Blind veteran turns Santa’s little helper

Ted Heasman of Shoreham is blind and makes toy cars SUS-151126-101648001
Ted Heasman of Shoreham is blind and makes toy cars SUS-151126-101648001

A BLIND veteran from Shoreham has become Santa’s elf and hand crafted wooden gifts for this festive season.

Ted Heasman, 90, has made 49 wooden racing cars since he joined Blind Veterans UK.

The fiftieth he plans to paint green. He said: “My sister wants that one.”

Ted was a window cleaner before he retired, but always enjoyed woodturning at home. Then 12 years ago, he began to lose his sight due to dry age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in older people.

Ted said: “When my sight went, I sold my lathe and I had to give up driving too. I used to cycle with my brother-in-law, and then I had to give that up. My wife and I had to travel on buses.”

Ted was a radar operator in the Royal Navy during World War Two. For the first six months of his service, he was on the Isle of Man and then, in Christmas 1943, his ship set sail for Asia where he spent two years on several vessels – sailing along the coast of Burma, in the Bay of Bengal, and to Sri Lanka. He also went to South Africa.

Since he contacted Blind Veterans UK in 2012, Ted has received help and support including a Merlin Low Vision Magnifier that he uses to view the old photos he collects.

A big part of the support Ted receives comes from the two days a week he spends at the arts and crafts workshop at the Blind Veterans UK Brighton Centre.

He said: “Just coming here is amazing. The comradeship is like the Navy.”

Handmade wooden birdboxes and racing cars are among the Christmas handicrafts now available to buy on the Blind Veterans UK website. Many of these beautiful gifts are coloured red, white and blue to celebrate the charity’s 100 year anniversary.

Blind Veterans UK (formerly St Dunstan’s) was founded in 1915 and the charity’s initial purpose was to help and support soldiers blinded in World War One.

The organisation has gone on to support more than 35,000 blind veterans and their families, spanning World War Two to recent conflicts.

For 100 years, the charity has been providing vital free training, rehabilitation, equipment and emotional support to blind and vision impaired veterans no matter when they served.

Visit www.blindveterans.org.uk to learn more.