Amar Latif interview: Meet the blind TV presenter, professional traveller and president of the Ramblers

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Amar Latif had known he would lose his vision one day – but he never expected it to be the reason he got to “see the world”.

His vision loss began at the age of six, but it was when he was around 18 that he could no longer see even with his previous aid of glasses. The now 48-year-old, who lives in Leeds, remembers the day vividly and how it felt as though “someone turned the lights off”.

Despite knowing from a young age that he would lose his sight, the change was not easy to accept and Amar felt depressed for months after. He said: “I remember thinking – I don't wanna be blind, I've just got my life ahead of me. I'm so excited to do the things that young people want to do. Get jobs, go to university, travel the world. I thought my life had ended. I thought that was the end of my independent life.”

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His years at university studying maths, statistics and finance taught Amar a lot about how to move forward with his blindness. He said: “I started to realise that I could do it. Sometimes just to get to the end point, I might have to do things slightly differently but I could do it and I could enjoy it.

Amar Latif Launched Traveleyes, a touring company which partners blind people with sighted people and takes them to 70 different destinations. This helps blind people have more independence when they travel. Photo: Tony JohnsonAmar Latif Launched Traveleyes, a touring company which partners blind people with sighted people and takes them to 70 different destinations. This helps blind people have more independence when they travel. Photo: Tony Johnson
Amar Latif Launched Traveleyes, a touring company which partners blind people with sighted people and takes them to 70 different destinations. This helps blind people have more independence when they travel. Photo: Tony Johnson

“I started to live again and that gave me the confidence. I had to develop what we Scots call ‘a stubborn mindset’. So I had to reject negativity and be this positive force and remove people's preconceptions and my own preconceptions, and just go for it.”

It was the year abroad to Canada at university in particular that showed Amar his independence was not lost. He said: “I was beginning to realize that even if I can't see, my friends were describing the world to me and I was beginning to learn how to appreciate the world around me, how I could smell and touch and feel the sun on my back.”

After years of accountancy, a job he truly loved, Amar wanted to travel again but was rejected from solo travelling with tour companies due to his blindness. Amar said: “I thought, ‘If I want travel to work for me, I'm gonna have to change the way travel works’.”

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He quit his job and embarked on a journey to create his own international tour operation. In 2005, he launched Traveleyes to share his passion for travel with others like himself. He added: “I had to jump off that corporate cruise ship of employment, which is very safe, and onto that little dinghy boat of entrepreneurship to be jostled by the waves of the free market.”

Amar Latif, second right, on an adventure through Morocco. Photo: Amar LatifAmar Latif, second right, on an adventure through Morocco. Photo: Amar Latif
Amar Latif, second right, on an adventure through Morocco. Photo: Amar Latif

Traveleyes partners groups of solo travelling sighted people with those who are visually impaired to allow sighted people the opportunity to travel at a reduced cost and those visually impaired more independence. Amar said: “In the last 18 years, I basically travelled the world and I've been on about 20 trips a year leading groups of blind and sighted travellers. I guess I can say that blindness has actually helped me to see the world.”

Beyond travel, Amar has also been part of many TV productions, which he thinks has allowed him to change preconceptions able-bodied people have about those with disabilities. In 2005, Amar was one of 11 travellers with disabilities on a trek of 220 miles from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast of Nicaragua, for the BBC Two production Beyond Boundaries.

A few years later, he directed the BBC 2 documentary Travelling Blind. More recently, he was one of seven celebrities who took part in BBC One's Pilgrimage: The Road to Istanbul. The TV presenter also competed in MasterChef, making it to the semi-finals.

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As an accountant, “never in [his] wildest dreams” did Amar expect to be part of such large-scale productions. He said: “I'm very determined. My stubborn mindset kicks in. So all those challenges that we all face in our life, if we start looking at them as beautiful opportunities then things start to change for us in a good way.”

TV presenter, traveller and now president of The Ramblers, Amar Latif, is pictured with lions in the river. Photo: Amar LatifTV presenter, traveller and now president of The Ramblers, Amar Latif, is pictured with lions in the river. Photo: Amar Latif
TV presenter, traveller and now president of The Ramblers, Amar Latif, is pictured with lions in the river. Photo: Amar Latif

Earlier this year, Amar was also appointed as the the resident of The Ramblers, a leading walking charity helping people to get outside into the countryside, and said he is humbled by this opportunity. He added: “I think the point is to encourage people with disabilities, ethnic minorities, basically anybody that doesn't think that they can to encourage them [to walk].”

Find out more information about Traveleyes and The Ramblers on their websites.

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