A FORMER tyre fitter forced to give up driving due to blindness has spoken of the ‘joy’ of getting behind the wheel once more.
Tony Shaw was registered blind in his left eye five years ago.
During a routine appointment, the 72-year-old’s optician suspected he had suffered a stroke without knowing it.
Subsequent hospital tests confirmed this - and the fact the stroke had caused Mr Shaw’s blindness.
Mr Shaw, from Marchington Woodlands, said the worst thing about his condition was having to hand over his licence.
But he was recently invited to a track near Lichfield, where he and other blind people were able to get behind the wheel of a new Volkswagon Golf.
Mr Shaw said: “Driving was something I really enjoyed doing before my diagnosis.
“I really took pleasure in travelling around independently and that was taken away from me when I had to hand in my licence.
“So it felt incredible to get behind the wheel again after so many years, under the supervision of an instructor of course.
“I felt in control for the first time in five years.
“The pleasure of doing simple manoeuvres like a three-point turn was something I’d underestimated.
Mr Shaw reached speeds of up to 45mph at the Mole Hill circuit and was praised for his skills by instructors.
He was also taken around the track in an old Ford Escort engineered for high speeds and film stunts.
Mr Shaw said: “We hit speeds of over 100mph and it was quite a thrill.
“You could hear the brakes screeching and it was really high-octane stuff.
“The stunt man driving the car even treated me to a handbrake turn.”
The driving event, organised by Lichfield Advanced Motorists and Staffordshire Action for Blind People, was a welcome respite from the daily challenges Mr Shaw faces.
He said: “The main challenge I face is my depth and spatial perception.
“I’ll reach for an item across the table and completely miss it.
“I also bump into things quite a lot and that can be very frustrating.
“I try and be as independent as possible as I believe you should help yourself.
“But I inevitably need support sometimes and am grateful for my wide, Alicia, giving me lifts to my appointments.
“She has to take me everywhere unless I get a taxi and, living in a rural area, we can get a bit isolated.
“She often has to hang around while I attend places like the gym for rehab for a heart condition.
“It’s something I’ve grown to accept and live with. You accept it for what it is.
“I’ll definitely be applying for next year’s event and really hope the organisers find a place for me.”