Blind man joins kiltwalk to help fund audio books

Picture; Jon Savage
Picture; Jon Savage
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A BLIND hill walker is set to undertake a mammoth charity walk to help fund a new audio library for partially-sighted people.

Ken Reid, 58, is hoping to raise enough money to expand the Royal National Institute of Blind (RNIB) audio book library beyond its current total of 30,000 titles as he prepares to take on the 26-mile mighty stride as part of the Kiltwalk event next month.

Ken, originally from Silverknowes, suffers from the degenerative condition Retinitis Pigmentosa, causing his vision to slowly deteriorate over time.

After being diagnosed with the condition in 1986, Ken became registered blind in 1991.

However, the retired RNIB volunteer revealed he was undaunted by the mighty stride and hopes to add it to his growing list of successful challenges.

He said: “I didn’t start really pushing myself until long after I was registered blind, I didn’t run my first marathon until 2009, but I’ve done two others since then. I cycle and swim as well and me and Hilde are always up walking in the hills, obviously I need a guide though, but there’s usually no shortage of volunteers.

“It’s just something that gives me that rush, that kind of adrenaline that goes along with the challenge, it’s something that I love. If it does go along with raising money for something I’m passionate about, that’s even better.”

Ken is unable to walk or run without a guide and will be joined by partner Hilde for the mighty stride on September 17, with the pair gearing up for a trip to Austria for some training before the event. The couple will also be accompanied by fellow RNIB volunteers as part of an 18-strong team taking on various distances on the day.

Recent RNIB figures show as many as 2.2 million people live with sight loss or partial sightedness across the UK, with a further 50 per cent at risk of developing issues with their vision in the future.

Kiltwalk participants have raised more than £4.8 million for Scottish charitable causes since the event began in 2011 and Ken wants to add to that total by raising £2,500 to help expand a vital “talking book” service that allows RNIB members the chance to “read” the latest literature.

He said: “Retinitis Pigmentosa basically means I can only distinguish light and dark shades and even then it’s difficult, I can’t see faces, can’t see the television screen, I can’t read anything. It does make things difficult, especially as it’s a degenerative condition, so it’ll get worse as time goes on.”

“I think there’s something like 40,000 listeners who use the talking book service, but only 30,000 titles, so there’s not even one for every user. My ambition is to take that total up, I want it to be as big as most major bookstores so that everyone can have that variety.

“Obviously me doing the mighty stride isn’t going to fund that by itself, but every little helps and hopefully it inspires a few others to do the same.”

newsen@dinburghnews.com