Losing your sight at any time must be a frightening experience but to suddenly have difficulty seeing in later life presents many different challenges.

Originally from Cork in Ireland, James Deady, aged 89, has lived in Birmingham for most of his life and worked as a prototype engineer for British Leyland for over 42 years, at a time when the battle between Thatcherism and the unions raged at the Longbridge plant.

James Deady smiling

Using the skills has gained from his years in the car industry, James has always been a man with a heart for helping people, fixing cars, being a good neighbour, always looking out for others worse off than himself.

A keen golfer, James played avidly at the Kings Norton club for 30 years or more… but then, a few years ago, all this started to change.

I became blind in my left eye and had a cataracts in my right eye” said James, “it was terrible, I fell down the stairs at home, and even had a heart attack…to be honest, if felt like there was no point in carrying on

James had various visits to the doctor and vision specialists, numerous injections and operations, but things didn’t get any better, his eyes were diseased, and there was nothing that could be done
, all he could see was a mist – the future seemed very gloomy.

Then, it all started to change…

James said “I came to Focus Birmingham for a low vision assessment, I was a bit suspicious at first, but then when I met Andrew, Angela and Kerry, it was fantastic – they were so kindly, I felt so relaxed, I can’t find the words to describe how I felt”.

With the help of Kerry and the Focus team, James moved out of his old flat and into supported living at Queen Mother Gardens, where he now lives, and, in January last year, Chris Fox, one of the Focus Birmingham volunteers started to visit James every week. 

Virtually blind since birth, Chris has first-hand knowledge of the challenges faced by those with visual impairment and gets as much out of volunteering for Focus as James does by the welcome befriending and support that Chris offers.

James said “Chris is my right arm, he sorts out my mail and my finances, he encourages me, helps me to be more independent, and keeps me out of trouble! – he’s doing a marvellous job. To tell you the truth, without him and Angela, I don’t think I would be here”.  

Chris said, “Jim is always asking about how he can repay us, and I tell him we don’t charge anything - this is love and charity. Focus always give people the opportunity to do more, boat trips, meals out and even the chance to go on holiday, sometimes it’s good for Jim to step out if his comfort zone, but the choice is always his”

One things for sure, without the care and support that he gets from Focus Birmingham, life for James would have been very different,

Now, despite all the challenges, he has the opportunity to make the best of his life, to enjoy friends and new experiences, feeling supported and encouraged, and always having someone to turn to for help when he needs it.

Focus Birmingham is a charity supporting visual impaired people with Low vision services, befriending and supported living.