In May 2008, Ian was a typical 20-year-old coming to the end of his second year at Liverpool Hope University where he was studying for a BSc in Environmental
Management and Sports Studies. He was planning his backpacking travels over the summer and using every spare minute to play sport and socialise with
In May 2008, Ian was a typical 20-year-old coming to the end of his second year at Liverpool Hope University where he was studying for a BSc in Environmental Management and Sports Studies. He was planning his backpacking travels over the summer and using every spare minute to play sport and socialise with friends.
However, suddenly he started to notice his normally perfect sight had begun to deteriorate. When using his laptop, images had become blurry and it was getting harder to focus on everyday things, especially when driving. He decided to make an appointment with the optician, even though six months previously he had been told that his sight was perfect and he would not need glasses until he was nearing retirement age.
Having been immediately referred to the hospital, the ophthalmologist thought he might have an eye virus and it was thought that his sight would fully return within ten weeks Ian continued with his plans to travel and left straight after this news and only a week after first noticing the decline in his sight. He believed that this would be improving by the time he returned to the UK and arranged to allow extra time to reduce stress and to aid sight recovery.
On his return in July 2008, Ian knew that something was drastically wrong. Throughout his travels it had become harder and harder to see from both eyes. At this point, Ian realised that it was unlikely he only had an eye virus.
Ian recalls: “When my parents picked me up from my travels, I remember being in the car on the way home and not being able to see the bus immediately in front of the car.”
After further appointments with ophthalmologists, Ian was given the devastating news that he had a rare genetic condition called ‘Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy’ (LHON) and that he was unlikely to ever regain his full sight again.
Ian commented: “I remember crying for much of the journey home from the hospital in the car, but after that I told myself that I had to be positive, something which is a natural part of my personality. I have not changed as a person just because my eyes do not work properly and I’m a determined and motivated individual, so I knew that I was going to try and continue my life as normal.”
That is just what Ian did. Following the initial 2-3 month sight decline, Ian’s sight stabilised at less than 5% vision in both eyes. He returned to University where he was given support and information about Disabled Student Allowances and began using JAWS, the assistive screen reading software supplied by Sight and Sound Technology. He also started to use various other sorts of assistive software such as Kurzweil 1000, which converts word-processed documents into speech through a scanner, also supplied by Sight and Sound Technology. Without JAWS and other assistive technologies, Ian feels it would have been impossible to continue with his studies.
In May 2009, he managed to complete all of his studies in time to graduate with his peers gaining a 1st class degree with honours. Not long after graduating, Ian received assistance from Blind in Business, the UK based Charity providing IT, technology training and teaching resources to help visually impaired or blind
people find employment. He was selected to attend their Education to Employment course. Here he gained the knowledge and advice relating
to visual impairment, both physical and psychological aids required to cope with his sight loss and was first put in contact with various visually
impaired technological specialists Sight and Sound Technology.
As planned, Ian decided to return to University to study for a Masters degree, whilst at the same time planning a 3-month trip for 2010, which involved travelling around South-east Asia and Australia. Both were challenging but nevertheless rewarding experiences for Ian. He gained an MSc with distinction and was able to document and capture his travel experiences.
Software supplied from Sight and Sound Technology enabled both of these experiences to be possible, as without it they could not have even been considered. Through increased confidence and determination to fulfill a lifetime ambition, Ian completed further travelling through many countries including China and New Zealand gaining some fantastic life experiences. This was such a unique experience, which Ian will be able to share with friends and family in the future as assistive technology has enabled him to document his trip.
On his return from travelling, Ian was keen to find employment and Blind in Business were able to help. Dan Mitchell at Blind in Business, was instrumental in this assistance, giving Ian guidance on writing CVs, assisting in filling out job applications and preparing him for interviews. Ian also attended Education to Employment, a residential training course, for 20 blind graduates and 20 employers run annually by Blind in Business. The course gives blind people the confidence to apply for work and gives employers the confidence to employ them based on their abilities, not their disability.
Ian says: “Working with Dan helped enormously in terms of building my confidence, motivation and improving my writing style to suit employers’ requirements.”
Blind in Business were able to assist Ian into the world of employment, offering the chance to operate in an office environment in the City of London. This was as a result of Ian’s successful application to the Metropolitan Police Service in the Directorate of Information, gaining full time employment on their ICT Graduate Development Programme. Ian now uses assistive software such as JAWS in the workplace to be able him to operate effectively. He is thoroughly enjoying employment and has received on site one to one training at his place of work from Sight and Sound Technology’s specialist trainers. This has made him more efficient and has made mundane tasks much more enjoyable. Ian is very grateful for all of the assistance and guidance he has received and believes it has helped him get where he is today.
Ian said: “Without JAWS I wouldn’t be able to do my job, it’s as simple as that. Technology has opened so many doors for me and allowed me to deal with anything that comes my way.”