Moorfields patient and GB Para Taekwondo athlete shares his story of sight loss

Chris Telesford has been a patient at Moorfields since he was a few months old. A member of the Moorfields sight loss awareness group, Chris is working with staff, volunteers, and patients to educate people on how to offer better support to those living with sight problems.

As part of this work, Chris has shared his own story of living with sight problems, and what people can do to provide better support. He’s also keen to highlight that sight loss doesn’t have to limit individuals. As a GB Para Taekwondo athlete, Chris would like to inspire more people with sight problems to give sport a go.

“I have a condition called bilateral coloboma of the optic disc with nystagmus. This impairs my sight when reading different font sizes and has an impact when travelling at night if there are bright street lights around as it becomes difficult to focus.

“The best way I feel to explain it is by saying that I am long sighted and short sighted in both eyes at the same time, then elaborate. This, however, has its advantages, as I have very good sight when there is no light at all.

“I’ve been a patient at Moorfields since I was a few months old (around November 1980) and continue to be a patient to this day. The level of care which Moorfields provides has always been outstanding and it is easy to understand why Moorfields is the world’s hospital of choice for eye treatment.

“Having spent the last 41 years as a patient, I have first-hand experience of the level of care that is provided, and the quality of care has only improved with time.”

Education on sight loss

“I have a condition that is not so common, so my biggest challenge is finding ways to explain to those with good sight what I can see. Following this, I need to make those people trust in what I tell them, which in turn allows me to demonstrate that, although I have sight problems, I can do what I say I can do.

“To support those with sight problems better, people who intend to assist really do need to listen to the person they are helping, and understand more, including medical staff. This would provide those with sight problems a far greater level of independence.

“I became a member of the sight loss awareness group at Moorfields following a complaint that I made at the hospital. The complaint was dealt with straight away and I was informed about the group and asked if I would be willing to take part.

“The group is doing what it can to improve the quality of care by listening to patient experiences at the hospital and implementing change where possible. This includes training staff at all levels better, improving signage, creating cutting edge software to demonstrate different sight conditions, and a lot more. What the group is doing is excellent, providing a greater level of understanding of how to better support people with sight problems to those who don’t have problems with their own sight.

Possibilities not limitations

“I started practising Taekwondo at the age of three and have never looked back. In November 2017, I joined a new Taekwondo club called Aquila Taekwondo based in Southeast London and, in March 2018, I was asked if I would consider becoming a Para Poomsae athlete for GB Taekwondo under category P10 (visual Impairments).

“I feel empowered to be taking part in the sport at this level as it provides me with the platform to inspire more people with sight problems to take on this sport. It also allows me to demonstrate that despite having problems with my vision, you can achieve anything you desire as long as you work hard.”

Raising awareness of sight loss

Moorfields Eye Hospital is raising awareness of how better to support those with sight problems and sight loss, which includes providing more education and advice to staff, patients, volunteers, and the wider public. Its new and improved sight loss awareness training was launched last year for staff, and a programme of events will be running in 2022 and beyond to continue to highlight the barriers faced by those with sight problems and what we can be done to help remove them.

For those of you who are on Twitter, here is a useful thread on how to better support people with sight problems.

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