Five years ago, my dad was registered blind. Having had sight until his mid-60s, he had to adapt to the complete loss of his vision in later life. Quiet roads that he’s known and walked around with ease for 40 years suddenly became hazardous unknown territory and difficult to navigate (although the arrival of a much-loved guide dog, Eli, has helped immensely). Going to the theatre or cinema or just watching TV became impossible. And even eating a favourite meal became a huge challenge.
However perhaps the biggest hurdle he had to face was losing the ability to read. Throughout my childhood and teenage years, my dad always had a book on the go, and his love of reading became mine too. (It’s the reason I studied English and Russian at university – the interest in Russian borne from a love of “A Clockwork Orange” – and led to me having a career in the communications industry).
For such an avid reader, no longer being able to read was devastating and one of the hardest things he had to cope with on losing his sight.
That’s why RNIB’s Talking Books service has been what he calls a “life saver… without it I would have gone mad” – and thanks to their support his love of reading has been able to continue. He’s a regular user of the service, which offers users access to over 19,000 audio books, reading up to 50 books a year – whether those he’s picked himself or the choice of his telephone book club. And thanks to the work the Man Booker Prize did with RNIB (ensuring that the shortlisted books are available in accessible formats before the announcement of the winner), he was able to work his way through all six shortlisted novels… and well before I did. (His personal favourite was Stephen Kelman’s “Pigeon English”).
Knowing first-hand the invaluable support the charity is able to give, I’m delighted therefore that MRM has chosen RNIB to be our first charity of the year. Throughout the year, we’ll be writing, blogging and tweeting about what we’re doing to support the charity – whether volunteering, fundraising (our very own Charlotte Banks has jumped right in and signed up to her first-ever half marathon to raise funds… you can find her JustGiving page here!) or raising awareness of the charity’s work, including today’s Twitter Marathon.
And if you’d like to join us in supporting the work the charity does, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.