It was during the Second World War that the Edinburgh-born David Bell sustained life-altering injuries. While service in the Royal Engineers in North Africa he was clearing a minefield when an explosion caused him to lose his eyesight and the use of both hands. He was 22 years old.
On his return to the UK, he was supported by St Dunstan's, a charity set up to help recovering former service personnel suffering from visual impairments (now known as Blind Veterans UK). He remained a supporter of the charity throughout his life. David's disabilities proved to be no impediment to him living a full life.
He ran a shop selling confectionery and tobacco in Granton, Edinburgh (for which he received a gift of 25,000 cigarettes from King Farouk of Egypt who had read about his story). He then went on to study at the University of Edinburgh, being awarded an MA before graduating with his BCom in 1955.
During his studies he was assisted by his classmates and his wife Sybil (who he had met at St Dunstan's) who attended classes, read books, and took notes for him. For exams, he formed his answers then dictated them to a typist. He said afterwards: "All I had to do was go and sit the examinations. My wife and the students who came and read to me did all the hard work."
David Bell practiced courage and persistence in the face of misfortune.David Bell's Obituary, The Times
As an alumnus, David served on the University's Commerce Graduates' Association and the business committee of the University General Council.
David was a member of the Round Table, a locally based networking organisation for businessmen. On reaching the age of 40, members were required to resign. Seeing merit in continuing the relationships, he founded the Edinburgh Forty-One Club and later became national president.
He worked to improve the lives of disabled people and served on several boards including the Disablement Advisory Committee of the UK Government's Ministry of Labour, the Local and Regional Hospital Board, and as vice-president of the National Federation of the Blind.
His public service was rewarded in several ways. This is Your Life was a popular British TV programme which featured a well-known personality each week and celebrated their life achievements. David was given the honour of being made the subject of a show in 1957. Later in his life, in 1972, he was awarded an MBE for his services to the disabled.
David died in 1992 aged 92 and in his obituary, The Times described him as an inspiration to many sighted as well as disabled people, and someone who practiced "courage and persistence in the face of misfortune".