Dave Steele is an award-winning poet, author, public speaker, singer, and advocate for the blind. Diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) in 2014, this genetic eye condition left Dave “severely sight impaired.” Together with his wife, Amy, the family grappled with the difficult diagnosis as RP quickly left Dave an unemployed father of four. Feeling the stressors of financial debt and the loss of his independence, Dave turned to social media for support with his RP journey. He was also struck by the numerous misconceptions and stories of injustice being experienced by so many blind/visually impaired people all over the world. When a member in one of these online groups learned of Dave’s singing background, they invited him to perform at a meeting for those living with RP and Usher Syndrome. The experience inspired Steel’s idea for his “Stand By Me RP” song. Using the classic song by Ben E. King, Dave altered the lyrics to relate to how he felt losing his own sight to Retinitis Pigmentosa. In December 2014, Dave sought permission from the band Elbow, to alter the lyrics of their song “One Day Like This.” With the band’s blessing, Dave performed his version of the song at Joanne Milne’s “Breaking the Silence” book launch.
Dave created his own “Stand By Me RP” Facebook page in 2015. Since it’s conception, the page has become one of the largest social media RP groups in the world. As his eyesight continued to decline, the words did not stop flowing. Dave began writing two to three poems per day about his struggles and experiences. Part creative genius, part therapy, Dave’s writing became a catalyst for helping others and himself through RP. Dave’s first book, Stand By Me RP Volume I, was released in February 2016. That same day, he received the call that he had been matched with a guide dog. During its first week, Stand By Me RP Volume I, went on to become the #1 poetic release in both America and Australia.
In March of 2016, Dave left his family for 10 days to be trained with his guide dog, Christopher, a yellow Labrador retriever. He released his second book, Stand By Me RP Volume II, in February 2017. It became the #1 poetry release in Europe within its first day. In February 2018, Dave’s third book, Stand By Me RP Volume III was released, completing his trilogy. Dave has been featured in a short film by Cambridge university called Blindsighted. He has also appeared on a special called the Blind Poet for RNIB radio, BBC TV, ITV and That’s Manchester TV news.
His advocacy work continues to be recognized both locally and internationally. In 2018 Dave was honored by Henshaws with the “Impact Award” and was the recipient of the Pride of Bury “Community Hero Award.” He currently serves as a local ambassador for Henshaws and as a global Ambassador for the American company, Two Blind Brothers.
In November 2019, Dave landed in the USA to kick off his first American Book Tour sponsored by Low Vision Specialists of Maryland & Virginia and The Low Vision Shop. The three week tour included a wide variety of speaking engagements (keynote speeches, book readings/signings, meetings, and more) and visited major cities throughout the Northeast. Dave’s presence uplifted the crowd throughout every step of the journey. Some of the book tour visits included the New York Public Library, Rhode Island College, Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM), National Federation of The Blind Maryland Conference, Maryland Department of Rehabilitation Services Conference, The Sight-Loss Support Group of Greater Baltimore, VisionCorps, and much more.
Interviewed by our Founder and President, Alexandra Nicholas, Dave Steele discusses his diagnosis with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), his self-authored collection of 700 poems and songs dealing with the fears and struggles associated with sight loss, a bit about his guide dog, Christopher and how they became partners in navigating Dave’s world. Through his works, Dave hopes to erase many of the misconceptions associated with blindness. Dave’s mission is an inspiration to all those with a difference; he states that his work “helps those who are being isolated by a condition that strips us of our independence, lets them know that they aren’t alone, and helps educate loved ones on how we feel.”