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In a first, Indian-origin blind man to get guide horse in UK

Press Trust of India  |  London 

An Indian-origin man based in north-west England, who suffers from a degenerative eye condition, is set to become the first person in the UK to get a guide to assist him with daily tasks once he loses his vision completely.

Mohammed Salim Patel, a based in at Lancashire, suffers from a condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa, due to which he is left with a very small amount of sight in his right eye and will eventually become totally blind.

The 24-year-old, who suffers from a deep-seated fear of dogs since a scary childhood encounter, could not rely on the more commonly used guide dogs for the blind and that is how the concept of a miniature guide came to his attention.

"Digby (guide horse) is still a baby and will be two years old in May 2019. His training will take around two more years, so I expect to be able to bring him home to once he's finished his training," Patel told

"There is no rush though, as there would be for a guide dog. Digby will be able to work into his 40s, whereas a guide dog has to retire at the age of eight," he said.

After spending some time with his companion-to-be, Patel believes a guide has many added benefits over guide dogs, including a much longer working life, 350-degree vision and ability to see in the dark.

"Guide horses can work for a lot longer, therefore even if his training takes longer than two years, it doesn't matter too much as once he's trained, I will have decades with him as my animal," Patel explained.

The story of Digby caught the attention of the annual Awards for Brave Britons, where the horse is among the finalists in the Hero Pet category aimed at honouring animals who have transformed the life of their owners.

"It's very nice to have Digby recognised for his great work, despite still being in training. He is a star," said Patel, in reference to the awards, which will be announced on Tuesday.

The began working with his local station, Radio Lancashire, before moving on to North West Tonight TV after completing a Journalism Trainee Scheme.

"I fancied being a TV presenter and decided to give a go. I found myself making documentaries on taboo subjects, and essentially creating journalistic pieces. This is when I strongly considered pursuing a career in journalism, as a rather than a TV presenter," he said.

However, it was not an easy journey, being told that a broadcast journalism course would be too difficult for a blind person to complete.

"I used my time at university to get as much broadcasting experience as I could. I loved radio. I was fortunate to achieve a First Class BA Honours in International Journalism and got a job as a at my local station," said Patel, whose family has their roots in

"My mother was born in but then came to the UK to marry my dad. He has family in too," he said.

"I love visiting as it's a beautiful country that fascinates me. I take every opportunity I can to visit my cousins who live there and to also visit the many different cities in India," he added.

It remains to be seen if Digby might join him on one of these visits in the future.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, October 14 2018. 09:20 IST
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