As you can see from the page title, I’m blind: I mention it in my posts when I need to but it’s not a central part to my blog. However, I get quite a lot of questions about it.
To make your life easier and to just explain to you, I’ve compiled a list of questions which I either get asked a fair bit or which I think would be useful for you to know.
How much can you see?
I’m not totally blind: I can see nothing out of my right eye (the lens is removed and the retina’s detached). Out of my left I can see light and dark, outlines of things – so the vague shape of it – contrasts and with that, some semblance of colour. However, it’s not really ‘colour’: only one blue is blue to me and only if it’s a solid block of blue that’s close to my face; most things look black, white, something close to that or something in between and I can’t see detail, at all. The best way to imagine it is if you were standing in front of me, you could be a person, pillar or anything really; I work out what things are from context. I couldn’t tell you what your face looks like, whether your hair is light or dark unless I was very very close to you or anything about you. I know if a room has a window in it because of the light but I couldn’t see what’s out of it. Maybe I can see more than I know but if that’s the case, I would have no perception of it because if you’ve literally never seen something, you can’t know what it is. It’s difficult to explain because I’ve never seen anything different.
Were you born blind?
Actually no: I went blind about 2 weeks after I was born, on account of me being born very very early and various reasons of which I haven’t really been told. However, I can’t remember being able to see and so I may as well have been born blind; it’s important though that I don’t say I am because that would be a lie.
How do you read and write?
I never had a hope of reading print of any size (I can’t even tell if a page has writing on it unless it’s solid black block-capitals on a white page). As a result, I read braille and have been since I was 4: I used to use a huge machine called the Perkins but hated it. When I was 9 I got a Braille computer type thing called a Braillenote and I still use it now; not many VI (visually impaired) people use them though but I like them because it means I can read Braille and not just rely on speech software. I still have my Brailler if I want to write something out in a physical form.
How do you blog, then?
I use my Braillenote (see above) to write posts, either writing and posting directly from it or connecting it to my phone. My phone’s got something called VoiceOver on it – all Apple products have – which reads out the screen to you and you control everything by different gestures. Try it sometime; it’s not hard to figure out how to use it. Often, I connect my computer up to my phone because I’m terrible at typing on a touchscreen (I’ve got better) and so I use that to reply to comments.
What kind of school do you go to?
I’m most likely smashing a bit of my anonymity into the ground here but I go to a school with a VI unit. That’s a place where my work’s prepared for me by teaching assistants who get the work from my class teachers. They send it to me electronically and I go to lessons with sighted people, only going to the unit to work in free periods because I get distracted in the Sixth Form library. In the lower school, I used to have teaching assistants which I had in every lesson to help me; now, though, I’m unsupported and it benefits me a lot because I can express myself fully. I could have gone to a totally mainstream school (no unit, just teaching assistants) or a special school for visual impairment but I thought that would stifle me too much. Because of that, I chose the option in the middle as it means that I can get support as well as interact with people who are (mostly) not VI.
What kind of problems do you face, being blind?
For me, the main one is independence: my level of independence is shockingly low – partly to do with my blindness but also because I never took the opportunity to start trying early. Because of that, I find getting around on my own more tricky (though the amazing L, family and other friends have helped me immensely with that); cooking, general household chores and the like are also hard. It’s something I want and am striving to improve as much as I can. Also, the general attitudes of people are hard to deal with: people jump out of the way of me and my cane, apologise constantly, don’t know how to “deal” with me and can either make me feel like an animal or an alien on the worst of days but that’s most likely because they haven’t come across a situation like that. However, it still hurts. Not being able to join in with basic things is also an issue; I was never that into films despite audio description and so I can’t talk about films with my friends without sounding stupid; going out takes a lot of organisation with school friends because I live so far away and even though I learned to apply it reasonably compotently, makeup is a struggle because I constantly worry I look awful.
Do you ever wish you could see?
Yes, but not so much as people presume. Either I’m judged to be completely fine with not being able to see and never even considering wanting sight or I always want to see and become upset because I can’t. In fact, I’m somewhere in the middle: on most days, it doesn’t bother me but sometimes, I do get really upset because I doubt I’ll ever have improved sight and if there was an operation, it would take me years to be able to adapt and learn how to read, write, get around and just understand what things were related to how I saw them. Maybe I would take the chance to have an operation when I’m older but for now, I definitely wouldn’t. It’s something I have to deal with and so even if it hurts sometimes, getting on with my life and finding ways to do things not despite my disability but things that I enjoy is my main goal in life. Of course it’s not pleasant to not have the full use of a sense – especially if you lost it later in life – but I think that life should be about finding positives and being happy.
What are the things you’d most like to see?
It sounds weird but I would love to see the stars; I’m fascinated by space. The moon is also on my list – that might happen one day if it’s full and I’m in an unpolluted and cloudless area – but who knows? I would love to look into someone’s eyes, see someone’s face properly and just see the simple things because I feel like if I ever got full sight, I’d even appreciate what clouds, rain and the sky look like.
What positives has blindness brought you?
I’ve met the best people: I know VI people from all over this country and the world; I go on ‘blind camps’ as I like to call them: residentials with activities that can range from rock climbing to going up the Eiffel Tower. I’ve fallen in love, helped people to understand me, learned about different disabilities and realised that there are many people worse off than me and that life’s worth living if you can find ways to cope with the crap things that happen to you rather than cry about it too much. I may not have started this blog because of my blindness but I know that it was a contributing factor. I feel like if I weren’t blind, my personality would be completely different because I would literally see the world differently and perhaps not have the views that I have now.
If you have any more questions then don’t be afraid to ask! I’m always happy to answer; in fact, I enjoy it because it’s great that people are interested and are willing to learn. If you think any other questions or more details should be added here, let me know too!
From Elm 🙂