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Cycling challenge for new sight charity

A FATHER and son team from Shetland is to cycle coast to coast across the Pyrenees to raise money for a new charity that will help visually impaired adults in the isles.

Former dentist Phil Hibbert, from Vidlin, was forced to retire about ten years ago when he lost much of his vision due to an eye condition called uveitis.

After losing the job he loved, Phil set up the national Uveitis Information Group (www.uveitis.net) which he runs from his home.

In addition he has now launched Vision Shetland, a new voluntary organisation that is setting up a resource centre at Lerwick’s Market House and recruiting the first ever vision rehabilitation worker for the isles.

He said: “Nowadays there is a tremendous amount that can be done to make the most out of the reduced vision some people experience from a number of conditions.

“There are many daily living aids, from the very low tech simple magnifiers to the very high tech computer based solutions which enable people to retain a completely independent life.”

A keen cyclist, the 54 year old has always been determined to retain as much independence as possible for himself.

As he is not allowed to drive any more, his peripheral vision does allow him to cycle so that has become his main mode of transport.

To prove the point he is now embarking with his 18 year old son Paul on the gruelling 450 mile course, including 18 mountain passes, in just 100 hours.

The pair will set off from Hendaye on the Atlantic coast on 14 June and hope to reach Cerbere on the Mediterranean five days later.

The course, which includes famous Tour de France mountain passes such as Col du Tourmalet at 2,115 metres, has become a classic and was first accomplished in 1952.

“For many years visually impaired adults in Shetland have had no Shetland-based professional help or support. Fortunately there is a small but very professional team which supports visually impaired children in Shetland.

“This situation is finally to change and a range of Shetland-based vision services will become available soon.

“A partnership has been formed between Shetland social services (occupational therapy), NHS Shetland, the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) and Vision Shetland.

“The partnership will provide a hospital based low vision optometrist, a RNIB vision support service, a professional vision rehabilitation worker and a resource centre based in Market House in Lerwick.”

Anybody who wants to sponsor the Hibberts is asked to donate in cash or by cheque.

Donations should be sent either to Phil Hibbert, Sweening, Vidlin, ZE2 9QB, or Vision Shetland, Market House, 14 Market Street, Lerwick, ZE1 0JP

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