Martin Wilson is a volunteer, supporter and client of SRSB who has Stargardt Disease, so he has never known what perfect sight is. He is a keen gardener and sportsman with a burning ambition to achieve something big in life, even though he is visually impaired. He’s also keen to encourage young people to get active and live life to the full.
Martin is a man who can’t sit still, he always has to be doing something – even during the ad breaks on television. And when he does take on a project, he aims high. So as a keen gardener he’s obsessive about growing his carrots straight and when it comes to sport he wants to be in the England International team.
“It might sound selfish but I just got this thing in my mind that I have got to achieve something really special in life with visual impairment. I don’t want to do it for the plaudits, I just want to do it to encourage other people,” said Martin.
Stargardt disease means Martin, 54, has no central vision and his peripheral vision is just, as he described it, “little windows”. He has some sight, but as he has got older that has got worse.
But for Martin there is no slowing down. He is in the Visually Impaired Cricket’s National League, he’s in the regional development league helping to bring on youngsters and he is training for the International England squad with ambitions to travel abroad with them if he gets in. He’s also a qualified cricket coach.
He believes sport is a great way of encouraging visually impaired people to be independent. It was that belief which led him to get involved with the Youth Club at SRSB. He was away on a trip round Europe with his daughter when he got the inspiration.
“I’d come to SRSB as a client when I got some technology that I couldn’t use. Darren helped me out and taught me how to use the software. Basically I decided I wanted to give something back because they gave me a lot of time.
“I like talking to the young ones, playing games, giving inspiration about visual impairment. I can remember I was all over the place as a teenager,” he said.
Martin has of course been encouraging them to play cricket. One girl is now in the international team and two other Youth Club members train with the Yorkshire VI Cricket Club.
As well as cricket Martin helps to get the group involved in other sports such as bowling and indoor climbing but he’s also keen to teach life skills using a cane, cooking and ironing which, surprisingly Martin says he really loves!
He was recently involved in a Velodrome Challenge at Manchester’s National Cycling centre, riding tandem cycles around the track to raise funds for SRSB along with 5 other visually impaired people and their pilots.
Martin is also involved with the SRSB Gardening Group. He is a very keen gardener and has a qualification in horticulture which he aims to use to get a job one day. “It’s my ambition to get a job before I reach retirement age. I want to work in a garden centre ideally and I am quite capable of it.”
Until the day he can persuade an employer to take him on Martin will be keeping busy with his volunteering, his gardening and his sport. He coaches at the Joseph Locke school in Barnsley, which is where he lives, and is involved with the Vision Foundation which puts on events for visually impaired children.
He’s been a Barnsley FC fan for 45 years, travelling to away as well as home games, listening to the audio commentary. He also likes to go out dancing. “I don’t care what people think of my dancing – I can’t see them looking at me,” he jokes.
His most recent sporting challenge is to try and take up golf. He’s tried it out and been told he’s showing promise but he needs to get some left-handed clubs and is hoping to find someone who has a set going spare.
“I am busy every day I can’t stop. I think if I can achieve something it might encourage other people with VI to have a go. I am all for people developing skills and improving their wellbeing. Everyone should have the opportunity, it’s their right to say no but they need a chance to try things out.”