A blind veteran from Crawley has been skiing and snowboarding in Canazei, Italy, with other vision-impaired Armed Forces veterans thanks to national military charity Blind Veterans UK.
Lloyd Hanslow, 41, skied in the Dolomites mountain range with 24 other vision-impaired skiers as part of the charity’s 41st annual ski trip.
Lloyd said: “I used to teach skiing and snowboarding so it was great to get back into it. But being with other veterans took me right back to my time in the Army.
“My vision becomes even worse in low light so the biggest challenge for me and the other vision-impaired guys was when the sun started to go down at around 3pm. But we managed it with the guides’ support!”
Lloyd joined the Army just after he left school in 1992 and served in the Royal Engineers. Initially he worked as a welder, but later became an outdoor activities instructor, teaching kayaking, canoeing, skiing and snowboarding.
He added: “I worked with other soldiers in the gym, taking them for runs and organising other outdoor activities. I miss being out and about because it was a really enjoyable job.”
Lloyd was eventually discharged from the Army after 12 years when he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
It was years later, in 2016, that Lloyd lost his sight suddenly due to a severe optic neuritis, an inflammation of the optic nerve.
This disease can cause some problems with vision in the short term, but it usually gets better gradually. Sadly this wasn’t the case for Lloyd, who only recovered 15 per cent of his vision in one eye.
Lloyd said: “At first I was calm, because I was sure that everything could be fixed. But when I went to the hospital the doctors told me that there was nothing they could do and that my sight would not be coming back. I felt disbelief, and was convinced that they must be wrong.”
Lloyd started to receive support from Blind Veterans UK in 2017 after searching for support networks on the internet. Since then he has being given equipment and IT training to help him maintain his independence and enjoying the camaraderie of meeting other blind veterans.
He said: “The software and IT training provided by the charity has really helped me in my current job as a data researcher. Blind Veterans UK has given me the opportunity to go back to a lot of the activities I used to enjoy before I lost my sight, like skiing! I can’t wait for next year’s trip!”
Blind Veterans UK is the national charity for blind and vision-impaired ex-Service men and women, providing vital practical and emotional support to help veterans discover life beyond sight loss.
The charity is reaching out to the estimated 899 vision-impaired ex-Service men and women in West Sussex county battling severe sight loss who could be eligible for support but don’t currently realise it. Most of these veterans completed their service many years ago, and have since lost their sight due to conditions such as macular degeneration or glaucoma.
If you, or someone you know, served in the Armed Forces or did National Service and is now battling severe sight loss, find out how Blind Veterans UK could help by calling 0800 389 7979 or visiting blindveterans.org.uk.