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Paul's Latest Blog - The bombshell

iCAN experiences founder Paul Nicol embarks on his own personal blog, taking the readers on his journey from diagnosis of a sight losing disease through to the present day as he makes iCAN experiences a success in the midst of tough economic times.

Hello and welcome to my Blog. My name is Paul Nicol and I am the founder of iCAN experiences. iCAN experiences is a gift experience provider that is aimed squarely at people with disabilities. I will tell you more about iCAN experiences as this blog unfolds, but for now, I will continue on with my journey to where I am today.

As mentioned in my last post, I was diagnosed with RP (Commonly known as Tunnel Vision) and at a later date with ON (Optic Neuropathy). I consider myself incredibly lucky to have lived through my childhood, teenage years and as a young adult with no noticeable difference in my eye sight. Everyone with a disability has their own story to tell, I am just pleased that I was able to gain a good education, establish relationships, get a job and drive a car. These are many things that non disabled people take for granted and unfortunately many people with disabilities miss out on.

As part of the ongoing monitoring of my eye condition, I had to attend the hospital on an annual basis to perform certain eye tests. One of those eye tests was the "letter box" tests. This meant that I had to sit in front of a completely dark enclosure that surrounded my head. I was then given a small button to hold in my hand. The machine would then produce random small dots of light around the enclosure, every time I saw a light, I had to press the button. This was essentially testing my peripheral vision. A print out would show what I had seen and what I had not and there was also a letter box in the centre. If I started to miss dots of light in the letterbox, my peripheral vision was deemed to be unsafe to drive.

It was at the age of 21 that at one of these appointments, the bombshell was dropped. My peripheral vision was no longer good enough for me to drive a car! My friends will confirm that I was definitely into cars, I was a typical boy racer, always interested in fast cars and my car was my pride and joy! So, this was an incredibly bitter pill to have to swallow. I knew that the day would come, but I never expected it so soon in my life. In honesty, I didn't stop driving on that day, I continued for a couple of months after the news. This gave me time to accept and come up with an action plan!

At the time, I was still living at home with my parents in the family home. We lived in a village, which was nowhere near public transport links and my place of work was a good 45 minutes away in a car. I had been advised by consultants that I could "Register" as visually impaired or blind, but for me at that time, I felt it was a label that I didn't want. I hadn't considered the help that may be available if I had registered; I just knew I didn't want it. Clearly this was an acceptance thing and I was not prepared to accept that the eye disease was going to impede me.

I took the decision to move out of my parent’s home, somewhere with good public transport and closer to work. I moved to Oxford in a shared house, sold my car and brought myself a snazzy mountain bike instead (Just to be clear, Oxford has no mountains, that wasn't the point, it looked cool!). As it turns out, moving out of home was the best thing that I could have done. It opened my eyes to a level of independence that I had not previously had, so whilst losing my independence in one way, I gained in another. I had to do my own shopping, cleaning, cooking and most of all, I was doing my own thing, what I wanted when I wanted and no parents to worry about, City life proved exciting, cool and fun!

I feel like I’ve rattled on enough for now, so I’ll leave it here for today. In my next blog, I’ll tell you about meeting my wife and my initiation into adaptive aids!

In the mean time, please do browse the website and if you like what you see, buy it!

All the vest,