Hi everyone! This is my first official blog post. I promise not all my content will be about my visual impairment, but I do want to put out some posts about it in order to create a community and have my words mean something. Whether you know me personally, or are coming across this; I want to take this opportunity to educate others, as well as contribute as another voice in the disabled community. I plan to release an article soon, but that is much longer and will likely be published elsewhere. Therefore, here is a more straightforward account of my life. This is moreso basic information, so stay tuned for more specific posts.
How did I come to have a visual impairment: When I was about six months old, I was diagnosed with a rare eye disease called Leber Congenital Amaurosis (LCA). The disease is genetic, but I do not know anyone else in my family who was left with a visual impairment of this kind. In fact, a lot of my family members don’t really wear glasses. My condition is rather rare, leaving me with less answers than I would like. So to quote the Lady Gaga song “I was born this way.”
General background about my life: I have a dog and her name is Scarlett. She is really cute. I have a sister who is currently a college student. We are kind of opposite as she likes science stuff, and I am here writing. I like to ice skate and I used to dance (I have some stories from that). I did a lot of things, actually. I have traveled a lot, and my favorite place was Barcelona, Spain. I like to do normal things like get coffee, shop, eat food, visit new places, and spend time with others. I used to play the piano, and I still absolutely love music which will also be discussed a lot on this blog. My favorite artists are Taylor Swift and Halsey, and I have seen them both in concert twice so far. People have mixed feelings on Taylor Swift, so we will definitely have a debate about that! .
What are some positives about having a visual impairment? Meeting people I would never have met before, like aides and other disabled people. It is a really good excuse to be on here doing what I love. One of my best friends has a disability, and we probably would not be so close if I wasn’t visually impaired. I don’t know what I would do without her honestly. A lot of the aides and teachers I have met have also had positive impacts on my life. I guess my aides have been good resources and additional insight in my life. Although I am my own person, some of my experiences have made me stronger which means a lot to me. I feel like people like me have a different outlook on life because we have been through struggles that the majority is not aware of.
What are some drawbacks? I don’t get as much social freedom. A lot of the times when I am walking around in school or unfamiliar places, I have to use a guide or cane, and that’s not fun. People get kind of overwhelmed, and some people do not know how to react to me. I wouldn’t be like this if I had the choice. I think we all have those things that we want to change about our lives, usually our flaws. I sometimes get headaches when I do work, like reading, because it bothers my eyes. I feel like that is more common though, so I have no complaints. Images and videos that are inaccessible are my greatest enemies because I need them described to me by another person. I rather not show my aides my Instagram feed when I don’t have to. It is nice to be independent. Sometimes, I have felt like people were insensitive, not because they mean to be that way, but due to the fact that they don’t understand or know what it is like. You don’t really know someone else’s reality unless you walk their path. I will admit, I do not know or understand the full story of anyone else’s lives or struggles because every story is different.
What I have learned from having a visual impairment: I’ve learned that the world is not the best place ever. I’ve also learned to practice more empathy in my life and apply it to other people’s situations. That being said, I do have people I do not get along with so I’m not as innocent as that last sentence may have portrayed me to be. I have always told people that I don’t need their sympathy, but empathy. No one really understood the difference. Let me break this down. Let’s start by defining both of these words that are often interchangeable in the minds of some others. According to the dictionary, sympathy is “feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.” Empathy is defined as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” I find the best way that I practice empathy is putting myself in the other person’s shoes. For example, if my friend texts me and says “I got a B on my math test” instead of getting upset that they are complaining about a B, I imagine being a hardworking student who receives A range grades. If I were in that position, and received that score then it would be a big deal to me too! Now the normal me is like what is the big deal, but this is not about me; it is about the other person’s problem. When I realize how the other person must be feeling, I am able to show compassion and try my hardest to help them and make them feel better. This skill is especially useful when you are talking about disabled people too. Instead of just giving us some solution or convenient answer, or pitying us, try thinking about what we were experiencing and imagine yourself in the situation. You might find your reaction to be much different. I am not like one of those expert life counselors, so I could be wrong. It differs from person to person. Don’t feel bad for us, but try and understand. Empathy, not sympathy is the key if you need a way to react.
Where I hope to be in 10 years: Hopefully I will have a job. I would have finished college and graduate school. I will be living in a city, like New York. If you know me, you know me I am definitely a city girl. I am going to see where life takes me. I don’t need a plan at this moment.
How to support visually impaired people: Talk to them. Ask them questions. Do not assume anything. If there is something on your mind about a concern, be honest with them. Treat them like they are like everybody else. Keep it in mind, but I would hope that my vision would not be the first thing someone thought of when they heard my name. We are all more than our disabilities.
Some misconceptions about visually impaired people: We are not normal. Sure we are different, but everyone is. Most of us have normal brains that are developing and are at the same stages as our peers. We are capable of a lot, but we do need to do things differently. We cannot be independent. There are actually many ways to get things done and we are good at figuring out obstacles and making things possible even though it is frustrating we cannot do things the way others can. We can always find an alternative.