“Ever since I was diagnosed with cone-rod dystrophy at the age of 19, my future always felt uncertain. The only thing I could count on was that my vision was going to deteriorate and it would affect pretty much every aspect of my life.

When you are growing up, you have some aspirations for where your life will go. Maybe you think about passing your driving test, building a career, buying a house, getting married… well at least that was what I was thinking of.

Unfortunately, my perceptions on vision impairment and the subsequent mental health issues made all my dreams feel like they would stay as dreams. I used to think ‘who would want to marry someone who can’t see, drive or read?’. This put a lot of my development on pause as I didn’t know what I know now, which is that despite being vision impaired you can still live a full and satisfying life.

As I have been working on building my career, getting engaged to the love of my life and buying a house I found that my skill set had some holes in it that left some unknowns like ‘how will I read to my children?’ and ‘how will I read my hymns and vows at my wedding?’

Technology can do so much, but I am yet to find out how it can be as good as reading out loud in my own voice and style. I don’t want my kids bedtime stories to be read by someone else or a robotic voice and I don’t want to need to stand next to a giant electronic magnifier when getting hitched.

So as soon as some time freed up in my diary due to the COVID-19 lockdown, I decided to learn to read braille so that I could develop a skill that will help me to realise my dreams in a way that I can control.

Using the RNIB fingerprints course and the UEB online course I invested a lot of time and effort in learning to read braille and it has really paid off. It has been so rewarding and it is really nice to fall asleep whilst reading and not find that the book has continued going on without me like an audiobook.

This new skill will help me to read confidently when I want to present something and it is helping in my career. It will help those old dream to come true.

And as for driving… I’m sure I can work something out someday.”

Photograph taken by Jonathan Self.

Nathan is 31 and from  Oxford. He is a brilliant LOOK Mentor, (currently helping run the LOOK Parent Braille Club) a client advice officer at the Oxfordshire Association for the Blind, and the founder of Blind Ice Hockey UK. Nathan started learning braille during Covid19 and has completed grade 2. ‘I am still building my skills but am very passionate about braille and integrating it into my daily life. I can read by touch and by sight when heavily magnified.’