Steve has not allowed his sight loss to prevent him from helping others for the last 20 years.


Focus have been a pair of eyes for me when I needed them, and also provided me with someone to help me socialise.

After being born with glaucoma, Steve's sight gradually deteriorated until he was left completely blind by the time his teens ended.

But the now 43-year-old, from Selly Oak, Birmingham, decided to give support to others by setting up his own business as an aromatherapist and reflexologist and then later becoming a drugs counsellor.

And, although he is currently unemployed, Steve has not stopped there by choosing to work as a volunteer for Focus Birmingham.

Steve, who began by volunteering as an advisor to other visually impaired people in 2008, also works on the Focus helpline one day a week.

And he is further repaying the help and support he received by providing computer training for people with a visual impairment using a software package from Focus.

Steve, who has an 11-year-old son from a previous relationship, as well as guide dog Uni, said: "I was partially sighted from birth due to glaucoma.

"We knew it was genetic because it had started so young, but when we looked through the family history no-one had got it.

"I had 15 per cent vision in my right eye and just 5 per cent in my left eye. That's all I had from birth.

"But then I had a detached retina in my left eye from the age of about nine. As a nine-year-old child I was always bouncing around and falling off my bike, so it could have been caused by that.

"If I remember correctly, it was found during a routine check up at the eye clinic because I hadn't really noticed anything different."

At the same time, Steve's glaucoma had gradually worsened so by the age of 14 he had virtually no vision at all.

He added: "I had loads and loads of operations over the years to try to treat the glaucoma, which didn't work, but that left loads of scar tissue and so I was in a lot of pain."

Steve decided to have both his eyes removed in 1993.

"It wasn't a difficult decision to make because the alternative was to be in constant pain every day."

Steve decided to set up his own business in 1997 as an aromatherapist, reflexologist and body masseur, based at the Custard Factory in Digbeth.

"My background was as a counsellor, so I gave up the business after a couple of years to become a drug worker with Swanswell, which provides alcohol, drug and support services."

That lasted until 2007, but Steve then became a volunteer with Focus Birmingham, initially working as an advisor at City Hospital helping people diagnosed with a visual impairment.

He added: "I got involved in community service as a client a few years earlier when I was seeking help with benefits, and that was where the contact with Focus came about."

Steve spent 18 months working on Focus Birmingham's Enterprise project, which ended in August this year, which involved him helping visually impaired people retrain for work.

And even though the project has ended, Steve is continuing to offer computer training through Focus with the help of a specially designed software package called Jaws.

"It is something that started with the Enterprise project and I am really pleased that I am able to carry it on.

"Focus have been a pair of eyes for me when I needed them, and also provided me with someone to help me socialise. But now it's the other way round and I am helping visually impaired people the same way."

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