Whitchurch ward member David Groves on being Wales’ only blind councillor

May 17, 2012 No Comments »
Whitchurch ward member David Groves on being Wales’ only blind councillor

David Groves, Wales' only blind councillor, says he is determined to do his best for the people of Whitchurch in his new role as their Labour ward member

David Groves realised from an early age he was never going to become a professional footballer – but being blind as never going to stop him making the most of his attributes. Here he tells Eleanor Lawrie how and why he became Wales’ only blind councillor.

The newly-elected Labour councillor for Whitchurch is realistic about the careers he could have pursued.

“As a blind person there seemed to be a whole range of jobs you couldn’t do,” David Groves said as he sipped his cappuccino.

“You couldn’t be a pilot, a bus driver, a footballer.”

It was because of the limited options available to him that Coun David Groves got involved in politics and joined the Labour Party.

“If you are a blind person you may reach the conclusion that things in society need to change,” he said.

“Parties of the left seemed to combine the essentials of opportunity, equality and support, whereas parties of the right focused on individual merit and effort.”

Coun Groves has certainly made the most of his opportunities.

Sent away to a boarding school for the visually impaired in Bridgend, he went on to study history and political science at Aberystwyth University in 1982.

There were no Braille textbooks but he had just been given his first guide dog, Josie, and would put up posters asking for people to read to him in exchange for meeting her. He was inundated with offers, and graduated with a 2.1.

He said: “Thinking about it now, I’m amazed how I managed it.”

Coun Groves wasn’t born blind. The 49-year-old was three months premature, and was placed in an incubator with a high level of oxygen, which left him with retinopathy of prematurity – a condition which causes his retinas to detach.

Bouts of glaucoma at the ages of three and again at 14 meant that he had to have his eyes removed and replaced with false ones. He said: “I woke up one morning in 1977 with an acute headache, and that was it, the other eye had to go.”

But he still has memories of sight.

“I remember colours. I remember the way the sky looks on a sunny day or at night. I can imagine silver stars against an inky black sky.”

The 49-year-old lives in Llanrumney with his wife June, a former social worker who is partially sighted. He says politics seeped in to his consciousness from a young age.

“My parents were Labour Party members from the 1960s onwards so I used to go canvassing with them. At school I was politically conscious.”

As a teenager, he would meet from time to time with the blind Labour councillor Joan Ward, who represented Fairwater and Pentrebane for 17 years.

“She was working in an era long before mine, in an age before computers.”

Coun Groves says his specially adapted computer, and the internet, have transformed his life. “It has revolutionised the world for blind people,” he said.

Having unsuccessfully stood in 1982, David decided that, on the eve of his 50th birthday, the time was right to represent Whitchurch.

He is joined in the ward by Labour colleagues Chris Davis, Jonathan Evans and Benjamin Thomas.

“It’s early days, but we will work as part of a team and do our very best for people in Whitchurch.”

A spokesman for the council said: “Previous councillors have had visual impairments and we have arranged to meet with Mr Groves to assess his needs. We can acquire braille and the council chambers are accessible to guide dogs.”

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