Blind Kenilworth couple will receive honorary degree for services to visually impaired people

From left: Henrietta 'Etta' Reid, with husband Fred Reid
From left: Henrietta 'Etta' Reid, with husband Fred Reid

A Kenilworth couple who both went blind as children will receive an honorary degree from the University of Warwick for their services to visually impaired people.

Fred and Henrietta ‘Etta’ Reid, both 79, of Priory Road, will be given the honour at a ceremony at the university on Wednesday July 19.

Fred, who lectured history at Warwick for 31 years, said they were ‘absolutely delighted’ when the university contacted them about its decision to award them the degree.

He added: “It was such a nice gesture - it just came out of the blue. We’ve just done what we thought were the right things to do.

“We’re very much looking forward to it. It will be a very special day especially having been at the university all these years.”

Fred and Etta met as teenagers at the Royal Blind School in Edinburgh after both went blind at different points in their lives.

Fred suffered a double detached retina when he was 14, and Etta lost her sight after a traffic accident when she was just six.

Early in their lives, both Fred and Etta resolved to speak up for the rights of blind people.

In Kenilworth they created a charity to support blind adults with administration, Kenilworth Readers for the Blind.

Etta is currently on the charity’s committee, and Fred helps organise the rota for visits to individuals.

Fred served as President of the National Federation of the Blind and Partially Sighted from 1972 to 1975 and twice was a trustee of The Royal National Institute of the Blind, 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 added: “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 ground breaking government programmes, including: disability living allowance, access to work, mainstream education for visually impaired children and the first inclusive college for visually impaired students at Loughborough.

“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.”