A Commonwealth Games cyclist has taken on a new role as sight loss ambassador for a charity that supports those with sensory impairments.
Laura Cluxton, 41, who was part of Team Scotland at the 2014 Games in Glasgow, works with Forth Valley Sensory Centre to help raise awareness about accessibility for people with sight or hearing loss.
The former athlete has been connected with FVSC for over a decade and first visited the Centre in 2010 after losing her sight through Retinitis Pigmentosa.
At the centre, which is based in Falkirk but supports people across central Scotland, Laura learned Braille and cooking skills, allowing her to build her confidence and increase her independence.
She was also encouraged by new friends to get a guide dog and currently owns a black Labrador Sadie.
Laura, of Tullibody, Clackmannanshire, has been volunteering at FVSC for many years and was recently appointed as Sight Loss Ambassador.
“My role involves hosting tours of the centre for anyone who wants to come and see it and to go out and do talks with groups like schools and women’s guilds.
“The aim is to raise awareness of the blind, partially sighted, deaf and hard of hearing, and to let them know about the centre.
“We have had visits from the Macular Degeneration Society, the Royal Voluntary Service, nurses and healthcare workers. This makes them aware of the services on offer that they can recommend to their own clients.
“One of my main goals is to do outreach for Stirlingshire and Clackmannanshire areas because the centre obviously covers those as well.”
Laura played a crucial role with FVSC during the Covid pandemic and subsequent lockdown periods, holding regular Zoom quizzes for centre users, taking on befriending calls to prevent loneliness and isolation and offering digital advice and peer support.
She also produced ‘Live with Laura’ podcasts, and completed a 500-mile static cycle to raise £1,500 for the Centre.
Laura previously worked as a nursery nurse and took up an office job when her sight started deteriorating.
She was registered as partially sighted at the age of 21, and was registered blind by the time she was 25.
She told Charity Today how coming to the centre was “life-changing” as it allowed her to form new friendships.
After getting her first guide dog, Pixie, Laura gained more independence and was able to travel more freely and she soon got into cycling. She was then noticed by Scottish Cycling who invited her onto the squad for the Commonwealth Games eight years ago.
Laura said: “I want to show that if you do experience sight loss it’s not the end of your life.
“You can make a new life for yourself – that’s what I feel I have done.
“I also want to showcase the Centre and all the good things we’ve got to offer.”
The overall objective of FVSC is to help people with sensory impairment live as independently as possible.
The charity has been supporting people in Forth Valley with sensory impairment and their families for over 15 years.