AN 84-YEAR-OLD man has told how problems accessing help and support as his sight deteriorated left him “feeling really quite down and isolated”.

John Howat started to struggle with his vision about four years ago.

When noticing that his sight was deteriorating, especially at night, he made an appointment with an optician to find out what was happening.

The former farmer and plant operator at Torness Power Station was told he had macular degeneration – a vision impairment resulting from the deterioration of the central part of the retina – and that he needed to make an appointment with the eye clinic in Livingston.

John, who lives in Haddington with his wife Tricia, was told that he had to give up driving and, with that, a lot of his independence.

He said: “It was a huge shock when I was diagnosed with macular degeneration.

“I suddenly had to give up driving and I felt really quite down and isolated.

“I wasn’t sure who to turn to, or who to ask for help. I was just so lucky I had my wife Tricia to help me.

“It all seemed to happen so quickly: I was having anxiety attacks and didn’t want to leave the house.

“You expect when you get a diagnosis of sight loss that all the help would be in place and everything would run smoothly, but this just wasn’t the case.

“It was all very distressing.”

'I just wanted to give up'

Unfortunately, John then had to wait more than six months for his appointment, which effectively meant his life was put on pause.

After being seen, he then had to wait another six months to receive his CVI certificate, which provides medical evidence of sight loss, after a mix-up over which council area he lived in.

John said: “It was difficult for my wife as well. We used to drive through to look after our grandchildren in Linlithgow every week, but all that had to suddenly stop as Tricia does not drive.

“I felt like I just wanted to give up.

“After my appointment at St John’s, things got even more frustrating.

“I got my official diagnosis and signed the form and was told my CVI certificate would now be sent to my local council, but I waited and waited, and nothing came.”

A CVI certificate enables people to apply for travel passes, taxi vouchers or benefits.

It gives people a way of accessing services which can help them live as independently as possible with sight loss.

Father-of-two John was full of praise for charity Sight Scotland and its assistance.

He said: “I desperately needed help and they did everything they could for me.

“I really don’t know where I would be right now if we hadn’t called the helpline.”

Colin Hilditch, head of community services, Sight Scotland, urged people with visual impairments to get in touch.

He said: “We were happy to help John in any way we could. Getting a sight loss diagnosis is hard enough without the worry that he and his wife had to go through.

“Getting a CVI certificate should be a simple process, but this is not the first time we have heard of hold-ups which cause great distress.”

Sight Scotland has launched its new ‘More Than Meets The Eye’ campaign, aimed at dispelling the negative perceptions of people living with sight loss.

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The campaign aims to show people what life with sight loss can look like when they have the right support.

Visit for more information.