John was born deaf and started loosing his sight when he was 19 after being diagnosed with Usher Syndrome. This is a disorder that, among other things, causes the progressive degeneration of the retina. Today he is left with very little sight and no hearing. He communicates through ‘hands on BSL’; a form of British Sign Language which involves the listener placing their hands on top of the communicator’s hands to feel the signs.
However, John, from County Antrim in Northern Ireland, doesn’t let his sight and hearing loss hold him back. With the support of an interpreter he has a wide range of hobbies including tandem cycling, cooking and writing poetry!
But perhaps the most impressive of all is John’s love for archery. He discovered the sport seven years ago and has since become a national champion. “I joined the Causeway Archers and they set up a competition for visually impaired people” said John. “Since then, I have placed in many competitions for visually impaired archers including coming second at the British Blind Indoor Archery Championships.” He continued.
Despite John’s huge success as a visually impaired archer, he longed for the opportunity to meet other people with similar conditions to him. So he joined the Deafblind NI social group in Causeway and loves sharing his stories and experiences with other people. The group meets once a month and John has made many new friends, all of whom share an understanding of what it is like to like with sight and hearing loss. John has taken on the role of chairperson in the Causeway group and he has taught other group members deafblind manual to enable them to communicate with him.
“Being part of the Deafblind NI group means I have the chance to talk to people who experience the same everyday challenges that I do. It is comforting to know that I’m not alone and that Deafblind NI is there to support me in other ways if I need. It also gives me the opportunity to take part in activities and experiences that I would not have otherwise done, like the recent reminiscence therapy workshop that we did.” Explained John.
Lee Bolland, Director of Community Services at Deafblind UK said: “John is an inspiration to us all and we are proud to be able to support him in his archery success. We support people to do the things they want to do without being held back by sight and hearing loss. It’s great to see that he’s found ways to get around his disability and, despite having very little sight or hearing, he has done things that many of us could only dream of!”