Life-changing impact of help to sight-loss veterans revealed in story of James Crook (100) of Aultbea in Wester Ross
Get the Ross-shire Journal sent to your inbox every week and swipe through an exact replica of the day's newspaper
An Aultbea World War Two veteran with sight loss is regaining his love of reading once more thanks to specialist equipment and support from charity Sight Scotland Veterans.
James Crook has age-related sight loss that had impacted his ability to read independently, but he was recently able to enjoy reading his 100th birthday cards – including his card from the Queen – with use of his new ‘Vario’ video magnifier from Sight Scotland Veterans.
The RAF veteran, who served from 1940 to 1947 as a rear-gunner in the Lancaster Bombers and as a dispatch rider after he was injured, has been supported by Sight Scotland Veterans to adapt to life with sight loss since 2016.
James says he is delighted with his new magnifier, which Sight Scotland Veterans were able to provide to him during lockdown.
And as Sight Scotland Veterans strives to support even more veterans with sight loss in Scotland, with its first ever TV advert campaign live this month, James and his family are encouraging fellow veterans with sight loss in the Highlands to get in touch with the charity for support.
James, who is originally from Bolton and has lived with his daughter’s family in Aultbea, Wester Ross since 2016, said: “It’s good to be able to read books again and to be able to see the pictures clearly. I love looking at aircraft and steam trains.”
Prior to lockdown restrictions, Sight Scotland Veterans provided its one-to-one practical and emotional support to veterans with sight loss across Scotland face to face, and has adapted to continue supporting veterans remotely via telephone and email throughout the pandemic, posting out specialist equipment to home addresses.
Since lockdown began, Sight Scotland staff have kept in touch with James and his family with regular friendly phone calls.
James’ daughter, Kimberley Moore (64) says the support has made a huge difference to her father and the family in helping to understand and overcome the challenges of living with a visual impairment.
Kimberley said: “Over the years, Sight Scotland Veterans has provided my dad with magnifying glasses and specialist lighting of various strengths. Recently they have also been helping us to source the most suitable clock with large numbers for him so that he can continue to tell the time and date independently.
“It was fantastic that they were able to provide him with his Vario magnifier in time for his 100th birthday so he was able to read his cards. He loved this – especially reading his card from the Queen. He also enjoys reading magazines and newspapers and looking at family photos with the Vario now.
“Sight Scotland Veterans has been a great help to us, both practically and emotionally. We know they are always there if extra support is needed. The regular calls we have been receiving in lockdown are reassuring, knowing that someone is still there to help us if we need it.”
Sight Scotland Veterans continues to welcome enquiries for the charity’s support in lockdown.
Kimberley said: “Our family would recommend Sight Scotland Veterans to other veterans with sight loss and their loved ones. They are a great deal of help and they help to make life so much easier and happier for veterans with sight loss and their loved ones.”
Clair Bryan, Interim Director of Services, Sight Scotland Veterans, said: “It’s fantastic to hear how James is enjoying reading once more with specialist equipment and support from Sight Scotland Veterans. Despite the current restrictions there is still a lot the charity is able offer veterans with sight loss remotely – whether it’s specialist equipment, expert practical advice to adapt to life with sight loss or a friendly, listening ear through these challenging times.
“We know there are thousands more veterans with sight loss in Scotland, including those who served National Service, who are eligible for our support. The majority of the veterans we support today have sight loss as a result of age-related conditions such as macular degeneration or as a result of an accident or illness. Following much research and consultation, the charity changed its name from Scottish War Blinded to Sight Scotland Veterans in October last year, to support our goal of reaching out to even more veterans with sight loss and this month we have launched our first ever television campaign.
“If you are a veteran with sight loss, or you know a veteran you think we could help, we would love to hear from you. Our dedicated staff continue to provide support to individuals in any way they can as restrictions continue, and we look forward to the day we can recommence our support face-to-face along with our social activities and events across Scotland.”
For more information about Sight Scotland Veterans or to get in touch with the charity for support, call 0800 035 6409, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit sightscotlandveterans.org.uk
Need to know more?
Sight Scotland Veterans, formerly known as Scottish War Blinded, provides free support to ex-servicemen and women affected by sight loss in Scotland to help them regain confidence, restore their independence and make new connections.
Established in 1915, today the charity gives support to all veterans with sight loss, including National Service veterans, no matter if they lost their sight during or after service. The majority of veterans we support have lost their sight through age, conditions such as macular degeneration, and reasons unrelated to their service.
Our outreach and rehabilitation support offering covers all local authority areas in Scotland. The charity also runs two activity hubs for veterans with sight loss: the Linburn Centre in Wilkieston, West Lothian, and the Hawkhead Centre in Paisley, Renfrewshire.
Sight Scotland Veterans is the sister charity of Sight Scotland, Scotland’s biggest sight loss charity. For more information visit sightscotlandveterans.org.uk