Kingston Upon Thames Association for the Blind

Our Members Stories

Chris' Story

Brian Receiving Mayor's Covid Award

Hamid's Story

David's Story

Des'  100th Birthday Celebrations

Des' Story

Autumn Social 2019

What our Volunteers Say

Chris' Story

I moved to Surbiton back in the mid 90's to study Software Engineering at Kingston University, and I still live in Surbiton today with my wife and young daughter.

I am a stand-up comedian and have been performing for fast approaching twenty years now, but originally the plan was always to work in IT.

My sight-loss has been caused by the inherited eye condition Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). People with this condition tend to start losing their sight in childhood or early adulthood, mine basically deteriorated steadily throughout my life, with most of my useful sight going in my late teens.

This meant that by the time I graduated it was pretty apparent to me that following my intended career path wasn't really going to be very practical.  After a period of unemployment and far too much daytime TV, I got a job working in the Sales Department of an Employment Law Company, which was as exciting as it sounds but exactly what I needed at the time.  It was while I was working there that I decided to give stand-up comedy a go, just as a bit of a dare to myself really, and here we are nearly two decades later, and I have thousands of gigs under my belt and am lucky enough to regularly appear on many of our most popular telly and radio comedy shows.

It was during my period of unemployment that Kingston Association for the Blind (KAB) provided me with a couple of grants for software to enable me to use my computer and access printed materials. Also, during my initial time performing stand-up on the open mike circuit, they helped with a grant to enable me to pay somebody to drive me around to various gigs around London which helped me gain the stage time and experience necessary to ultimately ditch that sales job and make the leap to comedy becoming a full-time profession.

These days, KAB have paired me up with a sighted tandem partner, and we regularly hit the road for some well needed fresh air and exercise - Although he insists that I always have to go on the back, which doesn't seem very fair does it.

I am extremely grateful for the support and kindness received from Kingston Association for the Blind, and it is generous donations that enable them to help many more people with visual impairments in all kinds of creative ways like this.

Chris McCausland
www.chrismccausland.com

Chris McCausland | 2022 TOUR ON SALE NOW
I’m in my 18th year of stand-up comedy. I’m blind. And lots of other things as well… TOUR DATES NOW ON SALE… They’ve been arranged, and rearranged, and now re-rearranged – And here they are!
To find out about future dates and stuff, stick your email address in the box below – I promise not to swamp you with shite…
www.chrismccausland.com

Brian Receiving Mayor's Covid Award

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Article by Ellie Brown, Kingston Nub News

A Kingston resident who runs the borough's only talking newspaper for sight-impaired people has won an award for his efforts to keep the paper going through lockdown.
Brian Gaff moved to Kingston in 1956 and has been involved with the Kingston Association for the Blind for more than 20 years.
He received a special Covid award from the Mayor of Kingston in a socially-distanced ceremony yesterday for his work producing the paper when it was unable to access its studio last March.
Brian, who has no sight and uses voice-enabled software on his computer, found a way to recreate the studio's professional set-up on his home device and spent hours each week editing recordings from the paper's readers made using their phones at home.
He also found a way to send recordings to the paper's readers using digital and telephone-based systems, as the usual USB sticks with the paper on could no longer be sent out.
Brian told Nub News he was surprised to receive the award and grateful for the paper which kept him busy over lockdown.
He said: "I would also like to thank my four producers, John, Helen, Sandy, and David, who are sighted and help with lots of the things blind people like myself cannot do, gathering news from inaccessible web sites being just one of many, and our readers who have had to learn new skills.
"And of course my parent Charity, Kingston Upon Thames Association for the blind, whose three part time employees have been supporting our blind members over this time, doing more hours than they are paid for and even surviving all getting Covid 19 over Christmas.
"So a Big thank you to Jean, Lisa and Vanessa for their support while I laboured over a hot keyboard.
"Also special thanks for our web site and Alexa Guru, Jonathan, and also the British Wireless for the Blind association for their talking News paper app."
In her citation for Brian read out at the ceremony yesterday, Talking Newspaper producer Helen Mendelson said: "I cannot begin to imagine how Brian navigates around websites and his computer with no vision.
"His knowledge, his curiosity, and most importantly his commitment to ensure that the local blind community are not left out as we make more of life screen-based, are the reason why the talking newspaper is still created and appreciated each week."
She added: "The weekly Kingston Talking Newspaper keeps visually impaired people in touch with local news and vital information from the Council.
"This has been even more important during the pandemic when the world went online, becoming more inaccessible to VIPs."
You can listen to Kingston Talking Newspaper at https://listen.talking-news.info/kingston.

Hamid's Story

I grew up in Iran with my family before moving to the UK.
My eye condition is Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) and lived with this condition my whole life. It is a big challenge for me, and despite the limitations it puts on my life, I am keen to live as normal a life as possible.
I am married with 2 children and moved to the UK 3 years ago, previously lived in Croydon before moving to Kingston in October 2018.
I am a professional sportsman and played football and goalball in a national Iranian league. I have a degree in General Physical Education and hope to go on to study a Masters in Sports Nutrition with the aim of getting involved in nutrition in sport in the future.
With help from Kingston Association for the Blind, I was able to join Kingston College to start learning English. Unfortunately, the pandemic put a stop to my studies after a year, but feel have made huge progress and really developed my English skills. I am very much looking forward to getting back to college to continue learning.
Kingston Association for the Blind helped me to apply for a technology grant from RNIB. I received money for a tablet and a recorder to help me with my studies. I have found these really useful helping me keep up to date with technology, continuing, with my studies and improving my English.
I think KAB and their volunteers are so kind and accepting of me. KAB have helped me and my family settle in well in Kingston, including organising tandem bike rides weekly with one of the volunteers. I like sports and always try to keep active. In the future, would love to get involved in more opportunities for sport, such as Goalball (a team sport designed for visually impaired athletes) or other sports."
I am looking forward to meeting face to face groups again and very grateful to KAB for their kindness help and support.

Eric and Hamid on the tandem during Kingston Car Free Day 

David's Story

I grew up in Woking with my parents.I began to lose my sight at the age of 26. Since becoming registered blind Kingston Association for the Blind (KAB) has been my frontline service for providing support on a wide spectrum of needs.I was living in Cyprus for 3 years working as a Restaurant Manager when my vision started to deteriorate. I lost my sight, my job, and my home within 6 months.I moved to the borough of Kingston upon Thames not knowing anyone except a few family members. I was initially referred by Sight & Hearing to Kingston Association for the Blind and this is the organisation that contacted me to offer support.Kingston Association for the Blind assisted me to safely manage day-to-day living. They introduced and provided me with independent living aids such as a talking watch and a white stick. They made me aware of all the services that they provided including (but not limited to) mobility training, tandem bike riding, supplying audio books and social events.They completed my Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) forms along with other important documents. They financed grants for visual aid software and a computer. I received one to one tuition which was successful in teaching me how to touch type.Losing my sight was devastating and knocked me off my feet. Everything that Kingston Association for the Blind helped me back up again. They have been an essential service in enabling me to gain my confidence and live an independent life again for which I am grateful. It would have been detrimental to my mental and physical health without them.

Des' 100th Birthday Celebrations

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Des' Story

I live in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames. In my 60’s my eyes started to deteriorate, so I made a trip to Horrocks, Optician and was given glasses to wear. I was diagnosed in the 1980’s with Wet and Dry Macular Degeneration and received treatment, including 5 injections, under the care of Royal Eye Unit at Kingston Hospital.
I found out about KAB from a mate I worked with at Bradbury Wilkinson and will always be grateful for that. I joined KAB in March 2010 and played indoor Lawn Bowls throughout 2011/12/13 and 2014. I used a pocket telescopic magnifier, which enabled me to see the jack, which helped my bowling immensely. Unfortunately in 2014 I started having problems with my hip and this sadly put an end to my bowling days.
I grew up in Kingston with 4 siblings and I went to Junior School at St Peters in Hawks Rd and Senior school at St Luke’s in Kingston. At the age of 14 I left school and worked as an Apprentice, Coach Builder in Thames Ditton for 4 years. I was pretty fit in those days and used to cycle with my mates from London to Brighton and sleep under the Pier, until we were asked politely to move on! I also, enjoyed Fishing and having a knock about playing Football.
At 18 I did my Army training in Deepcut and a Motor mechanics course in Canterbury. I used to go to the local bakers to buy doughnuts and a lovely lady, called Violet caught my eye, we started going out and eventually got engaged. Unfortunately, Violet lost her engagement ring when she was hop picking on her parents small holding. In 1940 I joined the Desert Rats 30th LAA Regiment Royal Artillery and 8th Army, under Bernard Montgomery. For four and a half years I fought in the Middle East, Egypt and Italy. When driving through Italy I saw where Mussolini was hanged but also, whilst in Italy, I was wounded with shrapnel to my back. After I’d been patched up in a Field Hospital, I went to Austria for 2 weeks recuperation. I finished my Army career delivering food parcels in Austria, until the war ended in 1946. During the war Violet was in The Land Army driving Tractors on a farm in Kent.
After the war, I returned to Dover, England in a lorry and then caught a train to London. On the train I wrapped up a parcel containing 2 pairs of stockings for Violet and her sister, marking it for Violet’s attention. As we passed through Canterbury, I threw the parcel out of the train window, as Violet was still living on the farm in Kent. To my amazement my Love token found its way to her!
In 1946 and for the next forty years, I worked for Bradbury Wilkinson, Money Printers, Raynes Park in the Engineering Department, repairing machinery and keeping the boilers operational. I bought Violet another engagement ring and later in 1946 we got married. We had 2 children and I now have 4 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren. I spent 59 very happy years with Violet, until she sadly passed away 15 years ago. We enjoyed taking the children out on long walks to Richmond and Bushy Park. We enjoyed our garden and allotment and I still enjoy my garden, watching a bit of Football and listening to Andre Rieu.
Looking back the added glare of the bright lights I worked under and focusing on the flame in the boilers at Bradbury Wilkinson, may well have caused additional strain to my eyes. I am lucky though, as I am still able to get out on my own and have a bus stop right outside my house. I often go for a walk around New Malden High Street and on a Saturday get on the bus and take myself off to Asda, Roehampton or shopping at Tolworth.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time taking part with Indoor Lawn Bowls at KAB and now I look forward to attending the fortnightly Social Eyes and Monthly Lunch Club meetings and having fun, over a good chat! I have received much help and support from KAB and I really love it as everyone is kind and friendly, I have made some nice friends, I love meeting all the different people as they come and go and think everyone at KAB is Fantastic! Des - June 2020.

Autumn Social - Saturday 12 October 2019 Photos and Feedback

JM Via Email

“A big thank you to the staff and support for the excellent social held in Chessington last Saturday.He particularly liked the food and thought the entertainment was first class.The music man had a good choice of music and the volume was just right - not too loud!!Thank you to everyone”

BA – Telephone message

“A big thank you to all of you in the office, Adrian and Bob for a wonderful time on Saturday, it was super and all your hard work is really appreciated!The only bad news is everyone enjoyed it so much that they think it should have a gathering like this twice a year.Thank you all so much, put your feet up and relax for a couple of days!”

DR – Text message Line

“Thank you so much to a great celebration today!”

IW – Telephone call

“Just wanted to let you know that I had a lovely afternoon on Saturday.  It was brilliant, thanks a million!”

G&CW – Telephone call

“Thank you and your Team for such a lovely afternoon on Saturday.  We know it takes a long time and a lot of hard work to put these events together and we really appreciate it.  The atmosphere, the music, everything was just right and the raffle was fantastic, especially as we were lucky and won the make-up brushes and Ted Baker Cosmetic Bag, which our daughter was delighted with.

Thank you all so much!”

What Our Volunteers Say

Eye Buddy - AL
"I first volunteered for KAB around the start of 2014 and met my eye buddy Mary in the Summer. To say time flies would be an understatement!I had fairly recently graduated university and started my career, but felt like it would be good to have activities outside of work, sports and the pub, and that it would be good to “give something back”.I didn’t initially know exactly what to expect, but after our first meeting it was clear we both got on very well on a personal level. Since then, I’ve moved from the area to East London but still make time to see Mary at least once every two weeks, usually at her house but occasionally at a wine tasting evening in town. It’s been great volunteering, and interesting seeing how much difference you can make with quite simple assistance, such as reading post, helping with household tasks etc. However, the best bit has definitely been to see how much Mary and I have in common despite our fairly different lives and our age gap, and out of it I’ve made a very good friend."

Lunch Club Volunteer -BH
After a lifetime of working with computers, sitting at a desk or sitting in meetings, I retired from the office job about seven years ago, and although still working a few hours each week at home I had plenty of time on my hands. I wanted to get out and meet people and also to do something useful if possible. And spend less time sitting down. A friend worked for Kingston Association for the Blind (KAB) and she suggested I come in for a chat, come to a couple of socials and see how I could help. Since then I’ve been making the tea and coffee at the monthly lunch club in New Malden, servings the drinks and some of the food, helping to tidy up, and helping in any way I can. Lately I’ve even been compiling the quiz for some of the meetings. I look forward to these meetings as one of the highlights of my month. The numbers have grown over the years and they are a great bunch of people. I’ve also been able to help at some of the other events and also a few times helping people individually. I hope that any of what I have been doing has been of some benefit to others but I know they will not have benefitted any more than I have. I’ve learned a lot and have enjoyed myself very much. And I never get a chance to sit down, long may it continue.

Eye Buddy - JJ
I have been an Eye Buddy for about thirteen years, working as a volunteer for Kingston Association for the Blind. The best way I can explain to anyone what this scheme involves is to describe some of the help it has been my pleasure to give during this time to my three "buddies", as well as some of the assistance I have given to others.
After receiving invaluable training by KAB I was asked if I could help a 90 year old gentleman who had lost his sight when in his sixties. Harry was convalescing in hospital after a serious illness, and was very worried about his financial situation as he had no close family to manage his affairs. At his request I collected his pension from the Post Office and paid it into his bank. I visited his bungalow each week, collected his mail, had a look around and checked all was secure. I visited him each week in hospital, and apart from just having a nice chat with him I read him any letters he had received, confirmed the money he had in his bank account, and after going through any bills with him wrote out a cheque for him to sign and for me to put in the post later. I do believe my weekly visits to Harry at the end of his life brought him comfort and helped him overcome his concerns with his domestic home life.
After Harry sadly died I was introduced to a gentleman in his late seventies who had also lost his sight in his sixties, soon after retiring. Although I helped him with the same sort of things Dennis was relatively fit and well and lived at home. I visited him once a week, and the one thing he really looked forward to more than anything else was to get out of his flat and go for a walk along by the river near his home. So that's what we did, whether it was sunny, windy, raining or snowing. He would love to sit by the river and always wanted me to describe to him in great detail what was going on around him - the boats which were sailing on the water, the changing colours of the leaves on the trees, and what all the passers-by were doing (and I especially always had to describe any pretty girls!!!). Again I think I provided some help in bringing colour and life and a lot of happiness in the last years of his life.
About seven years ago I was introduced to Evelyn, a lady in her seventies who very unfortunately had just lost her husband quite unexpectedly after many years of marriage. Her husband, although totally blind himself, had always taken control of their financial and domestic matters, with the result that she was left finding it extremely difficult to cope alone. I am pleased to help her, both now and in the future, in the same sort of way as I assisted both of the other two gentlemen, although I actually play a much larger part in her life. I visit her each week writing cheques, paying bills, reading letters, going shopping, accompanying her to the doctor, dentist and chiropodist, going for walks, sorting out all sorts of difficulties which require telephone calls to be made and letters to be written on her behalf, as well as carrying out any other tasks she may need assistance with around the home.
Over the years, at the request of KAB I have also visited many VIP's and given assistance in overcoming the various problems experienced by people with limited or no vision. Examples are changing batteries in radios and other portable devices, changing light bulbs, correcting the time on talking clocks and watches, programming radios, explaining where the operating buttons are on newly installed washing machines and other domestic devices.
The above describes some of the assistance I have been able to give to people, now and in the past, who have needed help from someone to overcome problems in their day to day lives. I do believe that if anyone else was asked "what do you do as an eye buddy" they would relate similar examples, and probably a lot more. In my experience the Eye Buddy scheme is invaluable to people with severe sight problems in managing their day-to-day lives.