Four years ago Brian woke up with the sight in his right eye completely gone. Just blackness remained and he only has 20% vision in his left eye.
He said it was life-changing, especially as he used to run a small chauffeuring firm and hoped to go on driving clients until he was in his 80s.
At first he was reluctant to join social groups and he missed reading the 2,000 plus books he used to enjoy for relaxation.
Now he’s 74, Brian’s wife does all the driving but as she still works he has to do things in the home. He says his confidence has grown over time and he’s now a member of three different clubs.
Brian, from Llanelli, has a Concerto 2 set and says he uses it every day and loves listening to music and the local talking newspaper on CD.
“This is my first set from British Wireless – it’s just lovely,” he said.
“I’m very pleased with it. The yellow buttons are fantastic – you can see them against the black background.
“It’s a very good machine, with good sound quality.
“The other good thing about having my own radio is that nobody comes and changes the pre-sets.”
Jennifer has been supported by British Wireless for almost 40 years and has had many different radios from us during that time as technology has changed.
She currently has one of our Concerto 2 multimedia radios and a Sonata Plus+ internet player.
The 64-year-old said: “The radios are brilliant.
“They are easy to use and the Sonata is nice and light to move around.
“It’s lovely – I just switch it on in the morning and there you go.”
Jennifer likes to listen to Absolute 60s and 70s as that’s her era – when she was a teenager.
She says it’s great to be able to phone up British Wireless and get stations added to her radio, a really quick and easy process.
Jennifer, who lives in Carlisle in Cumbria, is often involved in testing different technology for blind groups and has a wealth of adapted equipment at home.
She says she often meets people who are wary of the things on offer, but she feels it’s important to embrace things which can make your daily life easier.
“I’ve got all sorts of things – a talking laptop, talking timer, talking microwaves and talking scales – you find a way of doing things.
“It makes life so much easier and I’m a great believer in trying to be as independent and normal as a normal person is because at the end of the day I just want to get on and enjoy life.
“The radios help my independence – you can talk about things you’ve heard on the radio.
“If it wasn’t for that you wouldn’t be talking about those things.”
Ron Alexander considers himself ‘one of the lucky ones’ as he lost his sight later in life and was able to work, drive and raise a family before it happened.
His eyesight deteriorated gradually due to macular degeneration and a detached retina and around four years ago he was left with just peripheral vision.
The 64-year-old used to enjoy many hobbies, including cycling, fishing, walking, reading and gardening.
“I did an awful lot of stuff,” he said,
“You don’t realise how much you do until you can’t do it anymore.
“I had to stop driving obviously – but it was cycling that really got me. That was the thing that hit me hard.”
Ron, who lives in Moreton, Merseyside, with his wife, then discovered Henshaws in Liverpool – a charity which runs a resource centre for people with sight loss and other disabilities.
There he got lots of support, met other visually impaired people and was made aware of British Wireless for the Blind Fund, which provided him with a Concerto 2 radio.
As someone with a huge collection of books, Ron was keen to find other ways to enjoy them and has found his set great for listening to talking books.
“I have found my radio invaluable since I got it,” he said.
“I listen to lots of the BBC stations because you don’t get the adverts and I listen to the local radio every day as they have a phone in.”
Everton fan Ron also enjoys listening to football, particularly on Talk Sport where he can get updates from all the matches which are being played.
Ron says the most important thing about his radio is that he feels it has given him his independence back.
He says: “Once I’ve tuned in all my channels, I know which is which and I can do it without having to ask anybody which is very important.
“I would have had to wait until somebody was able to give me assistance but I can do it on my own without having to ask anyone else.
“It’s portable – I can take it around with me so if my wife is going out somewhere I can go and sit in the garden and listen. It feels like it’s part of my independence.”
Ron says he also likes the bright yellow colour of the controls, which have been very important, and the USB function, which he says is a relatively new discovery for him.
Having several talking books all in one place has been really useful for him as it makes things a lot less complicated.
Ron says while he knows some people think it’s old-fashioned having cassettes and CDs, he says he’s found from his own and many other people’s experience that they have thousands of tapes so it’s vital they have a way to play them.
“A lot of people I know don’t watch TV – they listen to the radio,” he said.
“I think as I get older as well I will probably listen to the radio a lot more. Music becomes much more important.
“I live with my wife but an awful lot of people I come across live alone so the radio is company for them. If they didn’t have that they wouldn’t hear a voice every day.
“It’s really important because radio becomes your friend.
“Since I got this system it’s been absolutely brilliant – I don’t know what I would do without it.”
Linda Fitchett has been supported by British Wireless for the Blind Fund for more than 40 years and currently has one of our Concerto 2 sets.
The 61-year-old was born with a condition called microphthalmia, which means her eyes didn’t develop correctly.
Linda had a small amount of vision in her left eye until she was in her 30s but then she contracted glaucoma which left her with no vision at all.
She said: “I’ve lived with no vision for 20 years, so it’s part of my life.”
Linda, from Rainham, Kent, works part-time as a teaching assistant in a secondary school, supporting visually impaired students by teaching Braille and basic computer skills.
She got her first radio from BWBF in 1972.
“It was a red and brown one and I thought it was absolutely brilliant,” she says.
“I have always had BWBF radios and I know they’ve changed with the different technology.
“They are good quality. My Concerto has a CD player which I still use, despite the fact I have an iPod and there’s even a tape deck which can be useful if you need to record something.
“I think BWBF is a really important charity. I’ve used the radios for many, many years and it’s definitely worthwhile.
“Radio is absolutely essential, especially for someone who might be housebound and can’t see the TV.”
Although Keith Clancy cannot see – he doesn’t feel like he’s blind. He says he feels like someone with a permanent headache.
The 48-year-old has no sight, but has constant flashing lights behind his eyes.
Keith has an eye disease called CRB1, which means he lost his vision gradually before going completely blind around eight years ago.
He went to a mixed boarding school for partially sighted people before joining a college for blind people at 18.
This was something he struggled with, having not been around people without sight before.
“It was different for me as I had never met anyone who was blind, just partially sighted,” he said.
“That was a difficult step for me – a sort of painful realisation.”
But he overcame the struggle and his visual impairment has not stopped him living an exciting and varied life – he’s lived in Sri Lanka, Cannes and Cyprus to name a few and regularly visits his Italian fiancée in Burma.
Now, he’s based in Earls Court, London, where he’s a director of a housing association and involved with several charities.
He has one of BWBF’s internet radios, the Sonata plus+, and as someone who has never been interested in television – his set is extremely important to him.
“I’m a terrible snob so I hated TV from being a young kid,” he said.
“I threw my TV away when I was 17 and haven’t had one since – nothing to do with having bad eyesight I just couldn’t stand watching trash.
“I was always looking for ways of using my brain. I became really interested in BBC Radio 3 and 4 and the World Service, which was only on shortwave which I didn’t have.”
Keith was told by a friend they had been given a radio by British Wireless which they could listen to the World Service on, so he made inquiries and was accepted to receive a set.
His radio is a really important tool for him, one which he says he uses constantly throughout the day.
He says: “When radio became internet that was really interesting for me – the new Sonata has a much more powerful wireless connection which allows me to use it in any room in my home.
“It boosts up very quickly and the remote control is slick and fast.
“I’ve got a massive interest in world affairs, especially having lived in Sri Lanka, so it’s great for me to listen to radio stations I used to listen to there and from anywhere in the world – having it is a treasure.
“I can have easy access to radio stations all over the planet in a very accessible way and the other thing which is absolutely brilliant is all the podcasts – I can flick through all of them much more rapidly than using a laptop.
“I’m constantly educating myself – it’s extremely useful.”
Behzad lost his eyesight after suffering a stroke when he was in a car accident 30 years ago.
He lost consciousness when his vehicle crashed into a lorry and went under the wheels. When he came round, he couldn’t see.
Behzad, who lives in Gwent, has been supported by British Wireless since 2013 and currently has one of our Sonata Plus+ internet radios, which he says gives him company and tranquillity.
The 65-year-old says he finds daily life hard as he’s confined to the house but having easy access to his radio makes a real difference.
He enjoys listening to Classic FM, Radio 4 and Radio 3 and also takes advantage of the many podcasts which the player can access.
Behzad says he has a job to sleep sometimes so he listens to his set at night as well and finds it very easy to use.
“I was working as a mechanic when I lost my sight,” he says.
“It was very difficult and scary. I lost something very precious and you can’t get over it – but you cope with it.
“The radio makes a lot of difference – I’m constantly listening to it and it passes the time and I don’t think about anything else. I just listen to the radio and concentrate on that.
“It won’t replace my eyesight but it has helped.”
Blind DJ Paul and his mum Barbara both received a Sonata plus+ set from BWBF and say it has made a real difference to them.
Paul and Barbara Johnson, from Swansea, were given the radios thanks to the grant we got from the Freemasons’ Grand Charity.
Paul, 39, has been completely blind since birth and presents the Weekday Live show on Radio Tircoed.
He says he felt like he’d won the lottery when he was given his set.
“I’ve always had an interest in radio and music,” he said.
“I got into hospital radio first and then went onto community radio.
“The Sonata has been very good and has made a real difference – it means I don’t have to leave the computer on overnight and can listen to the radio in bed.”
The radios have a text to speech engine, which means they can read web pages to the user as well as allowing them to access audio books, talking newspapers, podcasts and a wealth of internet radio stations.
Barbara says she was “lost for words” as it’s so wonderful to be able to listen to her son presenting his show, and joked that she’s always telling him he talks too quickly when he’s on the radio.
She said: “I never thought I would go back to listening to the radio – I used to just listen to the television but I’m really enjoying it.”
John Baines and his wife Janet have been supported by British Wireless since the 1970s and say our radios can help combat the loneliness which sight loss can cause.
They have both got retinitis pigmentosa and John also has glaucoma – meaning they are both totally blind.
The couple, from Sidcup, have one of our Sonata Plus+ internet radios.
John says that while he does sometimes struggle to accept that he’s lost his sight, he just tries to get on with life because he knows there’s nothing he can do.
The pair do go away on holiday and get out and about with their two guide dogs but they also enjoy the time spent at home listening to their radio.
The Sonata gives the user access to thousands of stations, podcasts, talking newspapers and magazines and it can also read out audio content from websites.
John, 72, said: “You can be really lonely at times, there’s no doubt about that – it goes with sight loss.
“And you get bored at times too but the radios have been brilliant.
“I’ve always got something to listen to. You can always listen to a book or the radio and I have always loved music. A radio gives you that choice.
“A radio has got many roles – it can make you feel a bit less lonely.”
John says he and Janet often listen to their set together, and if they do it’s usually to the sport so they are really enjoying the internet radio as it’s opened up even more sport for them.
They can tune into the live streams for cricket and have a wealth of sports news, results and league tables at their fingertips.
“We have always listened to the same sort of stuff together,” he added. “It’s one of the nice thing to do.”
Dawn is a well-known blind artist and says her BWBF radio keeps her company while she’s painting.
Despite having no sight at all in one of her eyes and no peripheral vision in the other, she creates beautiful pieces of artwork.
She taught herself to paint and uses a magnifier which enables her to see things when she’s painting in ‘10p size at a time’.
Dawn also uses a monocular which she says helps her see and through this, she’s got to know how the world around her looks.
Her paintings, which can take her years to perfect, have been sold around the world and she gives talks and runs workshops to inspire other blind people to take up art.
Dawn was born blind in her right eye and has no peripheral vision in either.
“Everybody that can see doesn’t realise how beautiful the world is,” she says.
“When you start painting then you begin to see the world. You get to know it.
“The grass is so green and some fields are golden – it’s stunning. Absolutely beautiful. We are very lucky.”
Dawn says she does have to make some of what she’s painting up, and she does often go wrong, but she enjoys the challenge.
While she’s in her studio painting Dawn, who lives in Dover, says she enjoys listening to talking books on her Concerto 2.
It is British Wireless’s most popular set and is a multimedia player which includes CD, cassette tape and memory stick functions.
She said: “When you have got a radio and books to listen to it makes a big difference to your life.
“I don’t go out very much and I enjoy listening to the talking books.
“My radio is very good – I like the yellow buttons as they are tactile and it’s easy to use.
“It means I can listen and it’s so crisp and clear. When you put a talking book on it’s like someone is in the room with you.
“When I’m stuck in the studio and all on my own I put one of my books on, I have got a collection, or I listen to the radio and that’s very good.”
Dawn says she’s glad her paintings have inspired other people who have lost their sight.
During the days which followed him losing his sight, Paul King relied on his BWBF set to get him through the darkness.
In fact, he says it helped him so much, he believes it saved his life.
The 57-year-old has had a prosthetic eye since the age of three and lost his vision permanently eight years ago after suffering a detached retina.
Six years ago, he was given a Sonata internet radio by British Wireless which was recently replaced with one of our newer Sonata Plus+ models.
He says: “When I got the first Sonata it was wonderful.
“I got links to my religious programmes and I had my science podcasts that I thought I wouldn’t hear again and local radio stations – it was tremendous.
“I couldn’t use anything – I couldn’t use a phone and there weren’t iPads back then.
“It really did help me through those dark days when I first lost my sight.
“Looking back now I was in a world of darkness – it was totally alien and I would jump at every noise – but as soon as I had the radio it calmed me down.
“It’s really good – it was a lifesaver. It really did save my life.”
Paul, who lives in Heswall in the Wirrall, said he has his radio on every day now and it even helps him find his way around – if he gets disorientated he can work out where he is from the sound of the set.
He uses it for talking books and he says the vast amount of services available on the Sonata Plus+ is fantastic.
“It’s an excellent piece of equipment and very easy to use. I would recommend it to everyone.
“BWBF were so good – I can’t praise them highly enough.”