Peter Boock

At the time that Peter Boock was diagnosed with glaucoma in 2003 he was a successful corporate executive.

The diagnosis hit him hard. "It was massive," he says. "All of a sudden I found myself sitting at home, unable to work and selling my car because I couldn't drive anymore."

Glaucoma is often referred to as the silent thief; its progression is so slow as to be unnoticeable.  "I was a bit clumsy and would bump into things, but only occasionally so I never thought anything of it," explains Peter.

Surgery arrested Peter's loss of sight but his limited vision makes everyday life a challenge. He has no peripheral vision and needs to use a cane when walking.

It took Peter five years to come to terms with his disability, but with "huge help" from family and friends and "magnificent support" from The Blind Foundation he's not only adapted to his situation but found a new sense of purpose.

While volunteering for the Blind Foundation and Lifeline, Peter discovered a passion for advocacy which eventually led him to enrol in the Bachelor of Social Work at Ara.

He explains that he was drawn to social work through his own experience adjusting to life with a disability. "It gave me a real insight and perspective into entitlements. I was lucky - I had the skills and confidence to get what I was entitled to but so many people on a benefit or with a disability don't, and they can't stand up for themselves."

Soon to complete the first year of his degree, Peter says he loves the practical nature of the course. "I thought about going back to university but I discovered that I'd be in lectures for the first two years and I just couldn't face that. At Ara you're straight into practical training."

Peter admits that getting back into a study mindset has been challenging. "It's hard work but it's great," he says. "My advantage is my attitude. As a mature student I'm not here to see what I might like to do - I'm 60 and I just want to get on and do it."

Study has been made infinitely easier for Peter thanks to the support of his tutors, classmates and Ara's Disability Services.

"I've received superb support and engagement from every part of the institute and every person. The tutors have been great - some have even modified their overheads specifically so I can see them – and if I can't get to a class, I can join in via Skype. Disability Services organises someone to attend all my classes and take notes for me. They've also provided special computer equipment for me because I'm not able to use the computers in the library. They're just fantastic."

The Blind Foundation also plays a large part in Peter's study life. "They're very involved and incredibly supportive," Peter says. "They came to orientation and checked out all the places I'd be on campus and they ring me every month to see how I'm going. They also assessed my home and provided me with the latest technology."

Peter might face more challenges than most students but his positivity clearly makes a big difference.

"Some things take a wee bit longer but I'm able to study to the same level as anyone else. There's nothing stopping me doing what I want to do. I refuse to 'live' my disability. It's all about attitude."