An encounter between Greg and a Vision Australia employee has resulted in the avid woodworker, who is legally blind, teaching others including primary school students his craft.
In the beginning
Greg’s life was permanently changed when he was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy in 2013.
“I had four surgeries but they couldn’t save my eye sight,” he said.
Shortly after Greg was diagnosed a friend recommended he seek support from Vision Australia.
“I started receiving some orientation and mobility training and within four weeks I was traveling independently to and from work which was great.
“They also helped me access some assistive technology like a desktop scanner, screen magnification software and an iPhone.
“This technology really helped me to keep working,” Greg said.
Learning new woodwork skills
During a home visit, Greg’s orientation and mobility instructor noticed all of the woodwork equipment Greg had in his shed.
“I was in my shed packing up my woodwork equipment because I thought my blindness meant I’d never be able to use it again and I had better sell it.
“My orientation and mobility instructor told me about the woodwork courses in the Kensington office and I started attending and quickly excelled.
“I had all the basic skills I just needed to learn different methods.
“Woodwork is very tactile and it’s all about knowing where to put your hands and keeping a safe distance away from any blades.”
Eventually Greg was doing so well he ended up helping to teach the course.
“The course has made a huge difference to my life,” he said.
“I’m able to enjoy making furniture again.”
Caption: Vision Australia's woodwork programs involve mainstream and blind and low vision specific techniques
From student to teacher
When Greg moved to Tasmania he joined a Men’s Shed in Launceston.
At the end of 2019, he was asked to be one of the supervisors because of his woodwork skills.
“I now run a woodwork class on a Wednesday teaching basic skills to a group of people with physical and intellectual disabilities,” Greg said.
“We’ve also started working with a primary school which sends students with learning difficulties to do woodwork with us for an hour and a half once a week.”
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the school activities have been suspended but Greg has continued to adapt so students can continue to improve their woodwork skills.
“In the mean time we’ve made up some woodwork kits which we’ve given to the school so the kids can continue their woodwork in school,” he said.
Words of advice
For Greg, Vision Australia’s support means he can live the life he chooses, and he encourages others to make the most of any support available.
“Take advantage of the services that are out there to support you and don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do things.
“It might just take you a little bit longer but you can do it!”