Category Archives: Personal stories

James and Jan

Meet our Members: James and JanJames and Jan

James lost his sight quite suddenly when he was in his late twenties. He now runs his own business as a business development coach and assistive technology trainer. His volunteer Jan has been reading books for him for the last six and a half years.

James says “I first met up with Jan about three years after I lost my sight. I was looking for someone who could read books for me. I had quite a few I’d never got round to reading when I had my sight and also wanted to reread a few of my favourites.

The Reader Service brought Jan round for an initial chat and we found we had a similar enthusiasm for sci fi and for history books. This came along at a really pivotal time for me when I was feeling quite negative about my situation.

E-books are good but are nothing like being read to by a real person. It was like a breath of fresh air for me as we both get pleasure out of the books we read together. Jan’s been reading for me ever since and we’ve become good friends. She’s even getting to enjoy my taste in rock music”!

Jan says “I found I had some spare time in my life and I was looking for some volunteering that would suit my interests. I’ve always got my nose in a book, so when the Reader Service paired me up with James it seemed a good idea. When I found out at the initial meeting that he was a sci fi fan that was even better and I’m now reading books I hadn’t come across before and enjoying James’s music as well.

There are more audio books available from publishers now but often you have to wait for the more obscure ones to be recorded and the Kindle software is nothing like a proper human voice, so I feel I’m being useful as well.

Reading for James gets me out on a regular basis doing something I like, and I also enjoy getting to know some of the other Reader Service volunteers at the coffee mornings.

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Judy Smith: My Experience of the MK Reader Service

My husband, Alan, and I moved to Olney in February 2014. We are both registered blind; Alan has some useful sight for getting around, but not for reading and I am totally blind. We had lived in the same house in London for over 30 years and had built up a strong network of friends and neighbours. We could rely on one friend to help us read complex documents and fill in lengthy forms. When I retired, I had considerable difficulty in finding people to read to me on a regular basis as there was no dedicated service. I thought that advertising for help would be too risky because the reading matter would include personal financial and medical information. By chance, we met a couple on holiday who told us about the MK Reader service. I ‘phoned the office directly we got home and Karen was very encouraging. She advised us to get in touch when we moved to Olney.

We duly telephoned Karen soon after we moved and, within days, she came to visit us. Karen gave us details about the Service which had been set up by visually impaired people over twenty years ago. We learned that volunteers were able to assist with other activities besides reading, such as shopping or attending theatres or cinemas. Karen then went into details about our particular needs. I explained that I would need help in reading personal correspondence and filling in forms. I would like help in looking through brochures for theatre and opera performance and general leaflets. I had worked as a social worker in Child Psychiatry, so I would like help in reading journals which include quite a lot of technical terms. I also told Karen that I enjoy opera and that I didn’t know how I was going to be able to pursue my interest; I had always gone to performances with friends when I was in London. Karen said that she would look out for volunteers who would be interested.

We were astounded when Karen got back to us after 2/3 weeks to say that she had found some possible volunteers for us and could she bring them over to meet us. We set up separate times for the two volunteers. Karen introduced me to Linda and we had the opportunity to learn a little about each other’s backgrounds and interests. Karen went over the conditions of the service, stressing the need for confidentiality and agreeing that Linda would be able to commit to an hour a week to read to me. Linda was able to start straight away and has been extremely helpful – even coping with the psychiatric jargon! Karen kept in touch with us both independently to check whether we felt happy with the arrangement.

When I learned that a MK cinema had a live-screening of an opera from the Royal Opera House, I contacted Karen who found a volunteer who was interested to come with me. Karen provided the relevant contact details and I was delighted to be able to go to the performance. Since then, Karen has introduced me to several volunteers who were able to accompany me to cinema and theatre performances. However, over the year Linda and I have developed a friendship and discovered that we have several interests in common, so now we often go to the cinema or theatre together.

I don’t know how I would have coped with our move to Olney without the help of the Reader service. I believe that it is unique and I feel very lucky to have moved into the Milton Keynes area. The service has also enabled me to meet other visually impaired people and their volunteers through attending the coffee mornings which Karen organises.

John and Bill

Bill on John:   John reads newspaper reports to me, particularly the cricket and the good season the Dons are having so far.   We have cleared out some of my old correspondence and John has typed up some of my holiday travelogues.  And it’s nice to chat with him, particularly during the cricket season.

Bill and John

Bill and John

John on Bill:Bill’s a lovely chap so it’s a pleasure to visit him.  We’re both cricket fans so, during the season, we either talk cricket and/or watch it on his TV.  I’ve enjoyed hearing about his globe-trotting – cruises in the Caribbean – and typing up his travel diaries.  I’m so impressed with his refusal to allow his disability to limit his activities.

Carla Jones

My name is Carla Jones , I am sixty eight years old and I am living independently in an Extra Care village.

I have been using the Reader Service for six years since my stroke in 2008 after which I was left with limited sight. Since then the Reader Service has changed my life.

I have a reader, once a week, who helps me with my post and any writing I may need. I also have someone to take me shopping every other week. I am even able to go on visits to the theatre which are also organised by the Reader Service.

Thanks to the Reader Service I can enjoy a normal life and feel more independent. From time to time the Reader Service organises “get togethers” which enable me to socialise with other people in a similar situation which has also increased my friendship circle.

For me the Reader Service is an invaluable lifeline and I am immensely grateful for the support it offers and consider myself very fortunate for the help they provide.


Steve Neale


“I have been a member of the Milton Keynes Reader Service for a long time. The service is a lifeline in keeping me informed. My volunteer assists me with my post which is a real help in my everyday life. My volunteer helps to develop my main hobbies of music (both playing and listening) and poetry. The MKRS also has lots of social events where both volunteers and service users can meet up. I find these events a particularly enjoyable part of being a member of the Milton Keynes Reader Service.”

Steve Neale