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Veterans charity helps blind former rally driver get back behind wheel

PUBLISHED: 09:28 11 January 2018

Geoff Austin, 86, says the Blind Veterans UK charity has given him a new lease of life. Picture: Blind Veterans UK

Geoff Austin, 86, says the Blind Veterans UK charity has given him a new lease of life. Picture: Blind Veterans UK

Archant

A blind veteran thought his life was over when his sight finally faded away, but a specialist organisation has turned the former engineer’s life around.

The former rally driver has even been able to take the wheel again at a special day laid on by Blind Veterans UK.

Geoff Austin, 86, from Greenhithe, started receiving support from the charity a year ago.

Geoff, who loved gliding, said: “In that time I’ve done things that I never thought were possible given my sight loss. The charity has honestly given me a new lease of life.

“It was a very difficult time. I’m a man who really values my independence, and I found it frustrating that I had no control over what was happening to me. I love driving, flying and engineering and for all of those I needed my sight.”

Amazingly, the support group has laid on training and equipment to help him adapt including breaks at a rehabilitation centres, and even took the wheel again during the charity’s Driving Week.

In the RAF he ensured B-29 aircraft communications were working.

Now, he said: “I’ve received a CCTV reader which scans and enlarges my post, and a big-button telephone to help me make calls, all from Blind Veterans.

“But the best gift the charity has given me is a renewed interest in life. Over the past year I’ve had so many adventures: driving an old Army Jeep, taking IT training and being put through my paces in the gym.”

He lost his sight over the last 10 years due to age-related macular degeneration and also lost his wife.

Geoff was called up for National Service in 1950 joining the RAF.

At RAF Marham, Norfolk, he worked alongside the United States Air Force, testing communications and radio equipment for B-29 aircrafts.

Blind Veterans UK said over 1,300 ex-Service men and women in Kent could be eligible for support but don’t realise.

They said: “It doesn’t matter when or how a veteran lost their sight, or when they served, Blind Veterans UK can help.”

For more information, visit blindveterans.org.uk or call 0800 389 7979.

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