A BLIND man has become the first person in the UK to receive a special device to help him at work.

Geoff Madge, 48, a research officer at Essex County Council, based in Chelmsford, has been given the UltraCane through the Government-run access to work scheme.

The cane alerts users to obstacles in their path, meaning blind people can manoeuvre without fear of injury.

Mr Madge, who has worked at the council for 25 years, came across the device at an exhibition and said it has already made a big difference to his life.

He said: “I can navigate much more easily round the council offices now and less familiar places too.

“My sighted work colleagues are fascinated by it and how it helps me get around. It’s a real talking point.

“With a standard, long cane, you only know about an obstacle once you hit it, but now I am finding out what is there in advance and can take avoiding action before I get there. This is a breakthrough.

“I feel much more in control and much more aware.”

The access to work scheme is run by Jobcentre Plus to provide support to disabled employees and businesses to overcome problems in the workplace.

Peter Martin, leader of the council, said it was great to see an employee gain support.

He added: “I’m delighted one of our valued employees has been supported by receiving such revolutionary equipment thanks to the access to work scheme.

“It is clear the UltraCane has immensely improved Geoff’s working conditions and I hope many more employers and their staff will take advantage of access to work.”