Its true you know…. around 97% of “Blind” people have some residual vision
I am partially sighted, with he following eye conditions:
- Subretinal Haemorrhage
- Mild Diabetic Macular Oedema
- CSR (Central Serous Retinopathy)
- Taught Thickened Posterior Hyaloid
- Epiretinal Membrane
- Scatter (PRP) retinal Laser Scars
So, I recently saw a picture of a man, walking with a white cane whilst using his mobile telephone. The jist of the commentary underneath the picture was a rant about this bloke being a liar and probably claiming benefits for being blind, when clearly, he isn’t blind at all, he was just faking it!
It is some peoples view that a VIP (Visually Impaired /Blind Person walks with a cane or a guide dog, needs a carer to do everything for them and walks/sits doing nothing than looking straight ahead or down into their lap, not turning their head and looking at anything or anybody, and most certainly not doing anything normal such as using a telephone!
This really got to me, as I have heard people making comments about me on my travels when using my white cane. Usually, they don’t have the front to say it directly to me, but rather whisper it to whoever they’re with, or rather loud enough that they know I will hear it. I don’t (as yet) respond verbally for a number of reasons, but do log it and it either makes me really annoyed, makes me feel upset, or just makes me so sad that people are so quick to make judgements about people, when they have no idea what is going on in that persons life.
I thought that I would share my thoughts and knowledge on living with sight loss, and clarify one or two things, in an attempt to help spread the word about sight loss and what it actually means (and doesn’t mean):
What does being officially Blind mean?
As with many other medical conditions, there is a spectrum and quite a broad spectrum.
Someone may be classified as partially sighted (as I currently am) which is also sometimes called Sight impaired.
Others are classified as Blind – also known as severely sight impaired
There are over 200 conditions that affect peoples sight, and everyones seeing ability is different along the spectrum.
However, only around 3% people have NO vision whatsoever. Being classified as Blind DOES NOT mean that the person has No vision at all ( in most cases). it does however mean exactly what the new classification of Blind means – They are Severely Sight Impaired. they don’t have good functioning vision. What it does not mean is that they cannot do things, it does not mean that they have to have a carer with them 24 hours a day, it does not mean that they cannot do things for themselves, It does not mean that they cannot live in and contribute to society,
I for example have no colour vision in my right eye, but can see colours with my left. So, anything I can see with my right is greyscale. I see shapes and light/dark, but have difficulty with contrast and detail. So, for example, I can see a person sat directly across from me, but, I cannot see their eyes blink/move, and quite often cannot see their lips move. This makes it incredibly difficult to pick up on visual facial cues, and often causes normal communication problems, as in a social setting, you would interact with people visually and pick up their facial expressions.
I have little or no peripheral vision – so, if things are going on above, below or to either side off me, I’m unlikely to notice it. People who know me, will often laugh at me jumping when they hand things to me, or touch me from the side – as it always catches me by surprise and scares the hell out of me.:-)
The remaining vision I have is blurry, so I see nothing at all with clarity. I can’t read a menu, labels, books, magazines, letters etc Without magnifying aids.
So, when I walk, I see only what is directly in front of me (albeit blurred). If I am looking forward, I will not see anything on the ground, no kerbs, uneven surfaces, holes objects, animals etc. I don’t see things above eye level, so things like overhanging branches are a nightmare. As are bushes on a walkway, as because they are to the side of me, I don’t see them before I walk into them.
My vision changes in different lighting conditions. I am night blind – so, see nothing in the dark outside at all. hence, I never go out alone at night, Im just too nervous. if the sun is bright, I see eery little at all, so wear eye shields in bright light , as this helps A LOT by reducing the amount of light to my eyes.
Different people see differently to me. Some people see more than me, some people see less than me.
What Can Blind/ Partially sighted people do?
A heck of a lot actually!
Using a mobile phone:
Technology (thank goodness) has come on in leaps and bounds over the years. As such, a lot of the smart phones have great accessibility features, for the visually impaired, hard of hearing etc. Check them out on your phone – usually under General > Settings > Accessibility
The iPhone , right out of the box can be easily customised for someone with limited vision. Some of the features I use are Voiceover, (Speech) Speak and Speak Screen, magnifier, Zoom, Invert Colours, Bold and Large font etc. So, I can use social media, I can text, I can read and send e-mails and make calls – just like a regular sighted person can – all thanks to the technology
Audio books are being used by many people, not just the visually impaired.
Kindle is a great way to read books – you can make the font large, change the contrast and colours etc
I just cannot get into audio books, but can tolerate e-books on a kindle or the Mac, as I can have the font as large as I need
Train, Rail and Plane Travel:
Visually impaired people can travel like other people. It just takes a lot more planning, and sometimes the assistance of other people to help them along their way. Things that would greatly assist with this are Clear Train stop announcements, so that we know what station we are pulling into, and of course, the same on bus travel – we can’t see the digital displays, so, audio announcements would make travel a whole lot easier.
I am amazed at the help I have had from members of the public, Bus, Train and Flight staff. Its just sad when you get those few people who want to make derogatory comment, or go out of their way to make it difficult for you when they see you have a problem with your vision – but, think you are faking it
Going to a restaurant out Pub
Whilst it is always nice to go out with friends or family , a visually impaired person can independently make their way to a restaurant, order food and eat! We don’t need people to cut out food up for us or to give us our drinks with a straw! We can remember where our mouths are and whilst it may take us longer to eat our food, we can manage generally very well
So, please, when out and about and you see a guy or a girl with a white cane, or with a guide dog – and see them looking at a kindle, iPad, computer or mobile phone etc, don’t judge them or accuse them of faking it. They can see enough to do what they are doing, and whilst it may be a struggle for them, they would still rather do it using the available technology than sit there doing nothing.
In my experience, fortunately there are more good people out there that will happily help me if they think, or see that I am struggling, or quite often, If I need some assistance, I will ask for it, and people are only too happy to help. However, it is rare that I have a complete day when I am out if there aren’t comments to other people about me within earshot , or said directly to me at least once. There is just no need for it
Anyway..rant over. Hope you found this insightful, and as always, welcome any comments and views