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Social groups and digital support ensures Tony stays connected

Tony in his garden

Tony was 36 when he was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), a condition that affects the retina and leads to gradual, progressive sight reduction. Now, aged 75 he has lost all most of his vision and is left with just a very small amount of peripheral vision.

Tony, from Wrexham, spent his career using heavy machinery and the noise he was exposed to has since affected his hearing. He has recently been given two digital hearing aids which he is quickly getting used to.

In his 50’s, Tony’s sight reached a level where he could no longer operate heavy machinery and he was forced to give up his much loved job. Instead, he started his own business growing and selling flowers and plants in the local area; a hobby he still enjoys today. “I find my way around the garden and greenhouse by using markers, like the washing line. I now grow lots of vegetables which is great fun, it’s easy to tell when they’re ready by feeling them – unless my wife beats me to it and they’re gone by the time I get to them!” He joked.

Family-man Tony and his wife have three children and seven grandchildren who all support him in whatever he wants to do. “My wife is amazing, I wouldn’t be where I am today without her. She keeps me on track and supports me to do things as independently as possible. I have a long cane and I used to go out on the bus by myself but since my sight has got even worse, I only go out when my wife or my children can take me.” He said. As his sight and hearing deteriorated further, Tony decided to join his local Deafblind Cymru social group to get him out of the house.

“I love the group, I’ve met some good friends and it’s reassuring to know that they are also going through what I am. It’s a great reason to get out of the house too.” Tony said.

“We do interesting activities with the group; things that I wouldn’t necessarily have the chance to do by myself, like visiting RAF Cosford, playing bowls and going fishing” He continued. “I used to enjoy fishing when I was younger so having the chance to experience the fresh air and the sense of achievement when you catch something is really nostalgic for me, I’m grateful to have the opportunity to experience it again”.

Tony finds that he gets so much pleasure from the trips he goes on thanks to the staff and volunteers who guide him. “They describe absolutely everything to me in great detail which makes me feel more confident to explore and try new things” He said.

One such activity that Tony has recently become involved in is Deafblind UK’s Digital Inclusion project with Digital Inclusion Officer, Tim Locke. Tony said: “Tim came to our group to do a talk about using tablets and I thought ‘that’s not for me, I don’t need all that’. But then I decided to give it a go and I love it! I now regularly email my grandchildren and check the weather on my app. I’m also a huge Manchester United fan so I’m always listening to Talk Sport and 5 Live! I am currently learning how to search the internet but that’s quite hard and I get frustrated when I can’t do it – my wife is very good at making sure I practice though!”