Sunday 28 August 2016

"You Don't Look Blind" #HowISee


Believe it or not, it's been a while since I talked about solely being visually impaired. Which is why in today's blog I'm going to talk about what society thinks being blind/visually impaired is and RNIB's latest campaign. Also when it comes to the latter I'm going to talk more about my sight.

"You Don't Look Blind"
First up I'm going to discuss this video and make some points of my own:
Alright Fashioneyesta made some pretty good points here I just want to elaborate on them with you guys. So let's get started!

1. Stereotypes- like mentioned in the video above is what a blind person should look like; in other words that people who are "blind", "visually impaired" have no dress sense, walk with the "big stick" and have huge cardigans can't really interact normally in the world, always need help, lack confidence, are vulnerable, old and people who make you wander how they manage. Just to give you a few examples here's what came up when I googled "blind person cartoon" on google:

I'd like to end this point by saying that yes, I'm aware that a lot of people who are blind and visually impaired, are usually old, or reaching old age, but to be fair sightless can happen at any age, you don't have to be old to be blind. I as a visually impaired person, have been like this since I was born and I'm only 19. What I'm trying to say here is that generally speaking majority of people with sigh-loss are "old", but keep in mind there is a minority of young people who are visually impaired who are in on the trends of their generation. Overall, get to know a person don't rely on society, the media's view of what a blind person is. 

2. Stigma- Next up is the idea that there are things blind and partially sighted people can/can't do, should or should not be able to do. By this I mean you shouldn't be so surprised when you see a blind or visually impaired person, crossing the road themselves, going into shops themselves, reading a popular novel, cooking, wearing the latest fashion and doing inspirational things. The truth of the matter is that a log of hese visually impaired people are like you, they learn by doing, they learn through trial and error, find methods that work for them to achieve their goal. To put it simply, it takes practice to do all these things, sometimes a little help is needed along the way or it's talking longer than you think it should but in the end we'll manage to do what everyone else can do. Also there are loads of resources out there to help, like the internet where can "just google" how to do certain things. 

Perhaps a good example would be when I learnt to use kitchen knives. In one of my mobility sessions with Rosie I was cutting an onion in half and having a conversation with Rosie and I accidentally cut both my finger and the onion. Another knife encounter I've had is when I made some chicken pasta with my sister and brother in law, where I had to cut the chicken and onion with a big all purpose knife (it's the only one they owned at the time, I don't know if they've upgraded their knife set yet), with a lot of coaching, demonstrations of how with the way I was holding my knife I could cut my fingers off and what I felt was like A LOT of time I got the hang of it. As you can see I learnt quite a few things during these sessions like the fact multi-tasking is a skill I don't have, the kitchen can get messy and bloody and with some time and practice you'll get their in the end. Oh and just because you cut your finger, doesn't mean you can quit half way, you're still going to need to feed people in the end. Maybe I should use a less violent example, like learning to cross the road by myself where I stand in between parked cars (checking there are no drivers in them) and listen before I look and decide it's safe to cross. In the Beginning I was quite slow, but with some practice i'm a lot quicker and better at it now. 

3. the "blind" label- I'm aware fashioineyesta started the video off with this, but I thought I'd use it to talk about RNIBs latest campaign. Before I get into that, just because someone has a cane, a guide dog or says they're blind or even registered as that, it doesn't mean they can't do anything, or have no sight whatsoever. The "blind" label isn't that black and white and people shouldn't expect it to be. I mean there are loads of different types of canes out there people use for various reasons, some people have light perception, others have a little sight but not enough to be considered normal. Just because someone says they're blind or partially sighted, it doesn't mean they are 100% what the label is. Overall, my main point here is don't judge a book by its cover, it's just a label not who they are as people. 

#How I See:

I feel like now is a good time to introduce the RNIB (Royal National institution of the Blind) new campaign #HowISee where they spread the fact that 93% of people who are registered blind (myself included) do have some form of sight, so people shouldn't be so shocked when they find out, or accuse them of faking it. Here's a video for more information:

I decided to take part and write about my eye condition and how despite being registered as blind/partially sighted I have some form of vision. Alight I feel like the best way to begin is to tell you guys what my eye condition is. I bet you're all thinking finally, what took you so long or you've made so many posts on this blog and you're only telling us now?! First of all I didn't know the name of my eye condition until recently and second of all don't be impatient there's a time and place for everything, this is one of them.  retinopathy 

To start off with let's go back to the Beginning. When I was born I had premature retinopathy, which in simpler terms means I was born 3 months too early and when I was put into the incubator given too much oxygen, which resulted in my retina becoming flat and one eye becoming significantly smaller than the other. I don't have that eye condition anymore, but I'm still visually impaired. There's a lot more detail to that story which I've decided to go over (like the fact that I had to be fed from a tube machine, I learnt to sit a lot later than other babies my age and so on) so we can get back to the present. Here's a link for more information on premature retinopathy.  

I now have an eye condition called Narrow Angle, better known as Narrow Angle Glaucoma but I'm not referring to it as that because I don't have glaucoma yet, my eye condition means there's a possibility of me having glaucoma in the long run which is why my eyes are monitored annually at the Glaucoma clinic in Moorfield Eye Hospital. Narrow Angle Glaucoma is an eye condition where the iris is pushed or pulled and the drainage angle where fluids flow is blocked. This internal damage can cause the eye pressure to spike and possibly damage the optic nerve which transmits images to the brain. If the pressure isn't reduced it can cause permanent vision loss sometimes all at once, other times just gradually. If you want to know more about Narrow Angle Glaucoma here's a link.  The thing is my eyes haven't gotten that bad yet, according to my doctors everything is stable right now, but I'm monitored to make sure things don't worsen which is why my condition is just referred to as Narrow Angle. The shape of the front of my eye is smaller than average, the back is bigger. As of 2016 my eye pressure is 14 in the big eye and 16 in the small eye; my vision was 660 last year and is 360 currently, it depends on the "mood of my eye", I have good days and I have bad days. If that's not very clear here's an iage of the board with loads of letters that you're asked to look at at eye tests:

Last year I could only make out the letters at the very top from a distance, but from my eye test in February and getting new glasses, I've gone back to being able to make out the second row as well. That's pretty much what the 660 and 360 numbers were all about. Also as you can tell that makes me severly short sighted to the point where what you (people who have perfect vision) can make something out from 20 metres, I can only make it out from 6 metres. Just to add to that if I want to read signs or look for people, I can't read and walk at the same time, I need to momenterily stop and try and read, I don't realise I'm doing this until it's pointed out to me, sometimes nicely, other times "stop stoping when you walk it's embarrassing". 

Without my glasses, my vision is still short-sughted, but more blury, loke a camera out of focus I have an idea of what I'm looking at, but it's not very clear. My glasses help make it more clear. Here's an example of how things look normal to people, but to me are how things look with my glasses:

 Now here's how that same image looks without my glasses:

See the difference? I hope so. In regards to light, when I look at light it's sort of like a ring, with my left eye it's a bright circle, with a lighter circle behind it that's coming down, with my right eye the light just looks like a bright circle. When looking at light coloured things I notice floaters which are harmless small black dots, shadowy dots that move around and you learn to ignore. According to the NHS website floaters are small pieces of debris that float in the clear jelly like substance that fills the space in the middle of the eye ball (the vitreous humour). I can't read the white or yellow board on the back of the car with all the letters and numbers drivers look out for, when looking for their car. I can't really tell the difference in the different type of cars out there, if the cars are the same or similar colour, unless there's an obvious difference in size. Also I can't tell if there's a driver in the car, unless I'm close to the car to the point where it looks as if I'm about to get into said car. 

In regards to night vision, if there's some light around I can make things out, if there isn't any light around well I'll need help because everything's pitch black to me. I don't usually go out, like walk around when it's dark, like at 10pm onward so I haven't had to experience navigating that type of dark myself, I have tried at 4pm, 5pm, 6pm in the winter time and I can manage that. I'm using the words "type of dark" because I hear darkness can differ depending on what time it is in the evening/ night time. 

When out and about I use a white symbol cane, which unlike other canes out there that are used to help the person navigate, a symbol cane is used to send the messege "this person can't see properly so move out of their way". In the beginning I was against the idea of the cane because I thought "I can see where I'm ging though, so why do I need this?", but after using it I realised it was for the best people people move out of the way when I walk, so it's easier to navigate in crowds, cars actually stop when I cross the road instead of me having to guess it's safe to cross most of the time, sometimes on the train people try and get me a seat (only when I have the cane unfolded, or if I don't want to stand for a long time on a long journey i just as). Also when I use the cane I find that I bump into people a lot less, for instance i was walking around London the other day, cane in my bag and held my sister's hand so she could guide me, and when walking I bumped into people and whacked a woman with my water bottle, I'm not that bad with my cane! Also according to my family I walk fast, changing my pace isn't an option I'm afraid, that's my natural speed, which may have been part of the problem. 

To look at things from a distance i have a small Spcwell telescope/binocular  with some strong magnification (10x20), it's quite strong so I have to be at a quite far distance to read something. For example if I want to order something at let's say a coffee shop and I'm standing across the counter on the side where people read the menu and say they want this and that, that menu is going to look quite blurry with my binocular no matter how much I try to adjust the focus, so what I try and do is read the menu with my binocular at a further distance (e.g. sitting at a table) or ask a friend to read it to me, or look for a menu online. I can't notice any odd looks at me unless I'm directly in front of that person, so if I get any odd looks for folding up my cane and reading a book without my zoommax because i don't want to use it in that moment, then I don't notice any of those looks. Also when finding my friends, I try and look for them and if that doesn't work, one of them will come up to me and show me where they are, but if I'm familiar with where they are like let's say we all go to sit at a table in the library and I want to get a coffee from the coffee stand in the library i can go do that and find my friends pretty well with a little walking around; however if I decide to get the coffee and then sit with my friends, finding them isn't as easy as that. 

Sports aren't exactly my forte, I think it's best for the team if I'm the person who has to do the least amount of work and I can't really tell what's going on in a game anyway. I'm not sure if the same can be said for visually impaired people who did P.E. in the UK who feel like although teachers tried to include them, it just wasn't working because  you and everyone else know that you aren't that great at whatever you're supposed to do so if the team wants to win give you the least amount of work, plus no matter how many demonstrations, shouts of encouragement you're given, the amount of times you're picked last at some point you put less effort into it because seeing how something is done is a lot easier than doing it yourself and not getting the same results as everyone else. Wow that's one long tangent! I didn't mean for it to get that depressing! All I'm trying to say here is I suck at sports. 

To conclude i think I've given you guys more then enough information about my sight and although i may not look blind, it doesn't mean I am fully blind, I have some vision but I may need a little help from time to time; the same can be said for other visually impaired people. Overall I hope you enjoyed my contribution to the RNIB's #HowISee campaign.