17th Nov, 2018

Grandparents Fred and Etta Reid who have helped fellow blind people for decades are to get honorary degrees from University of Warwick

Correspondent 11th Jul, 2017 Updated: 12th Jul, 2017

A BLIND couple who have been together since their school days are to receive honorary degrees from the University of Warwick for decades of voluntary charity work helping local fellow blind and partially sighted people.

Grandparents Dr Fred and Etta Reid, from Kenilworth, will each receive an Honorary Doctor of Letters (DLitt) as part of graduation ceremonies throughout next week.

The Glaswegian couple have been instrumental in setting up and running the Keniworth Readers for the Blind service, in which fellow volunteers visit the blind to read sighted material.

Fred has also spent decades doing campaigning voluntary work nationally.

They are known by many in Coventry and Warwickshire as Fred is a former lecturer in History at the university, while Etta used what some patients described as her ‘healing hands’ as an NHS physiotherapist at Leamington’s former Warneford Hospital and later the Pump rooms.

The university states: “Warwickshire residents Dr and Mrs Reid have been married for over 50 years and have made significant local and national contributions to benefit the lives of the visually impaired.

“Fred and Etta were both blinded in childhood (Etta from a traffic accident when she was six, Fred from a double detached retina when he was 14). They met as teenagers at the Royal Blind School in Edinburgh.

“They raised three sighted children and in Kenilworth they have set up a local charity to support blind adults with administration, Kenilworth Readers for the Blind. Etta is currently on the committee that runs this charity and Fred helps organise the rota for visits to individuals.

“At a very early stage they both resolved to speak up for the rights of blind people. Fred served as President of the national Federation of the Blind and Partially Sighted from 1972 to 1975 and as a trustee of The Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB) from 1974 to 1987 (and again from 1999 to 2006).

“In 1970 he helped to form The Association of Blind and Partially Sighted Teachers and Students and edited its Bulletin for several years.”

Fred said: “I continue the struggle and my ambition is to see the rate of unemployment among blind and partially sighted people drop well below the current level of seventy-five percent.

“The rights of blind people could not be divorced from those of disabled people generally and I served on the executives of The Disablement Income Group and the Disability Alliance.

“Among the fruits of this work were several groundbreaking government programmes, including: disability living allowance, access to work, mainstream education for visually impaired children and, in addition the first inclusive college for visually impaired students, opened by RNIB at Loughborough, England.”

While Fred lectured in history at the university, he somehow also found time to publish a biography of Labour party founding figure Keir Hardie, critical essays on Thomas Hardy and other work.

After he retired he published a book about his grandfather ‘In Search of Willie Patterson: a Scottish Soldier in the Age of Imperialism’ and his novel ‘The Panopticon’.”

Their children include twins Les and Julie Reid (both journalists, Les for the Observer) and scientist Dr Gavin Reid. They have five grandchildren.

Among those to also receive honorary degrees will be David Burbidge – chairman of the Coventry City of Culture 2021 bid; and Cambridge University Professor Paul Cartledge, former a Warwick University lecturer.

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