Support centre for veterans with sight loss a ‘godsend’

Veteran Peter Ramsay says the Hawkhead Centre in Paisley has helped him live with his sensory impairment.

Support centre for veterans with sight loss a ‘godsend’ STV
Support: The Hawkhead Centre in Paisley helps veterans with sight loss.

Peter Ramsay proudly served with the Gordon Highlanders for four years.

But the infantryman’s military career was cut short after he was diagnosed with the rare genetic eye condition retinitis pigmentosa. 

Peter was medically discharged in 1991, sparking a difficult period in his life.

The charity poppyscotland is now promoting the support available for veterans such as Peter who are living with a sensory impairment.

One option is the Hawkhead Centre in Paisley, which is operated by Scottish War Blinded.

Peter, originally from Stevenston in Ayrshire, was urged to contact the charity by a friend, who explained he could be eligible for its free support.

“I came here a year ago, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. It’s been a godsend,” he said.

“The staff are that friendly, even the drivers make your day. And meeting the veterans, telling their stories, it’s fantastic,” he added.

Peter now attends the Hawkhead Centre two days a week along with fellow veterans with sight loss. 

He is able to indulge his passions for cooking and sport and even took part in a Veterans Games event in Israel last year.

Classes in sculpting, painting, woodwork and IT are on offer to veterans living with a sensory impairment.

“Our outreach service goes a long way to building up that initial confidence and the self-esteem that it takes for a lot of our members to take that step out of the door,” said Gillian McDonald, manager of the Hawkhead Centre.

Scottish War Blinded estimate there are around 20,000 veterans over the age of 75 with sight loss in Scotland.  

While this figure could fall to around 10,000 veterans by 2028, more than 8,000 of them will be over 90 years old. 

In total, there are around 175,000 people living in Scotland with significant sight loss and the number of people with a visual impairment is predicted to increase to more than 210,000 by 2030.

“Sensory impairment in general can have a significant impact on an individual’s life, including social isolation, so the fact that perhaps they can’t see, that they can’t hear to the same level as everybody else can cause issues for them,” said David Cooke, welfare services manager at poppyscotland.

Scottish War Blinded offers free support to ex-servicemen and women of all ages, no matter if they lost their sight during or after service.

And as dad-of-three Peter testifies, that support can be ‘life-changing’.