Real Lives: Ken takes charge to set the standard for blind

KEN Reid, a retired facilities manager with Scottish and Newcastle, has been appointed chair of the Royal National Institute of Blind People Scotland (RNIB), the country’s leading sight-loss charity.

Mr Reid, 52, from North Berwick, has been registered blind since the age of 30.

Although he grew up and was educated in Edinburgh as a fully-sighted person, Mr Reid started to realise his vision was not normal in his early 20s and was diagnosed with the condition Retinitis Pigmentosa in 1986.

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A rapid deterioration in his sight led to him being registered blind in 1990.

Three months before he was diagnosed, Mr Reid joined the brewing giant Scottish & Newcastle, where he worked in a variety of roles in distribution, marketing and human resources, before finishing up as facilities manager at its head office in Edinburgh.

He accepted medical retirement in 2008.

“Scottish & Newcastle took a very forward-looking approach,” he said. “They said right from the start that it was my abilities they needed, and any disability was irrelevant.

“They were extremely supportive in sourcing suitable access technology to keep me productive, and in agreeing to job changes as some functions became increasingly difficult.”

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Since retirement, he has advised companies and other organisations on how to be more open and accessible to people with disabilities, particularly sight loss.

This includes reviewing websites, making online and standard documentation accessible, the built environment and management practices.

Before becoming chair, Mr Reid had interacted with RNIB Scotland at various times but only joined in 2008.

“My first involvement was as a public speaker on fundraising, and I also rattled a can outside supermarkets,” he recalls. “I later became an elected Scottish representative of the charity’s UK members’ forum, and I also volunteered as an event facilitator.”

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Mr Reid has always believed that the best way of making the sighted world understand that people with sight loss are capable of doing things is just to get out there and do it.

And as he prepared to take on the role of chairman, Mr Reid said he hoped to improve the service RNIB offers to people in Scotland.

“My aim as chair is to listen to blind and partially sighted people in Scotland, increase awareness of RNIB Scotland as a membership organisation, and ensure that the interests of members are reflected in the activities of the organisation,” he said.

“I need to take on board the views of members, and non-members, and build partnerships with other organisations for blind and partially sighted people.

“I also will aim to develop links with organisations for other sensory impairments such as hearing loss to create a common platform and voice.”