Blind Paralympic torch bearer visits store with top guide dog Brunel

The team from Ickle Pickles set off from Queen Alexandra Hospital for the 20-mile sponsored walk around Portsmouth

Picture: Steve Reid/Blitz Photography

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THE inspirational legacy of the Paralympic Games was on show as a blind torch bearer met shoppers yesterday.

Tom McInulty was with his guide dog Brunel at Sainsbury’s in Broadcut, Fareham raising awareness of macular degeneration.

Paralympic torch bearer Tom McInulty with his guide dog Brunel, who were raising awareness at Sainsbury's''Picture: Sarah Standing (132076-4439)

Paralympic torch bearer Tom McInulty with his guide dog Brunel, who were raising awareness at Sainsbury's''Picture: Sarah Standing (132076-4439)

Youngsters got the chance to meet Tom and his six-year-old Labrador retriever, who won Outstanding Work Guide Dog Award of 2012, while he spoke about how to cope with the condition.

The disease damages central vision, with sufferers losing detail such as recognising faces, leaving peripheral vision, so people can still see shapes.

But Tom, who carried the torch in its final leg into Stratford Park, is living proof that people with visual impairments can be successful.

He said: ‘It encourages people and it lets people see that a disability can become an ability. I’m far more qualified than I ever was when I could see.

‘When I lost my sight at 31, I had to re-train.’

Tom does not have macular degeneration – he lost his sight after an illness.

But he was at the store yesterday supporting the Fareham branch of the Macular Society, which holds support groups for people with the condition.

He added the branches across the area help people come to terms with their loss of sight.

‘Once you get over that initial hurdle, you know you can move on,’ he said.

‘There are lots of things people can still do, they just need to realise that.

‘You need to give people little tips on how to get about safely and how to cook safely using peripheral vision.’

The Fareham group meets at the United Reformed Church in Osborn Road, on the second Monday of each month at 1pm to 3pm.

Voluntary group leader David Kett said there are more than 500,000 people living with the condition in the UK.

He said in Fareham there could be around 4,500 people with sight loss and nearly 1,500 with severe macular degeneration.

He said: ‘It’s on how to live with the disease, particularly as people tend to be elderly. It is the most common form of sight loss in this country and it is predominantly but not solely an illness of the old.’

For more information, see macularsociety.org

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