Dave: ‘What can you see?’ is one of the most common questions that I’m asked. Often it’s asked when talking to someone about my sight or by people that are interested to learn more about sight loss. I’ve accepted that this is a question that sighted people are likely to ask so it no longer bothers me, however, for someone new to sight loss, this could be a kick in the stomach.
It is, and continues to be, a tough question to answer. I can see the sun and the moon and they are both a long way away…I get asked things like “can you see that tree?” knowing that the person asking the question is unhelpfully pointing to a particular tree, get people waving their hands in front of my face to see if I react, and I have even had people put their face right in front of mine as if they are looking into my soul via my eyes.
The fact is I find it really hard to answer so often answer “what can you see?” To which people also find it hard to answer. Following this controversial answer, I do my best to explain that I only have light perception in my right eye and very blurry tunnel vision in my left but this doesn’t really answer the question. I see flashes, swirls, dots and flickering all the time. I get that after burn when looking at something for a long time – if I look at a window and then look away, I still have a bright light in my eyes as if I’m still looking at the window and this can last for many minutes. My sight changes depending on how tired I am or where I am and how bright or contrasting the surroundings are. Sometimes I can see people (the shape not the detail) but, more often than not, I can’t see them or haven’t worked out that it’s a person and walk straight in to them. I do this lots when I’m queuing in a shop – it’s not that I’m necessarily unaware of their presence, more that I can’t judge the distance and therefore bump in to them.
The other factor that makes this question so difficult to answer is what I’m comparing this to. I used to have sight but I don’t know how good it ever was and whether I could see the same as someone else. What does surprise me (and you’ll be amazed how often this happens), is when someone says “I know how you feel because I can’t see when I take my glasses off”… If only it were that simple!
Vicky: Not much to add here, except, I guess, the plea to think before you speak and act!! I’m amazed that people think it’s okay to ask quite personal questions both to Dave and our colleagues who are wheelchair users when they hardly know them. We do make a point on our training of explaining that Dave is quite open to questions about his sight loss, hence why we do the training and encourage people to take the opportunity to ask, but we also point out that not everyone will be that relaxed. I would also assume that, when out socially, it’s not the thing that Dave wants to chat all night about to someone! :-)
However, when assisting someone, it is useful to ask them how much info they would like and what assistance they require (so whether they would like to take your arm, how much they want to know about their surroundings; an item they are buying etc.,) and to remember that this may differ from day to day and throughout the day.
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