Made-to-measure help when sight fails

COPING with failing sight or blindness can be difficult. But thanks to the East Suffolk Association for the Blind, a 34-year-old father-of-three and a partially sighted 92-year-old are able to get on with their lives and even pursue their hobbies.

COPING with failing sight or blindness can be difficult. But thanks to the East Suffolk Association for the Blind, a 34-year-old father-of-three and a partially sighted 92-year-old are able to get on with their lives and even pursue their hobbies.

Joanne Constable finds out how they are being helped.

MARK Maidment was registered blind seven years ago after his sight slowly worsened from birth due to a degenerative disease.

But the father-of-three is still determined to care for his children and carry out his hobby of DIY in the home.

And with the help of the East Suffolk Association for the Blind he is able to do this and have a more active life.

The Suffolk charity was founded in 1914 and helps 1,500 visually impaired people in the area including 170 in Felixstowe where Mr Maidment lives.

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The association provides the visually impaired with free aids like talking watches, talking weighing scales and advice on how to cope.

Mr Maidment, of Ataka Road, Walton, near Felixstowe has especially benefited from this as he now has an audible spirit level which beeps when it is level and a talking tape measure.

"It is a brilliant bit of kit, the talking tape measure is fantastic, I use it all the time because I enjoy DIY work" said this 34-year-old.

With his new equipment he has managed to make a magnificent pergola which is over 12ft long, refurbish his bathroom using his plumbing skills and he has also fitted new lights in his bedroom.

"If there's anything in the home to do we do it all, we don't get tradesmen to do anything in the house," he said.

Mr Maidment has a workshop in his back garden where he stores his special tools along with normal DIY equipment which he uses carefully and sometimes with the help of his wife, Lisa.

The dad of Marisa, nine, Kieran, seven, and Jensen who is nearly two, is not employed, although he is trained as a mechanic. Instead he is a full-time dad.

He looks after his children in their home but still has problems going outside as he does not like to walk with his white stick, which is used to feel what is ahead of him and warn the public that he is blind.

So when he has to walk his children to school in the morning to help his wife, he lets his children be his guides.

The association has a lot of useful aids and community workers who offer advice and information.

They can show what gadgets are on offer to make their lives easier – including a sensor which is hooked over a cup and bleeps when the liquid being poured in reaches a certain level.

KITTY Bell, is 92, and lives at Westcliffe Residential Home, in Felixstowe.

Partially sighted, she is also helped by the association. Miss Bell has lost her definitive sight and so can not read although she can see enough to walk in to the town centre to meet friends.

"It's a marvellous feeling that there is someone waiting to come and help you and advise you - which is very comforting to know," she said.

Miss Bell had been upset when she lost the ability to read music as she loved to play the piano and occasionally the guitar. But although she cannot read she still has the ability to enjoy books because the association gave her the chance to learn Braille.

"When I discovered I was going blind I decided to learn Braille. They taught me how to do Braille, then my fingers lost their sensitivity so I learnt Moon," said Miss Bell. Moon is a simpler and larger version of Braille which can be easily felt on the page.

The association has also helped Miss Bell, who has just finished knitting her 65th blanket for the Save the Children Fund, keep an active life.

They have provided her with a telephone with large buttons she can easily see but she has most of all benefited from the social events that are organised such as day trips and coffee mornings.


Factfile: East Suffolk Association for the Blind

The Association spends £120,000 a year helping partially sighted and blind people in the East Suffolk area.

The Association co-ordinates the distribution of British Wireless for the Blind equipment, RNIB lifestyle aids and Talking Newspapers (TNAUK).

Through their five community workers 1,000 home and personal aids like talking watches are supplied each year.

As a charity they are dependent on legacies, donations and collections to keep running.

The largest membership is in Lowestoft where around a 500 out of the 1,500 total members live.

Almost a third of the members are between the age of 80 and 90 and less than 100 of the members are under 30 years of age.

For more information contact the association's head office on 01473 611011.


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