- I am not blind but it doesn’t mean I don’t need help
I am not totally blind, but I don’t have perfect vision either. I live as a partially sighted person, therefore I am visually impaired. Certainly, I sometimes do need help. But, I don’t need help ALL THE TIME and with EVERYTHING. Most visually impaired people can do things independently, but there will be moments when we as visually impaired people will need help and guidance in pointing us to the right direction when we travel in an unfamiliar environment.
- My vision is not correctable by glasses, contact lenses or surgery
I have Low Vision- which means that my vision cannot be corrected by glasses, contact lenses or with Lasik eye surgery. I started wearing glasses since I was 5. Although glasses did help in the past by getting my vision sharpened to allow better focus; but I still continuously struggled with distance viewing almost all the time. For now, I use visual aid and adaptive technology instead of glasses because they work way better than having a pair of glasses that doesn’t help much at all.
- 5cm reading distance: it is uncomfortable to you, but comfortable to me
Without the use of a visual aid like a magnifier, I can still read print, but only within the distance about 5cm. That’d be how I can read. This may seem odd or uncomfortable to a lot of people; but this is a reality of how I read. And, I shouldn’t compensate myself just for the sake of looking “normal” to others.
- There are a lot of “something” that I can see; but also a lot of “something” that I can’t see:
This is a big one so I will break it down a little:
What I can see: I am still able to see shapes; forms and colors (within a reasonable distance- the further away I am from an object the harder it is to see the object) I can see people, only the outline of them; and sometimes the color of their clothes, but it is not accurate all the time. I can read and see words(ONLY close-up to my face) and this one is complicated because I can read a book holding it 5cm away from my face but I don’t think that it is appropriate to do that when I am in public.
what I can’t see: Facial expressions: if I’m talking to someone, even next to me, I cannot see the facial expression of that person. I prefer people give me audible cues to avoid awkward moments in our conversation. Identify a person from a distance: if someone calls out my name from a distance and don’t self identify, I will not know who you are! Please always remember to: either identity yourself to let me know who you are or approach me close enough to allow me to see you better. Also, I don’t see signs: street signs or any signs and labels, and instructions (appear in public). I don’t see anything seemingly transparent- I can’t see clear water (especially that water poured into a glass-made cup is almost invisible to me!), and other glass-made objects like a door or a window; sometimes, I don’t see metallic objects like the metal pole that stands on the street. At night or in the dark,, I don’t see, at all. The sidewalk lamp is useless because they are too dim and won’t give my eyes enough light to see my surroundings ( I am Blind of the Night).
- “you seem to walk well, so maybe you don’t need your cane”
I know I walk well, thank you. But that’s because I have my cane! I am confident enough to say that it was the use of the white cane, I was able to regain my confidence in travel independently as a visually impaired person. Before my vision started to go down hill, I was always a fast walker, and I have friends that use to say to me that I walk as if i cary the wind with me. Unfortunately, with my vision started to deteriorate, my pace started to slow down because I couldn’t navigate the world around me when I couldn’t see well enough. However, with the help of my cane, and of course with the training from Orientation and Mobility, I was able to get back to my wind-carrying pace again! (YAY!!!)
- Don’t attempt to bother or distract a visually impaired person
People get the idea that they should NEVER distract a blind or visually impaired person who is traveling with a guide dog; and that you should never pet, feed the dog when it is working or interact with the dog in any way without the handler’s permission. But honestly, I think there should be rules to not distract a visually impaired person with a cane. (although this doesn’t happen often but it did happen to me which is why I’m writing about it). Visually impaired people like me need extra attention to feel their surroundings with their other senses when their vision is impaired. Therefore, if you distract a visually impaired person, whether it is yelling at them, or calling their name from a distance if you know their name, even for the good intention could lead to bad consequences. Therefore, I prefer when people see me on the street and when I happen not to see them (which in most cases I won’t) don’t yell at me, especially when you are cross the street from me, and expect me to see you; don’t distract me. It’s not like we will never meet again, I’m sure we will have appropriate and safer way to have a conversation together next time!
- “jaywalking” is not safe, not only for the visually impaired but also for anybody
I am not trying to blame anyone, but I feel the need to emphasize on this one, because I feel people in general take “jaywalking” too lightly. Honestly, it doesn’t take that long to walk to a cross-walk or an intersection to have a safe crossing, and it’s not that difficult! I have had multiple incidents with people not cooperate with me when I emphasize on the sole reasons as to why I won’t jaywalk. I will emphasize the reasons here: 1) I AM VISUALLY IMPAIRED, and as someone’s vision is not good enough to see her surroundings like me, I NEED to make sure where I am going in safe, NOT YOU think it’s safe. And because have lost depth perception from my vision loss, I cannot tell how fast, or how far away the car is approaching me, so it really is not safe to jaywalk! 2) I had an accident when I was younger and that was the first and the last time I attempted jaywalking; I was almost hit by a car in which the driver made a sudden stop with a loud squeaky noise right in front of me, I became very sensitive to that noise since then, and made an oath to myself that I will never jaywalk again! In the future, I will stop any one who attempt to lure me into jaywalking and I have good reasons to not walk with anyone who won’t cooperate with me.
- I am happy, despite living with a visual impairment
Certainly, I wish that I have perfect vision, or at least my vision could be corrected by glasses or surgery. But I try not to think about these things now-because I like the way I am. If it’s not because I’m visually impaired, I probably will never meet a lot of the wonderful people I get to meet (you know who you are!). If I am not visually impaired, I won’t know about all of the fascinating and interesting technologies that ever existed(although this discovery didn’t come easy, I thank all of the people who helped me with this). What’s more, if I’m not visually impaired, I probably won’t have the courage and motivation to share my story with all of you, I won’t even have a story to share. There is no doubt that I will have my up and down moments in life living as a visually impaired person, but I want to live beyond my disability and to live my life to the fullest. Therefore, my last message to you all, that I wish all of you to understand my vision loss is that: I am happy the way I am, despite being visually impaired, because happiness is not what you see, it’s what you feel :).
By: The Invisible Vision Project