When were you diagnosed with RP? 

I was diagnosed when I was 14 – 36 years ago.  My mother noticed that I was bumping into furniture and other things, and so we visited the ophthalmologist.  We were living in Fiji at the time, and they diagnosed me with peripheral vision loss as well as problems with night vision.  However, it wasn’t until we moved to Australia that I received the diagnosis of retinitis pigmentosa (RP). 

Can you talk about your journey and how you have coped living with RP over the years? 

The diagnosis was really difficult – dealing with the possibility of going blind later in life was very hard.  So far I have been lucky and I still have some sight. 

Because I was bumping into people and things all the time, it was very difficult when I was out and about – people would abuse me and shout obscenities at me.  Being vision impaired is not apparent in the same way as having an arm or leg missing would be, so people didn’t realise why I was the way I was. 

Getting a cane about 10-12 years ago was a real help to me.  Initially I was hesitant and embarrassed to have it, but now it is just second nature to me to use it.  It helps me get around without bumping into things and people, but more importantly it has helped to alert people to the fact that I have this vision impairment, and things have improved markedly.   

I went to Guide Dogs Queensland to get the cane, and I received a couple of hours of training at the time which was really helpful.  They took me to a shopping centre and helped me learn how to use the cane around the shops and going up and down the stairs etc. 

What would you say has been the biggest challenge you have faced? 

The biggest challenge for me was when I had to give up driving back in 2000.  Driving was something I really enjoyed, and losing that independence was a big change in my life, as I had to learn to rely on others – family members and public transport – to get around.  I am lucky to have my wife and sons who are happy to help me with this.