SIMON DAWS - Credit: Archant

“I was embarrassed.”

Aged just 41, Mr Daws took medical redundancy from his job as a civil servant, despite pushing for new technology and assistance to help him continue to work.

“I do feel I should have got more support at work,” said Mr Daws.

“The government keep pushing for more disabled people to get into work and here they were not getting me the things I needed to continue.

“It’s a sad fact that over 70% of blind people of working age are unemployed in the UK.”

His wife, Lindsay, also decided to give up work to be with her husband as he came to terms with his condition.

Mr Daws said: “I finally threw my hands up and said: this is happening.

“I registered as legally blind age 47.

“Don’t get me wrong it was a very dark place but I started to contact various organisations, one was the Royal National Institute for Blind People.

“I have been using their services ever since, not every day but when the need arises, I know that they will always be there for me.”

The Royal National Institute for Blind People (RNIB) celebrated its 150th birthday on Tuesday October 16.

It has helped British people live and deal with blindness since the 19th century.

The main drive of its latest campaign is to push for better awareness towards blind people, the barriers they face and possible improvements that could make their lives easier.

“Education is the way forward,” said Mr Daws.

“I would encourage anybody to do a little bit of research about living with blindness.

“Talk to people and organisations like the Royal National Institute for Blind People (RNIB) and guide dog charities, they can inform you of what it is like to live with sight loss.”

Mr Daws, now 56, has lived in Suffolk for more than 30 years.

He currently lives in Martlesham and talks about the barriers he regularly has to face in day to day life.

“I would say that blind people face the same problems in Suffolk as they would face anywhere else,” said Mr Daws.

“If I want to go out shopping, to restaurants or just for lunch - those things depend on the attitudes of the people in those places.

“Most of the time people are very helpful and the staff are friendly.

“Sometimes places are not so good and there aren’t enough staff around to help me find a product I need or to give me guidance.

“Finding queues in banks can be an issue, guide dogs aren’t very good at that, they tend to be a bit impolite and push in front of people.

Despite their lacking manners, guide dogs seem to be the corner stone of living a full life without sight.

“Service dogs are everything,” said Mr Daws.

“Mine is a pet at home, my guide when I’m out and about, they are my safety blanket.

“Half the time they don’t know where they are going but they keep me safe and that’s the important thing.”

Mr Daws faces similar problems with public transport in the county, something he obviously has had to rely on since he lost his ability to see.

He said: “Trains are very good here, I can always book in an assistance guide who gets me onto the train and makes sure that I don’t sit on some ones lap or something similar.

“For me problems have arisen when I get off the train, there aren’t always people there to get me off.

“Luckily I have a guide dog, I know I will be safe but for people with a cane it must make travelling full of anxiety.”

But it’s not all doom and gloom.

Mr Daws was keen to remind people that the blind can still enjoy the same things as everyone else.

“I used to sail when I was a fully sighted person,” said Mr Daws.

“I used to have my own dingy but when my sight started to decrease it became difficult for me and I felt that I wouldn’t be able to ever sail again.

“Then I discovered a disabled sailing club.”

Mr Daws joined the East Anglian Sailing Trust which provides disabled children with the ability to access and enjoy sailing activities.

The club made him realise that he could still do the things he loved as a sighted person.

“I’m now a trustee of the club, I try and promote and support all disabled sailing groups,” said Mr Daws.

“People are often astounded that I can go out and sail, I will often say to people: ‘I can’t drive a car but I can drive a forty-foot yacht.’

“I think it just goes to show you that we can fit in with normal life just in a different way.”

Mr Daws also enjoys reading books, going to the cinema and watching TV.

“It comes down to audio description,” he said.

“Everything a sighted person does with their eyes, a blind person does with their ears.

“I’ve read 19 books this summer, I’ve just listened to them, you get the same picture in your head as a sighted person.

Despite living a life of fulfilment and happiness Mr Daws does still need help from time to time.

Mr Daws said: “People should not be afraid to ask a visually impaired person: excuse me do you need help?

“The answer will either be ‘yes please’ or ‘no thank you.’

“I think it is often about embarrassment. People don’t always know how to treat us and talk to us.

“We are just like normal people, our eyes just don’t work properly.”

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