Blind Veterans UK (formerly St Dunstan’s) is a national charity that has a long history linked to the Armed Forces. It was established in 1915 by Sir Arthur Pearson, owner of the Evening Standard and founder of the Daily Express, to support those who had lost their vision in the First World War, providing them with the care and rehabilitation they needed to lead constructive and self-sufficient lives.
Almost a century later, while continuing to care for ex-Service men and women blinded in action, Blind Veterans UK also supports veterans who have lost their sight through accident, illness or old age. And all veterans with severe sight loss are eligible for the charity’s support regardless of when they served – whether they have just returned from Afghanistan or did National Service 50 years ago. Quite simply, the charity believes that no one who has served our country should have to battle blindness alone.
The charity provides more than 5,000 blind veterans and their families’ access to services that help them to discover life beyond sight loss. They include providing lifelong welfare support, rehabilitation, training, long-term nursing, and residential and respite care. Additionally, as sight loss isn’t temporary, services are provided for every veteran and their family for the rest of their lives.
Blind Veterans UK shows its beneficiaries that being blind doesn’t mean that people have to give up being adventurous. Members are encouraged and helped to take part in physical activities that they may not even have thought possible, from running and cycling to rock climbing, skiing and surfing. For many, being active and enjoying sports enables them to build confidence and self-esteem.
The charity has three centres located at Brighton, Sheffield and Llandudno, North Wales – offering recreation, training and rehabilitation for blind veterans and their families. Each centre has a slightly different focus, but they all help men and women who have served in the armed forces to come to terms with their sight loss and build skills to live their lives to the full. The Brighton centre offers holidays, respite, training, residential and nursing care, and social and recreational activities. In Sheffield, meanwhile, a welcoming family atmosphere is provided for veterans on residential training courses, and the centre particularly excels at providing IT training. Finally, the Llandudno centre, which opened last year, offers holidays, respite care (residential and nursing) and training.
The Blind Veterans UK centre in Sheffield specializes in providing IT
Recent research has found that there are a staggering 68,000 veterans who could be benefitting from the charity’s support but do not realise they are eligible. A large percentage of those potential beneficiaries are men in their seventies and eighties who did National Service for two years when they were very young and do not realise that they qualify for the charity’s support.
So, Blind Veterans UK has launched No One Alone: a multi-media awareness raising campaign aimed at potential beneficiaries, their friends and family. Broadcaster and maths and science enthusiast Johnny Ball is among a number of high profile supporters of No One Alone.
Johnny Ball said: 'My RAF call up in 1956 changed the course of my life permanently – guiding my journey from child to man, where I gained confidence and belief in both myself and my ability. I am much older now and luckily still in good health, but I am so reassured to learn Blind Veterans UK can help support veterans of the armed forces who have not been as fortunate as I. I wish the campaign every success.'
If you are or know of a veteran with severe sight-loss who could be benefitting from the life long support of Blind Veterans UK please go to www.noonealone.org.uk or freephone: 0800 839 7979.
'Quite simply, the charity believes that no one who has served our country should have to battle blindness alone.
Blind Veterans UK member Harry Beevers.
Everything changed for Harry Beevers in 2001 when he joined Blind Veterans UK. Harry had served in East Africa, Somalia and Mogadishu with a light infantry battalion, and was declared blind after leaving the army in 1955.
When he first visited us, his main goal was to learn computing to keep in touch with his son in America and find material for his quizzes (ex-history teacher Harry is a bit of a quiz-master, and writes our monthly magazine quizzes).
Our one-week training course worked wonders:
'I can keep in touch with my son, I can do my quizzes, I can write letters and I can go on the internet. It's changed my life in a way. It's great. I could do with a 10-day week, me!'
Harry has also been exploring the other options available at our centres. As well as creative writing and cookery, he's also rediscovered cycling (on a tandem), and has even made a tandem parachute jump with the Red Devils as part of the Blind Veterans UK challenge.