29 June 2011
My name is Duncan Rothery. I have just started a course at RNIB College Loughborough because I have recently been diagnosed with a degenerative eye condition known as Macular Degeneration. At present I am completely blind in my left eye and my right eye is beginning to fade. I have come to the College to learn as much as I possible can to help me get back into work and keep my independence.
The day the Doctor told me that I would eventually lose my sight was one of the worst moments of my life. There was the initial shock of it but then I started to worry about how I could continue to support my family. For the past 25 years I have worked as an international lorry driver, but obviously as my sight began to worsen my driving license was taken away. To this day I firmly believe that one of the best phone calls I ever made was to Action for Blind. They gave me lots of advice and helped me to contact my Disability Employment Advisor. She was the person who told me about RNIB College Loughborough.
The application process began with an assessment where I came to the College for a day to meet with the tutors. I have to admit that I was very nervous, I can get quite anxious around strangers but in very short space of time the staff had made me feel so welcome. I was accepted on a course for the Adult Employment Programme and was able to start just 3 weeks later.
Initially, leaving home was a bit of a struggle. I live a long way away and so can only travel back once a month. I miss my wife and kids a lot but I know that this is something I have to do. Whilst at the College I live in the Halls of Residence. I think that living on my own can be a good thing because it means that I have the time to dedicate to my studies.
My first week was mainly spent settling in, meeting lots of people and getting used to my timetable. The course is quite intense as its 9.00 till 5.00 Monday to Friday. My timetable is made up of 5 main areas. These include Braille, ICT, Mobility, Work Experience, Job club, and Independent Living Skills. By the end of my first week I knew I had made the right decision coming here.
I feel I have come a very long way in a very short space of time. In my IT lessons I have already completed a touch typing course and learnt how to use keyboard short cuts to navigate around the screen without a mouse. My tutor is extremely patient and helpful; he is able to tailor everything to the individual, which makes the course very personal. I have also been improving my JAWs skills and am now working towards a ClAiT Qualification.
I go out once a week into the local area with a tutor who helps me with mobility. There are lots of things you need to know about getting around outside such as tactile paving and revolving cones at pedestrian crossings. All these things are helping me to get around independently which is a huge part of why I am here. I spend one morning a week learning independent living skills which includes learning how to cook. I find all these things very important and I feel more confident already.
The thing that I am most proud of so far is that I have managed to learn 7 letters in Braille and I am beginning to use those letters to make words and short sentences. Before coming here a month ago Braille meant nothing to me, I thought it would be too hard to learn in such a short space of time. Now it’s so exciting and I can’t wait to learn more.
One day a week is spent in the College Office. This is a learning environment that uses the colleges’ real office as a place for me to practice some of the skills I have learnt in my sessions. For example the morning might include sending internal emails, which involves Jaws and practicing using the keyboard. The days in the college office are so busy but really interesting.
As I mentioned I have spent my last 25 years working as a lorry driver. As this is no longer an option I have been attending weekly sessions of Job Club. In these sessions we have support in researching possible jobs, help with CV building, Mock interviews with valuable feed back, industry speakers and site visits. The sessions are designed to help me decide which direction I want to go in. At the moment I am thinking about using the transferable skills I’ve gained in the transport industry to go into logistics however whilst I’m learning all these new things I am very open minded and might even try something completely new. You’ll have to watch this space.
The thought of coming back into a learning environment was hard but I honestly feel that over the last month I’ve learnt so much and made lasting friendships. This course is preparing me for the total loss of my sight and so I am eager to learn as much as I can while I’m here. The tutors have been a real inspiration to me. My Braille teacher and Jaws teacher are both blind themselves and they are proof that you can go on to achieve great things after sight loss. Its good to be around people that can support you and really understand what you’re going through, both staff and peers.
To find out more about the adult employment programme please click here http://bit.ly/ezjf1U