I’m pondering the term sight loss. Yes, it affects us all in one way or another, but there are common factors and individual experiences that make it a universally complex term. How can two simple words turn into this? Well, individuallyy we all have experiences to share and stories to tell that relate to our own situations.
This article, I hope, will be the first in a series of peices sharing our own experiences of sight loss, visual impairment or indeed blindness (depending on the way you prefer to describe it). As we’ve seen through the various VI Talk channels, its great to share experiences and to discuss issues that are close to us individually and as a group. Its time now through this blog to put these into context on an individual basis.
I would like to share my own story of being visually imapired and how that has affected my life.
I was born blind; well near enough anyway. My eye condition at birth was Nystagmus and cataracts. As I wasn’t able to turn my head to the light or recognise anything visually from an early developmental stage, a quick diagnosis was made and subsequently I had a series of operations to treat the cataracts that was basically blocking any vision. In the 1970s, operations for this condition were not like they are today; they were called needlings whe holes were made in the cataracts to enable vision. Additionally, to support this, we were given glasses that resembled two bottle ends in a frame that was quite heavy and had the effect of magnifying my eyes as well as helping me see. I had a pair from 4 months old; I still have them too as a museum piece.
My vision didn’t alter much for the first 12 years of my life. Although, I had enough sight to read big print and to get around a bit, I was registered blind from an early age and did struggle in certain areas. One of the big effects of this in early life was my education. Options in the late 70s for being educated in mainstream were virtually non existant and therefore from the age of 5, I went away to a school for partially sighted kids. Again, today, this would be completely different, but its daft in my mind to blame anything on the time you were born because that in itself can have its benefits too.
In 1985, I started to lose my sight and this was causing some problems at school in terms of me being able to read print and to clearly present work. I was often blamed by the teachers at the school in Coventry (UK) for being lazy. Although, I was initially unaware about the slow decrease in my sight, I was far from being lazy as I remember working extremely hard to prove my teachers wrong. It got to a point where I was going to be put down into the bottom stream; for those who were considered less academically capable; it was a time to change schools.
As I moved to my new school in late 1985, my sight continued to lessen and by the start of 1986, it had virtually gone. It was an extremely difficult time as on the one hand I was glad to be in a school that was more supportive and who could see that the decrease in sight was affecting the way I worked. On the other hand, I had a new environment to get used to, I finally recognised that I was losing my sight and I had new working methods to learn (very qucikly too). I’m just so thankful that I was amongst people who understood, who were supportive and who gave me the time to adapt. This really did help me come back from a very difficult time to launch ahead for the future.
More next week. . . .