"Stories" from the Collective (YOU)

Successfully Blind

by Paul Appleyard
(Andalucia, Spain)

Me and my beautiful 2 kids, Casper and Missy

Me and my beautiful 2 kids, Casper and Missy

Paul shares his inspirational life story of how he overcame a major health setback, and in particular how the timing of 'the truth' of his setback was revealed to him was all important to his progress.

(STORY THEME: Overcoming adversity1)

Successfully Blind

Hey there, here's my story about being successfully blind.

I'm almost 43 now and when I was 11 years old I was diagnosed with a rare eye condition called Stargardt's Disease ("a common form of juvenile inherited macular degeneration leading to legal blindness"2). OMG, what do I do now? Read on and you'll find out...

I believed that I had 2 choices, first of all I could sulk, give up, say "oh how bad my life is" or secondly, I could get on with things and do what I wanted to do.

When I was diagnosed the consultant did not believe me that I couldn't see things and even asked my parents if I was a happy child, was I OK at home, was I being bullied etc. And when they convinced him I was OK he then did the tests that proved the condition was there.

So I now go and see the most prominent eye specialist at the time and he confirms what the original consultant had found. And, unbeknownst to me (until my mum told me in my late 20s), he said words to the effect of "take him home, let him get on with his life and he won't amount to anything." I also found out this had brought my dad to floods of tears, being told his first born had no chance.

Had I heard that as a child, perhaps I wouldn't be where I am now, thank goodness I didn't.

So I persevered through regular schooling, relying on friends to read from the black board for me. And, perhaps through natural ability and determination to succeed, I managed to achieve 9 o-levels (GCSEs nowadays) and 3 A levels.

I fell into banking, as Barclays Bank was the only employer who would give me a chance - I progressed very slowly over the first 10 years or so.

Then my mum let me know about the bombshell they had been told so many years earlier and this gave me motivation to move to the next level of my life. I will not be told I cannot do something. I think that simple comment of "he won't amount to anything" spurred me on.

It's since that moment that I have had the biggest achievements in my life and I'll share a few with you here:
  • Played basketball in local league

  • Finished mainstream school with very little assistance

  • 200 mile cycling trip mid-north Wales

  • Became home owner at 21

  • Paid off mortgage by age 38

  • Achieved post graduate diploma in personnel and development and became a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development

  • Developed BEAM, a computer terminal used by Barclays for employees with visual impairments

  • Influenced projects Access and Ability - pioneering disability projects at Barclays

  • Built my own garden

  • Finished my Barclay's career at Head Office in London as a Group Equality and Diversity Manager with responsibility for employee disability issues

  • 13000 feet sky dive for charity - and I have Vertigo!!!

  • English Blind Golf number 1 2006-7

  • Tied 3rd World Blind Golf Championships 2008 - 2 small shots away from 'Paul Appleyard, World Champ.'

  • Represented England twice at golf.

  • Advised the Minister for Disabled People on disability and employment issues while a member of the Disability Employment Advisory Committee (DEAC)

  • After Barclays, became Head of Diversity, assistant director at a £100m British disability charity.

  • Achieved an ambition of living overseas.

  • I started my own business and website,

Hmmm, all because someone told me I wouldn't amount to anything.

I have achieved a lot and will continue to do so. However, my mindset has changed over the last 5 years or so. I was pretty angry and bitter for a long time and even tho ugh this fuelled my desire to succeed, I know now that it wasn't the healthiest attitude to have.

I had a dawning realization about 5 years ago that instead of carrying the bitterness inside, I should thank the consultants who found my eye condition and be grateful for the motivation, drive and energy this gave me to be the best I could be.

Being in this place of gratitude and thanks is far more fulfilling to me now.

My point in telling my tale is 3 fold:

1: To be a success you need the support and love of those closest to you. Remembering that 'you reap what you sow', give love and support to those you hold dearest to you and you'll get it right back at ya!

2: Living in a place of gratitude for what you have in your life is so rewarding. Be grateful for the opportunities that come your way and grab them with both hands, making the most of your situation at all times.

3: Never give in, you have the ability to do whatever your heart desires; you will find a way if you truly believe.

To continued success

Paul Appleyard, MCIPD
(note: link no longer works - Steve)

Thanks Paul, for your inspiring story - your achievements are nothing short of incredible.

(1) I can recommend The Power of Adversity (Al Weatherhead), as a powerful way of illustrating how adversity can be an important driver in our lives.
(2) Oh, and I took the sentence describing Stargardt's Disease from the mdsupport.org website

Comments for Successfully Blind

Average Rating starstarstarstarstar

Mar 28, 2011
Thank you and the medical complex needs your help.
by: Sandra

Thank you Paul for sharing your story. You are an inspiration and your story is valuable.

I was prompted to do some research because of yoru story and found a link about stem cell research opportunities for a cellular biotech company which hopefully will find some significant medical findings regarding this diagnosis.

(Link no no longer active.)

Aside from medical advancements taking place in this area, one of the things I loved about your story is your discovery that "anger" is not a productive emotion in health care delivery and outcomes.

What is remarkable is that you were humble enough to recognize how destructive anger is and adjusst accordingly, despite your apparent success.

Your story illustrates beautifully that " love" is the real motivator. It also confirms to me that because one is a "professional" doesn't necessarily mean they have good bedside manner. Words are powerful. And one negative statement can undermine the confidence of a child, or even an adult who is already at a disadvantage because of their health issues.

There are so many medical establishments(hospitals and health related institutions) which need to hear your vital message on the impact of "words" and emotions for successful health outcomes.

There are many shows on "health prevention"; but what about programs on creating a positive climate in the health care complex through the use of "positive words and positive role modeling"?. Doctors, Nurses and medical staff need more training on the importance of their words and communication styles upon positive health outcomes.

In many medical complexes it is up to a medical social worker(and there are far too few of them) to assist the family with adjusting to the diagnosis. I don't think this paradigm works effectively.

I believe the positive messages should begin at the first contact with the health delivery system. Your NLP and direct experience with health care would be a great asset in developing programs and models for health care professionals.

I look forward to following your success.

Return to Your Inspirational Story.


Enjoy Life More: Includes "Rewrite Your Life Story"