Walk a Mile in My Blind Shoes
When someone says "blind," what comes to mind? Someone with dark glasses with a walking cane who rocks back and forth? Someone like Stevie Wonder or Ray Charles? I would like to say that pictures like these are not what the majority of the blind community looks like. Of course some of these stereotypes apply. If someone is light sensitive or if their eyes are disfigured, they will often wear darker glasses. Those who need extra aide to get around may also use a cane. But there is a large community of which most aren't aware of. People like me.
To give some background about myself, I was diagnosed with an eye condition called Stargardts, which is a form of juvenile macular degeneration at about age seven. This was the late eighties / early nineties so there was little known about the disease other than that it was progressive. I was lucky to have parents who were not in denial about my condition and worked hard to get me involved with the blind community and attain all the vision aides, support programs, and experiences that would have me interacting with the blind community, particularly those of my age group so I could "see" how others dealt with their struggles.
Now, I have about 20/200 in both eyes with no central vision and scarred retinas, as is the norm with this disease. But I am able to get around without assistance and many people don't realize that I am blind until I say something or they see my eyes not centrally focusing on them. This was and is a blessing and a curse.
I am able not to be immediately stereotyped as a disabled person just from looking at me without the cane I now use due to my lack of depth perception. But on the other side of the coin, people also either assume I am lying or think I have much worse vision than I do without me explaining. As a kid I absolutely took advantage of people thinking I couldn't see as well as I could, as most of my peers did. Hey, we were kids! But as I got out of school years, I saw this as an extreme detriment not to let those around me know my limitations and what I was really capable of doing with little to no aide, particularly in the workplace.
I believe in the jobs I have had, some of my co-workers and some bosses felt that I wasn't capable of doing things that I had made clear I was very capable doing. Anything to do with a computer I excel at because computers tend to have the best adaptive capabilities for vision issues, especially these days. I was actually almost fired on the spot at one of my jobs on the second day because I didn't make it a point in telling them my vision issue, which by law I did not need to disclose.
Although if they had really read my resume, such as where I graduated from and some other details made it very clear I was legally blind. In addition, finding jobs that will hire me although I am extremely qualified for many, without saying so, don't give me a chance once they find out of my vision issues even though it wouldn't affect my capabilities of working. Those who are completely blind I have noticed get easier placements in jobs because it's clear on their limitations. For people like me, we are wild cards because our blindness isn't obvious or for some, noticeable at all.
To sum it up, my blindness has given me great opportunities, allowed me to meet people I would never had met otherwise, and has given me a view on life not many are able to "see". On the other hand, it has given me limitations and struggles again, most don't have to endure and at times it makes life very difficult. But would I change what I have? Not for anything. I wouldn't be who I am without my disease.
© 2017 Tara Cochran