Di, 54, from Exeter in Devon who learnt with UCanDoIT:
“I originally came from Mullion in Cornwall. I moved here 28 years ago to commence my second marriage to a guide dog instructor who I met whilst training for my first guide dog, George. I have now had 4 guide dogs and currently have a giant German Shepherd called Simba who is 9 years old.
I lost my sight after a motorbike accident which resulted in my suffering penicillin poisoning which is a rare condition called Stephens Johnsons syndrome. This left me with partial sight in one eye only. I married, had 2 children, Lisa, now 35 and Robert, aged 33.
After 11 years of partial sight, I divorced and needed more help in the evenings to get the children to various activities so I trained with a guide dog. A year after I trained I moved to Exeter to marry my guide dog instructor. Unfortunately, during the move, glaucoma rendered my partial sight to zero so arriving in Exeter found me totally blind – not the best way to start life in new surroundings with a step family to cater for as well as my own children. All my support i.e. Mum and Dad and close friends were back at Mullion.
So, here I was trying to grapple with getting used to total blindness with no support or any idea of how to get to shops, doctors, schools or anything. A very traumatic time for us all!
Four years after this, I had my third child. His name is Graeme and he is now 22, married with a daughter, Daisy Willow, now 3. Another child is due at Christmas.
I love being a Nana! Daisy and I play all sorts of games and its marvellous having the time to enjoy her.
My daughter, Lisa, is an Intensive Care senior staff nurse and very dedicated to her work. Robert, sadly, has schizophrenia and his life is very difficult. His illness affects us all.
Some years ago, I applied to be a magistrate and was turned down on the basis that I was blind. I felt this was very unfair and campaigned for several years against this discrimination. I was thrilled to get the law changed and was invited to be Britain’s first blind magistrate. I do both adult and youth benches and find it very rewarding and interesting.
I have a passion for horses and have recently bought a black Friesian foal at Mullion. When he is old enough, I am bringing him to Exeter to back and school with a view to doing competitive dressage. I am currently having dressage lessons at a nearby riding school.
I am also a Tutor assistant at an adult learning centre in Exmouth. I help a small group of blind people to learn JAWS which enables them to use the computer.
What wouldn’t I have given over these last 30 years to be able to use the computer as I can now? Keeping lists, addresses, phone numbers, etc is so amazingly freeing!
The one frustration I had around the computer was that I could not access the internet very well. Since my lessons with UCanDoIT, I have grasped it and a whole new world has opened up before me again! It is truly wonderful that a charity exists dedicated to improving the quality of life for blind people by enabling them the freedom to access computers.
I heard about UCanDoIT from a lovely guy named Paul Hannan. Paul works for Action for Blind People as their employment officer.
A quote I once heard before I myself became hooked on computers was, “Computers are to a blind person’s communication what a guide dog is to their mobility. Thank you, UCanDoIT!”