Priya and Sidney
Priya has dealt with constant sight loss challenges throughout her life. It began in primary school when her teachers noticed she couldn’t read the blackboard – and she was diagnosed with Retinitis pigmentosa which particularly affected her central vision. She received limited support in school and taught herself strategies to get through each day. By the time she became a teenager, Priya’s general vision had started deteriorating too. She struggled to make eye contact with people across a room, which affected her confidence.
After her daughter Lucy was born, Priya faced the next challenge of adjusting to life as a new mum with a vision impairment. She felt extremely anxious leaving the house by herself with a pram, and her increased sight loss was making it harder to safely judge distances. So, when Lucy started walking, Priya decided it was time to learn how to use a long cane. She’d spent her life up to that point trying to manage and conceal her vision impairment, and had to come to terms with her new identity of being a blind person with a cane. She says: “I think it was the hardest time for me emotionally, but I knew I had to do this for my daughter’s sake.”
Once she’d become comfortable using a cane, Priya applied for a guide dog, as she felt this would give her more freedom. “When I was partnered with my first dog, Wilf, it was love at first sight!” she fondly remembers. “I remember feeling quite nervous about the training and being able to trust a dog to guide me around safely. But I didn’t need to worry as Wilf was brilliant.”
Wilf became a much-loved member of the family and stayed with them after he retired. Priya and her current guide dog, Sidney, have been together for five years and developed a strong bond. Having a guide dog has enabled her to take on the role of managing a counselling service. They walk to work and to the park, use public transport across London, and go to yoga and dance classes. “It’s quite incredible what Sidney can do,” says Priya. “I wouldn’t go out without him as his guiding is completely essential.”