AWARD NOMINATION . . . Colin Hetherington, pictured with his guide dog Jason, has been shortlisted for a national award by deafblind charity Sense
Colin Hetherington, who lives with the rare genetic condition Usher syndrome, has been nominated for ‘Deafblind Person of the Year’ at the charity’s awards ceremony in London on December 7 after setting up a group for people who are affected by sensory loss.
The 49-year-old was diagnosed with the condition that causes progressive sight and hearing loss 25 years, but only came to terms with it in the last three years.
He said: “When I was told I would go blind and lose my hearing I couldn’t accept it. Not only that but I refused to get help or talk about it openly.
“Not knowing when it would happen was devastating – I decided to just get on with my life and pretend everything was okay.”
But in recent years, and with his vision starting to deteriorate, Colin has left his management job at Pinneys of Scotland and has given up driving.
He also uses a cane to walk and nowrelies on his guide dog Jason, and has also recently learned how to read Braille and is wearing hearing aids.
He added: “It’s extremely challenging having to re-learn how to communicate and get around. The main barrier though is acceptance of who you are. That was the hardest bit of truth for me.
“I was ashamed of my disabilities and I was too stubborn to ask for help. Now I’m proud to use my white cane in my hometown or walk around with my guide dog because I’ve accepted who I am and that I need support.”
Colin founded the Northern Alliance support group last year, which now boasts more than 70 members, with the aim of bringing people together to share experiences and advice and supporting each other.
Passionate about raising awareness and money for people with visual impairments, he also volunteers and fundraises for various charities and has recently been appointed a trustee of Sense Scotland.