Josh Feehan, 33, started losing his sight when he was 15 but would actively hide it. It took being hit by an electric car in Birmingham in 2019 to acknowledge he needed help and he approached Guide Dogs for support.
He says Ringo has massively transformed his life.
The advert highlights the ‘My Life Skills’ service Guide Dogs offers which teaches people with sight loss life skills, from kitchen and personal care skills, to personal safety and how to manage money.
Josh said he first noticed a change in his vision while working a weekend job at a car wash. After several months of testing and appointments with specialists in London, he was diagnosed with Leber's hereditary optic neuropathy. The hereditary condition affects the optic nerve and means Josh has no central vision.
“We first went to the hospital in February 2005 and they gave me the actual diagnosis probably in May or June,” he recalls.
“I’m not a religious person but I was praying everyday that my eyesight was going to return until I got that news.”
“I was a cocky, confident 15-year-old lad with a big group of mates, and becoming disabled pretty much overnight was a big adjustment. When you’re young and you think you’ve got your whole life in front of you and something is thrown at you, it completely changes your outlook on life.”
A talented footballer playing at Sunday League level, Josh also had to give up his favourite sport due to his sight loss. He also found it difficult to come to terms with the fact that he wouldn’t be able to take part in the same activities as other people his age.
He adds: “It was really challenging. I was a teenager and I had to adjust and learn how to carry on. I had to stop playing football, which was a big thing for me.
"My friends were all starting their driving lessons and I’d always wanted a moped, but I couldn’t.”
Josh finished his GCSEs and aged 16 made the decision to go to the specialist residential college, the Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford. This meant living away from his family but allowed him to learn “somewhere where he didn’t stick out like a sore thumb”.
He was taught skills for daily living and how to use accessible technology.
Josh later went to university in Sheffield aged 19 and adapted better to university life than a lot of his sighted friends as he already had the experience of living away from home.
He was still struggling to divulge his sight loss but in 2019 he was knocked over by an electric car while crossing a road.
"I was just about managing to get around, but it was getting harder. Especially if the sun was bright or when it was getting dark. But after I was hit by the car I was really embarrassed. It was a wake-up call. I now had two young children, who I share custody of, so I needed to keep them safe.”
It was then that Josh called Guide Dogs.
“I was matched with Ringo in 2020 in the full swing of the pandemic and we started to train in November 2020," he said.
"The training was pretty intense but it was excellent. They taught me everything I needed to know and made me feel really confident and comfortable.”
Ringo helps father-of-two Josh navigate independently, including travelling to London once a fortnight for work, where he works for the Thomas Pocklington Trust as the head of internships, and also walking his boys, Kaylen, aged nine, and Koen, seven, to school.
He says: “The difference Ringo’s made is massive not just to me but my whole family. He gives them the confidence that I’m OK. He makes me feel so confident and takes away the anxiety of getting around. He’s just been life-changing. He’s great with the kids and he’s a good friend to me too - I couldn’t ask for a better guide dog.
“People see Ringo and know that I have a vision impairment. I don’t have to hide it anymore. I tried to hide it for so long, but I finally have the confidence to talk openly about my sight loss.”
Last year Josh graduated with his second degree, a law conversion at the University of Birmingham. And in September he will start his barrister training at the University of York.
He said: “I’ve probably had a more fruitful life because of my sight loss. It’s opened a lot more doors than it’s closed. I probably wouldn’t have studied law many years ago, but I just didn’t have the confidence back then. I’ve got more confident over the years, by working and studying, and now with Ringo I feel I can do anything."
To find out more and discover the life-enriching services provided by Guide Dogs, go online to guidedogs.org.uk/brothers.