Back in September last year, I wrote an Insight called What can you see for Eye Week - http://vidatraining.weebly.com/blog/22-what-can-you-see-eyeweek that tries to explain what I can see (although it’s very hard to give an explain – think about how you would describe what you can see). I wanted to follow up that Insight with something similar but this one is more about how people perceive me and my blindness.
It doesn’t happen quite as much nowadays probably due to me being a bit more ‘obviously’ blind. I get sight guided or use a white cane to get around, usually have my sunglasses on and regularly bump in to things or need extra help to complete tasks. However, I still sometimes surprise people by what I can do or still can see.
Being registered blind doesn’t mean that you can’t see anything; in fact statistics state that only about 4% of people have no sight with these people usually having their eyes removed and/or having prosthetic eyes. In fact, even if you have no light perception, often you still see something. A BBC Ouch blog about David Rose, a blind journalist entitled “Do blind people really experience complete darkness?” (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-ouch-31487662) helps explain this and, although 3 years old, is still very relevant.
David Rose describes the flashes and fireworks as ‘Visual Tinnitus’ which I think is a great description. I am in this camp, I still can see when it is light and dark; I can see lights in the ceiling and I can see flickering images if I look closely at the TV. However, this is all very blurred and behind a load of rapidly flashing white dots and green swirls. As with David, these don’t go away when I close my eyes or bury my head under the duvet, they’re always there.
So, it still surprises people that I can bend down and pick up a coin that I’ve dropped, do the ironing or wash the car. I can do these things but I do them differently than a sighted person would. I use my other senses more, so for example, I feel the paintwork when washing the car and use my ears to listen to wear something has dropped so that I have an idea of where to start feeling to find it. Ironing is slightly different, obviously I don’t touch the iron as that would be stupid, but I do feel where I have ironed and work in a methodical way so that I don’t iron in creases (well I don’t think I do anyway).
An advantage to using my other senses to do tasks is that I don’t need the light on to do it. I can wash the car in the dark and regularly end up ironing in the dark without even noticing that the room has gone dark due to the sun going down. I rarely put lights on in the house so shower, shave and dress in the dark and I’ve even made breakfast for the children in the dark forgetting that they can see and would probably prefer the lights on!
I’m not saying that life is easy without sight, it isn’t. However, it doesn’t stop me from doing normal things; it just means that I might do them differently and am usually much slower at doing them. Obviously there are things that I can’t do or find really difficult such as driving, painting and decorating and knowing whether something is stained following a spillage. I also find dusting and window cleaning difficult due to not seeing whether I’ve removed the dust or just moved it around (I also tend to knock things over or have to remove everything from the shelf before I dust so it takes ages!) or have left smeary windows.
My life is about finding new strategies or solutions to achieving everyday tasks. Perhaps you can take some time to think about how you might do things if you couldn’t see… try it, and see how your other senses take over.
We’re always interested to know about other people’s experiences and thoughts. Please share these by commenting…
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Our VIDA Insights...
Following our experiences from delivering our Vision Impairment Awareness training days over the past couple of years, we know that there’s loads more that we could talk about and examples we could have shared. Whilst these won’t be a substitute for our training, they will give you an insight (hence the name!) into our thoughts, observations and experiences from each of our perspectives - Dave’s living with sight loss and Vicky’s from being a sighted person and working alongside and supporting people who have sight loss.