If I hadn’t had been blind, I would have been able to. . . . hmm, I wonder how many have asked this question to themselves? I know I have, but the answers that have come back to me do not necessarily conform with the expected. You know, the ones like being able to drive, to choose to go anywhere I like and to travel the world freely on holiday etc. etc. For the record, I have managed to do quite a bit of these but no being blind has given me opportunities in other ways.
At the end of my first blog on my own visual impairment, I had just lost the remainder of my sight and was facing life as a totally blind person. A challenge at the time, but one that instead of becoming a personal barrier, became a motivation to do something productive and non conforming (so to speak). Like today, the 1980s and early 90s were full of norms that stated a totally blidn person cannot do this and why would I want to do that. Instead of going further education in a special school, I wanted to go to mainstream college in order to give myself as much opportunity as possible to start competing in the sighted world. Faced with doubts from fellow students and teachers alike, i got through this and went onto university; despite one of my tutors at college openly stating that Usuch establishments were too dangerous for blind people (right as if I’m going to listen to that). After university, I wanted to work and despite being initially turned down for a teaching course by a tutor who said the course was full (when it wasn’t even half subscribed) I was successful on this course and then went on to a series of work placements (unrelated to teaching) that convinced me that teaching (especially in further and adult education) was the place to be. Life has certainly followed this pattern for some time :).
There you go, being blind has been an experience (thats putting it mildly to say the least). and something that always brings up challenges and challenging situations and attitudes. When people say, oh you can do anything if you put your mind to it – blindness is no barrier. Hmm, true to a point, but wanting to do something is one thing; whether society enables it is another thing to consider and work through.
with all of this fighting for opportunities and the need to find a degree of fulfilment, I turned to sport in late 1995. I had played goalball at college some years earlier, but when I left there, the opportunity to be involved in the sport seemed to have disappeared. With the fantastic help of some local friends, we established a local team and through attending tournaments, I worked my way up into the national squad. all of this culminated in helping the team qualify for and compete at the 2000 sidney Paralympic games. Now this was an opportunity that I would never have gained if I’d had sight.
Having no sight has certainly robbed me of the opportunity to see colours, view landscapes, put situations and environments into context. I would never say losing your sight is a good career move, but what it has enabled me to do is to develop self determination/motivation, challenge sterotypes/social assumptions and to seek opportunities through study, work and sport. I’ve been lucky to have been in these positions and will continue to strive to seek opportunity, but I hate wasting things and life is something (sadly highlighted through recent family losses) that cannot be wasted, taken for granted and dismissed. Make the most of every opportunity, moment and value those around you.