I have really been looking forward to this one. I love proving people wrong and making them feel uncomfortable. That’s just my little evil side coming through. There is no malicious intent there, I'll get tired of hearing the same stuff every day. It can really get you down if you listen to people comment on your disability, even when the majority of their accusations are not true.
I have split this list into two parts, more will be explained near the end.
Anyway, shall we crack on?
This is not true!
Many visually impaired people have some useful sight, as I do. Let’s get into the statistics.
The RNIB say of the people in the UK who are registered as blind or partially sighted, 93 per cent can see something. But when people see a blind or partially sighted person with a cane or a guide dog, they assume that they can’t see anything which is often not the case.
That means that if you ever meet someone with a sight impairment, they might be able to see something, but it might not be a lot. I tell people I am registered blind, which I am. Upon hearing the word ‘blind’ people automatically assume I can’t see anything. Actually I can. As soon as I say I can see a little, they assume I am either lying about my disability or making out it is better than it is. Both responses are annoying, irritating and very hurtful. I’ve mentioned before in previous blogs about people remarking that I am too young to have a disability. Visual impairment isn’t picky, anyone can be affected. It isn’t black and white, it’s complicated and fascinating all at the same time. Each visually impaired person is unique, they are unlikely to have the same conditions or level of sight as another visually impaired persons.
I can see up to 3 meters, although that is a dated diagnosis and has probably got a lot worse over the past few months. I’m severely short sighted and have no depth perception. Many visually impaired people I know have a whole range of eye conditions that affects how they see. So, unless someone tells you they have some useful sight but are registered blind/visually impaired or if they are completely blind, don’t make assumptions. I don’t like being accused of not or being able to see. Why would we make something like that up?
I’m as independent as I can be. I do have to ask for help on occasion, either because I physically can’t do something on my own or I might injure myself. For example, if I do not have my Guide Dog with me, I might need to hold onto someone’s arm when we are out and about.
But nine times out of ten, I can manage on my own.
I do still live at home, but that’s more to do with not being able to afford a place to live on my own. I can do everything sighted people can do, all expect drive and cook meals. I don’t want to injure myself and frankly, I think I’d be a menace on the roads. So yes, there are some things I need assistance with.
Whilst I’m on this topic, if you need a person out with a cane or Guide Dog, please don’t grab them or manhandle them. I have been grabbed, yanked back from curbs and steers when I don’t need assistance. What do you think I’m going to do? Walk out into traffic? No, because my Guide Dog is sat very nicely at the curb, not moving and I will have my hand under the crossing box where the little cone is. It will rotate when it’s safe to go or I could just listen for the beeping. Grabbing a person with a Guide Dog or cane is not acceptable! If you see someone who might need assistance, approach them and make yourself known but speaking in a calm, normal pitched voice. Ask them if they need any help and if they say no, leave them be. They are more likely to know what they are doing than most people walking around with their phones stuck to their faces.
Sure, there are some people who are both deaf and blind, I don’t know that many people, but Guide Dogs do have dual assistance dogs to help with sight and hearing impermanent.
I have quite good hearing, I can hear things that might go unnoticed by other people. But that doesn’t mean that all visually impaired people have supersonic hearing! It might work like that in movies, but not in real life.
I can get easily confused and sometimes need things to be carefully explained to me, but that’s because the world likes to barrel information at me and expect me to get it all in one. I don’t work like that, I need to do things in steps to make sense of what’s being said. It might take me a couple of attempts, but I will do it eventually. (Fun fact, it took me three attempts to complete my maths GCSE. I still have no idea why, one exam I wasn’t given an enlarged paper and had to do it on a normal sized one which I couldn’t see. But I finally got my C grade.)
I work as a freelance writer and editor because that is the career path I love and is one of the only things I can excel at. Many visually impaired people do have jobs, there isn’t anything brave or inspirational about that. I know of one deaf-blind woman who is training to be a doctor. How cool is that?
There are ways in which someone with a visual impairment can manage and work normal jobs like everyone else. There is specialist equipment, screen readers, dictation aids and so forth. Just because someone might not be able to see as well doesn’t mean they can’t do anything. I have just completed my Master’s degree in Creative Writing, if I can do that with a visual impairment, what’s stopping me from doing anything I want to do?
Obviously, there are limitations to what someone with visual impairment can do. I can’t work in a kitchen, do manual labour or do any jobs like being a pilot because it would just be unfeasible. So, I do what I’m able and comfortable with. Because I don’t want to injure myself or anyone else for that matter just for a wage.
I can apply for jobs and not get anywhere because as soon as I tell an employer I’m registered blind, they don’t want anything else to do with me. I a too much of a liability, a risk. Nd at the end of the day, I don’t want to work for someone who is constantly worried or thinking I can’t do things.
That’s why I turned to writing, it’s something I can do. It’s my job.
I was a cane user for the majority of my childhood and well into my teen years before I got my Guide Dog. And now, I couldn’t imagine life without her. She gets me out, keeps me calm. She gives me the confidence to face the world because she is always by my side. But there are times I have to use my cane. All people with a visual impairment use a wide range of aids to navigate life. Just because Guide Dogs for the Blind are more well known does not mean everyone and anyone can use them. Some people might not like dogs or have allergies, although there are special breeds which can be hypoallergenic now.)
I see having a Guide Dog as a privilege, not a right. You can get around just as safely using a cane and sometimes it isn’t possible to have a Guide Dog. It all depends on someone’s lifestyle, their needs. Having a Guide Dog is not forced upon visually impaired people, it’s there if and when they need support. Another option, another avenue of discovery.
So no, not all people who have a visual impairment use a Guide Dog. And why should it be someone’s business to question how a person uses mobility aids?
We are halfway through our list. How did you find it, do you have any questions about misconceptions on being visually impaired? Drop me a line and I can tell you more. Be sure to stay tuned to the rest of the list, five more misconceptions are coming your way next week.
I'll leave you with these quotes.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do – H. Jackson Brown Jr, P.S. I Love You.
If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives – Lemony Snicket, The Ersatz Elevator.
Everything is possible. The impossible just takes longer – Dan Brown, Digital Fortress.
When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it – Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist.
Until the next one.