A lot of the time I get asked the same questions. Given that I was born visually impaired and registered blind you would think that I would be use to answering these same questions by now. However, the question I find most difficult to answer is:
So what can you see?
This question is difficult to answer because I know no different. I was born with very little vision and so I have never experienced what it is like to see ‘fully’ sighted. Thus, it is difficult to get people to fully and truly understand what I can see. However, I do try my best to explain it to people. Hence, if you can imagine the eye chart test in an optician’s well I can just about make out the top letter on the chart – yes – the part of reading the chart is always over very quickly. I would just about make out the first letter on the chart and then no more. I remember when I was younger I wanted to experience what it would be like to read to the end of the chart. Obviously, my eyes were never going to allow me to do this and so I had to come up with a way to make it happen. Nope I don’t have super-powers to dramatically increase my vision neither does eating loads of carrots work. I cant remember my exact age but I remember I was young, I think I was about 9 or 10 years old. As usual I went for my 6 monthly eye-check up. I hated the part of getting the drops in my eyes. But normally the nurses would give kids who got their eyes tested little lollies and that stopped us from crying profusely. Normally, when younger, when I would go for my eye-check up I would be brought to an area where I was asked to read the chart. There wasn’t much privacy because beside me there was another chair and a different nurse would be testing someone else. My nurse was busy and so I had to wait but while waiting a person beside me was being tested. The person had perfect vision and read down the full chart. The nurse got the person to say out the chart a few times – once with left eye covered then right eye covered and then without covers. I decided to memorise what the person had said out. When my nurse came back I quickly said to her – I would like to read the chart now. I read the chart from top to bottom. Well I memorised what the person sitting beside me had said and just repeated it out loud and made out that I was reading from the chart. The nurse was a bit shocked and asked me to do it again. Eventually, she copped on that I was after memorising the chart. But for those few moments I felt great. I felt that I was just like everyone else being able to fully see.
But what can you see – try and explain?
Well I cant see small details: the colours of people’s eyes, if they have wrinkles or not. Thus, to me everybody kind of looks the same unless they are standing very close to me.
The sun hurts my eyes and so I have lots of sunglasses. But even worse than the sun is a white glared sky full of clouds. Normally, this type of day will make my eyes go watery and then blurry and it just looks as if I am crying all day. Because I let in too much light – I have no iris in the eyes – the light can cause me to be in a lot of pain and discomfort. I went into a room before for a meeting where all the walls were white, the chairs and table were white and it just caused me a lot of discomfort as the glare in the room was too much and so I couldn’t take off my sunglasses for the whole meeting.
Some days if I have bad pain in my eyes I can wake up and its like looking through a fogged up bathroom mirror.
Other questions I get asked:
But you don’t look blind? A lot of people have the common assumption if your ‘blind’ it means shaded glasses and guide dog.
But your mobility is so good?
How did you go blind?
How do you do your grocery shopping – (yes this is a strange question) but for some reason people keep asking it!
How do you choose your clothes?
How do you cook a meal?
Why don’t you have a guide dog?
What’s the hardest part about being visually impaired?
Do you use a computer? Sometimes its funny that people underestimate my ability – it brings a smile to my face in a nice way.
How do you put on make-up? Sometimes its hit and miss with make-up. But to be honest I am not big into make-up so don’t tend to wear much. I must be the only girl who hates mascara. The area around my eyes is so sensitive that I wouldn’t be rushing out to be buying it.
Can you drive? I will never be able to drive. I am amazed by the amount of people who ask me this question. It’s kind of self-explanatory. If I am registered blind then why would I legally be able to drive.
I try my best to help fully sighted people understand what life is like from my world. Some people are understanding and want to learn whilst others or not.
One of the most important factors for any fully sighted person to understand is that what works for one blind person may not work for another. I can only talk from my perspective about life growing up with a visual impairment and what life is like for me as an adult with a visual impairment.
We can all learn from each other.