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Local shares his knowledge

Speaking to Ted Thorburn it's hard to believe he has ever been anything but positive. The 55-year-old from Mossman, Queensland, is a mentor, poet and inspiration to many people in his region, particularly those who are blind or have low vision.

But Ted has had his share of struggle. He went through a tough "loss period" when glaucoma claimed much of his vision.

Born with the eye condition, he had reasonable vision in his youth when he worked and travelled throughout Australia. Ted lost his sight in his right eye after an operation in his late thirties.

"I was one of the lucky ones," he says. "I had fair vision until I was in my mid-to-late thirties. I'd travelled and worked throughout Australia in my younger years.

"But these things happen," he says. "I was just getting over the loss of vision in my right eye when my second one started to go. Then I started to tumble over.

"I kept feeling sorry for myself and generally floated around in my late thirties and early forties. Looking back, I wasted a lot of years. The only thing that kept me going was good rellies. We used to go camping and did a bit of travelling."

The turning point came in 2000 when he joined a local support group for people with blindness and low vision.

"I became involved in committees and voluntary work," he says. "I also discovered the computer was accessible and this opened up a whole new world."

"I now have precious little vision and use a cane for mobility. It took me several years to realise that I was going to have to use a cane; I was in denial," he says. "However, here I am enjoying life again, yes, and using a white cane. It's not as bad as it seems, truly!"

He has volunteered with the Mossman Indigenous HACC, Mossman primary and high schools as a mentor and literacy support worker, and at a local youth centre. Ted also helped to establish a Philosophical Discussion group at the Port Douglas Neighbourhood Centre.

He is currently involved with the Mossman Blind and Visually Impaired Group, which he helped to found. Ted is also part of a disability rights group, Equal Access for the Douglas Shire, as well as a member of Blind Citizens Australia. He also serves on Vision Australia's Client Representative Council.

"I threw my hat into the ring to represent clients in my region and to my surprise was accepted onto the council," he says. "It's been a desire of mine to work in this capacity.

"The Cape has a large indigenous population and it's important to get the information about blindness and low vision out to people. I want to be part of the education process.

Ted is studying Business Information Technology at TAFE and would like to teach adaptive technology in remote areas.

In his spare time he tandem cycles, writes, plays keyboards and reads books from Vision Australia's Information Library Service.

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