Fraser and guide dog Mabel
Players of People's Postcode Lottery have provided accessible technology charity cofounder, Fraser, the gift of independence for Christmas through the lifetime funding of guide dog Mabel.
Husband and father of two, Fraser, 38, grew up in Motherwell, Scotland and worked as a postman. He began to lose his sight in his late teens but, struggling to face the inevitable, chose to ignore it as best he could. By his mid-twenties, however, his sight took a drastic turn for the worst.
Fraser was first diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy. He is completely blind in his left eye but has a small amount of central vision in his right eye that enables him to see shapes but no detail. He describes his vision as 'looking through a steamy mirror in the bathroom'. This had a profound impact on his confidence and independence and for about two years, he rarely left the house. Eventually, not wanting to be defined by his condition, Fraser decided to seek help. He said, "Everyone goes through a period in their sight loss journey where they need to get it right in their head first before they can take steps to overcome it."
The catalyst to supporting others with sight loss
Before long, Fraser was not just getting support from various charitable organisations, he was also getting involved and volunteering himself. One day his braille teacher introduced Fraser to an accessible smartphone app, which marked the first step of his journey into accessible technology. It was also about this time that his habilitation officer put him in touch with Guide Dogs.
Mercer was Fraser's first guide dog and was the catalyst to enabling him to set up and run his own charity, Triple Tap Tech. With Mercer by his side, Fraser was better able to get out and about independently, visiting the organisations he was involved with to train others to use accessible technology. By 2018, Fraser had branched out with his business partner, Graham, who is also a guide dog owner. Together, they support as many people as possible with sight loss to navigate the digital world, which involves seeing people in different places, locations and environments. Having Mercer meant it was easier for Fraser to provide other vision-impaired people with the personal support they needed.
Mabel - a Christmas gift of independence
Unfortunately, after many years of a successful partnership and faithful companionship, Mercer passed away during the Covid-19 lockdown. Fraser also had the difficult challenge of adapting his business to continue supporting those people less familiar with technology on how to use it virtually! With restrictions easing and the office back open, Fraser has once again been providing in-person support. But it's been more challenging without the help of a guide dog.
However, thanks to the players of People's Postcode Lottery who are supporting the lifetime of a litter of guide dog puppies, one of those dogs, Mabel, is now Fraser's new qualified partner! And, just in time for Christmas!
The last few weeks have been a whirlwind for Fraser and Mabel. Their partnership has developed in leaps and bounds as they built up trust and confidence together. Fraser described the difference between having a long cane and Mabel as being night and day. He said, "Using a cane was a lot more challenging as you have to concentrate a lot more. So you are less inclined to go out. With Mabel, she takes over and just helps to guide me where I need to go."
About Mabel and the training, he continued, "I couldn't ask for a better dog than Mabel. The team training her has been phenomenal, especially since Covid impacted her training. It's hard to believe how quickly our partnership has come together."
Now that Fraser and Mabel are a qualified guide dog partnership, his ambition is to make Triple Tap Tech even more successful. He's even been nominated for the Entrepreneur of Excellence award at the National Diversity Awards in 2022. Most of all, Fraser is looking forward to Mabel helping him support other vision impaired people to achieve their own independence.
Fraser said, "I'm so grateful to the players of People's Postcode Lottery for funding Mabel. The difference a guide dog makes is so important, not just in terms of mobility. They support mental wellbeing through companionship and company, as well as helping people get out to socialise and work. A guide dog is not just a working animal, they bring the full support net around, which has life-changing benefits to people. Qualifying with Mabel just before Christmas is the best present I could receive."