Billingshurst man’s hope after sudden sight loss

Daniel Chandler playing male lead Sid Sorokin in the production of the Pajama Game by the Horsham Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society. Pictured with co-star Rachel Farrant as Babe - picture submitted bIkAIxMXZuY6irs6e5su
Daniel Chandler playing male lead Sid Sorokin in the production of the Pajama Game by the Horsham Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society. Pictured with co-star Rachel Farrant as Babe - picture submitted bIkAIxMXZuY6irs6e5su

A blind man from Billingshurst wants to encourage other disabled people to not give up hope after he found joy in teaching and being on the stage.

Daniel Chandler, 31, suddenly lost his eyesight while he was on honeymoon in 2011 due to a condition called Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON).

The genetic condition is passed down on the mother’s side, but with no family history, it came as a shock.

Daniel said: “I have no central vision in my right eye and very little in my left eye.

“I went from having 20:20 vision in August 2011 to being registered blind by the November.

“I won’t lie I used to feel sorry for people with disabilities but I never used to think much about them and how hard their lives must be. It is only when you are struck down with something like LHON that you realise how hard their lives truly are.”

The illness had a devastating effect on his life and resulted in him changing careers from a 3D artist to teaching IT - a profession shared by his wife Emma.

“When my sight first went my old employers thought I was faking it and my friends were initially unsure of how to treat me or what help I needed. I didn’t really know what help I needed.

“If I could say one thing to a person with a disability it is never be afraid to try new things and don’t let your disability run your life. Easier said than done but when you hit rock bottom the only way is up, right?”

He added: “My students are incredible accepting and I find in particular the less able students seeing that if I can do things with less vision than them why can’t they. My students’ learning is never compromised and they have even started to use some of the technology I use to help them in their learning.”

He also found his love of theatre became even more important. He performed in shows from an early age, but had only rekindled his passion nine years ago when they lived in Hertfordshire.

When the couple and their 18-month-old son Elias moved to Billingshurst last year, he joined the Horsham Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society (HAODS). Last month he played male lead, Sid Sorokin in a production of The Pajama Game.

He said: “I am registered blind and the company have placed great faith in me leading this show. I am also a computer science teacher at Midhurst Rother College and would love to show people that there is life after a disability.”