Vision loss inevitably results in lifestyle changes for the person affected and has a significant impact on the lives of family members and friends.
Each person’s story and how they managed with their loss of vision is different. This is David’s.
David, an IDS client since 2016, believes his earliest memories are typical of any kid growing up in country Victoria, plenty of freedom and fresh air – “Much more than the kids of today”. His father ran a concreting business, second generation and was part of an extended family. There was plenty of comings and goings in the family home with neighbours, family friends and customers calling in.
David was born with a sight problem, by the time he was six he had undergone surgery to remove cataracts in his right eye. However, David’s sight continued to deteriorate to such an extent that the local school felt they were unable to cater for his “special needs. “ This was after all the early seventies, and people with a disability were not afforded the level of individual support they receive today.
The decision was made to send David to a “special school for the blind”. Unfortunately, the best one available was in Burwood, a mere 550 kilometres from David’s hometown of Mildura. The move meant David had to board during school term going home once every three weeks for a weekend and school holidays. “For the first two and a half years Mum used to catch the train down on Thursday and return with me on Monday, nearly four full days of travel”.
“Because I did not know anyone who had profound sight loss and I was in a new environment where I faced many challenges, I was very disorientated as I tried to figure out what was happening in my life”.
“There was a string of failures, just doing ordinary activities overwhelmed me. The focus at school was to teach life skills, the things that most people take for granted with a transition to let your hands be your eyes. I knew I needed to use my hands and fingers combined with my other senses.”
Peter Evans, the school principal is someone David remembers with fondness. “He made a significant impact on my life during my schooling. To give you an example Peter arranged for me to fly up to my parents, instead of catching the train, putting everything in place from transport to Tullamarine right through to the flights, as you can imagine my Mum was delighted”.
About the same time as David left school, his parents sold their property in Mildura and moved down to Warrnambool. David in turn moved into a Boarding House run by Villa Maria and took up employment with the Royal Victorian Institute For the Blind (RVIB).
The RVIB was known for the excellence of the products from its factories – especially its mats, baskets and brooms. It was here David worked. He takes great pride in the fact he was part of Melbourne’s history and continued to work at RVIB for nearly 20 years until 2005. Working through the transition from RVIB to Vision Australia.
The factory was to cease business in 2014. During this time David worked in many different areas including making furniture and household items. However, it was his time working “on the mats” he enjoyed the most. “Interesting times and interesting characters” recalls David. In particular, Martin Stuart who was heavily involved in working to improve the wages and conditions of the staff. “If it wasn’t for Martin’s work the factory would have closed much earlier than it actually did” says David.
Following the closure of the RVIB factory David moved to Warrnambool, however, he felt stifled by the lack of opportunity and limited outlets. It was not too long before he was looking to return to Melbourne. This was his introduction to IDS.
The IDS team worked with David and Housing Choices to find an apartment. David now lives in a modern complex in the centre of Melbourne. We continue to provide support staff, assisting with community engagement and meal preparation. David has nothing but praise for our team, acknowledging they have a difficult job. “However, they always leave me with a smile on my face”.
Work has always been important to David; he currently works two days a week at Brights in Craigieburn and two/three days a week selling the Big Issue in Bourke Street. I love the fact I can determine how much I do and the independence a few dollars in my pocket makes to my life.
David is about to be the father of the groom. His son Christopher is a regular visitor catching up at least once a week. “Someone who is blind can still do all the same things someone with sight does. The only difference is how they do it. This has been a good year will soon become even better” were his parting comments to me.