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Letter of Advice to Vision-Impaired Folks

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Dear Friends,

Where are you in the vision loss spectrum?

Maybe your loss is gradual and you can’t imagine you need anything to help you get around. I didn’t need anything, for certain. It never even entered my mind to think of a cane. And if I did, I would have discarded that thought right away. A cane was for others.

I wasn’t blind.  I still had a lot of vision. I was just … clumsy.

In those years, my clumsiness took the form of …

falling over some rocks, which led to several stitches in my hand ten days before my wedding.

tripping up and down a theater of stairs in an English class I taught.

falling down eighteen steps at the top of a staircase.

running into little old ladies in the subway (and ropes, too!).

almost getting trampled by a camel (in Egypt).

The peace before the shortly before the camel became enraged - have a photo of that somewhere!
The peace shortly before the camel became enraged – have a photo of that somewhere!

 knocking myself out  when I ran into a steel clothes pole behind my house.

walking straight into a cement column while administering an exam to over 100 female college students.

Those were specific incidences that I remember.

What about those everyday recurring events of charging into people, spilling their coffee and file papers flying everywhere, trying to find my way around in dark hallways, crossing my fingers while crossing major streets on foot, trying to beat the darkness, losing faces as they wove in and out of my sight.

But my vision wasn’t “that bad.” I was just really … clumsy.

I wish someone would have told me what I now know– that being pro-active is always best. Being in contact with eye specialists and monitoring my vision loss would have enabled me to look at my choices anywhere along that continuum.

Not checking my eyesight was not smart. It kept getting worse and yet I continued to think I was in control.

Until one day it reached a point that I couldn’t hide behind my clumsiness anymore. Suddenly I had no choices left. It was either use a cane or have a serious really crazy type of accident that I could have prevented!  

Have you been there? 

I had no time to adjust. I had to throw myself into using a long white cane.

And … I wonder why I waited so long? For being an educator and one holding a Master’s degree at that, I sure didn’t do all my research, at least in the life skills arena.

People stopped laughing at me or cursing my “clumsy” ways when they saw my long white cane. Instead, they started responding kindly. They no longer thought I was scatterbrained or a ding-a-ling.

I thought I would lose my independence when I picked up my mobility cane. Instead I found my independence.

For me, it turned into a win-win situation.

Maybe you can get around without too much difficulty. That’s great! I was there, too. (At least in the daylight and under optimum conditions!). But if you’ve reached a point where you’re more stressed than relaxed, think about your options with an open mind. You might not be running from an enraged camel but you might be dashing from a car you didn’t see soon enough.

So let me ask you again, where are you on the vision continuum?

If you want to learn more about what it’s like to go through orientation and mobility training, read about my very personal journey from doubt to faith, from denial to acceptance and support for orientation and mobility (O & M) training. You will get a personal account as you step into my adventures with cane training. Check out my new memoir, Mobility Matters: Stepping Out in Faith found on Createspace, Amazon and my website

Author (and Cane User)
Author (and Cane User)

Sincerely,

Amy B

Amy (your run-of-the-mill vision-impaired person).

PS Good thing I have a really keen sense of humor or I would have never made it through my pre-cane disasters! If you choose NOT to use a cane, I hope you at least carry your humor along with you. Course, even if you do pick up a cane, a good sense of humor comes in handy. Either way, that’s the a key tool you’ll need to take along with you whether you’re simply crossing the street or you’re crossing the border!

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Amy

Amy Bovaird is the author of two best-selling books Mobility Matters and Cane Confessions: The Lighter Side to Mobility.  An accomplished and inspirational speaker, she talks on a variety of topics based on her life experiences and continues to educate and inspire others through her writing and speaking. She lives with a dual disability—progressive vision and hearing loss due to Usher Syndrome. She blogs about the challenges she faces as she loses more vision and hearing and manages to find humor around almost every corner, AmyBovaird.com. Her books are available at Amazon. Follow her on social media at Amy Bovaird, Author.
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Letter of Advice to Vision-Impaired Folks

22 thoughts on “Letter of Advice to Vision-Impaired Folks

  • January 20, 2015 at 5:58 am
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    This is full of humility and authenticity, I love it! Keep sharing and encouraging others! :]

  • January 20, 2015 at 6:17 am
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    Thank you, Briana!

  • January 20, 2015 at 6:44 am
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    My tita-lola (aunt-grandma) have been blind for a long time because of a certain eye illness. She cried a lot about it before because she said there are things she loved to do but can’t do it anymore. Now, she does things like she used to.

  • January 20, 2015 at 6:47 am
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    My tita-lola have been blind because of an illness. She cry a lot about it before but now, she does things like she used to especially around the house.

  • January 20, 2015 at 6:53 am
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    Krysta,
    I am rejoicing with you for your tita-lola! What kinds of things does she do that she used to do? Sometimes it takes awhile and sometimes a longer while to reach that point of adjusting to doing things in a new way and recapturing a pastime that we love. It’s such an encouragement to read that blind people are reclaiming their lives in different ways. It’s never ever easy but if we don’t give up, there is joy in the morning, so to speak! 🙂
    Amy

  • January 20, 2015 at 8:53 am
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    My vision has changed such that i have to take off my glasses to read anything up close, but if I want to watch television or see details in the distance, I have to put them back on.
    Mary recently posted…Sounds from Down Under Blog Series: Day 3My Profile

  • January 20, 2015 at 9:36 am
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    this is such a great testimony. We sometimes think that we really are in control, but not quite. It’s more like denial and I’ve certainly been there. Thanks for sharing your story and inspiration 🙂

  • January 20, 2015 at 1:40 pm
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    You learned with the lessons life threw at you. I admire your spirit–always seeing the best in everyone else and never complaining. My sight is okay while wearing glasses, and not too bad without although I can’t read. But the white cane must have been so difficult to adjust to. I walk with a stick around the house, and rely on holding onto a rollator outside. That’s hard enough. Just goes to show–you can always find someone worse off than yourself. Keep your chin up high, lovely lady.
    Francene Stanley recently posted…What part do you play in the great role of life?My Profile

  • January 20, 2015 at 5:22 pm
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    Krysta,
    Getting back into a routine is important and your tia-lola has done this. I’m so pleased for her. My mother is an older woman and she has had to give up some of her housework and the cooking to me. But she still insists on doing the dishes. It’s a way of holding onto who we are. I’m so glad your tiafound the courage to take up doing things around the house again!
    Amy

  • January 20, 2015 at 5:24 pm
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    Hi Mary,
    The putting on and taking off is a real nuisance sometimes! I remember doing the same.
    But there are some exercises you can do to strengthen your vision. Let me look them up and I will send you a link.
    I went in for some natural care one year and I learned about these eye exercises.
    Take care,
    Amy

  • January 20, 2015 at 5:26 pm
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    Hi Cheryl,
    Thank you for your encouragement today, that my story matters!
    Amy

  • January 20, 2015 at 5:31 pm
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    Ha ha, Francene!
    What stories I have! My trainer was completely blind so learning to trust him to teach me to “see” with my cane was quite the adventure! If you want to laugh, read my book to see how I managed. 🙂 It’s available on Amazon in the UK too. My mother uses a regular cane in and out of the house, and she moves slowly. Please be careful when you go outdoors! What is a rollator? I’m picturing a railing. But that’s just a guess. 😀
    Amy

  • January 20, 2015 at 5:33 pm
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    Thank you so much, Joan.
    I think your posts are pretty awesome and am trying to implement your ideas into my blogging.
    Amy

  • January 20, 2015 at 11:18 pm
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    Amy, I can “make believe” I am legally blind just by taking off my glasses (I’ve been legally blind since I was a small child, without glasses) but it isn’t at all the same thing. But one day, in 7th grade, my glasses were knocked off my face during “passing” (going from one class to the next). I was absolutely helpless. It wouldn’t ever happen today, I don’t think, but back in 1965 I wandered the halls, not knowing where I was, not knowing where to find help. I finally stumbled across the teacher’s lounge; I don’t even know how I was able to read the blur that was the sign. Another time, I broke my glasses at work and had to find my way to an eyeglass place (fortunately I was in walking distance of one) complete with trying to cross the street. I can identify, but only on a very small scale, and I think of my experiences, multiplied by thousands of times for you. I do think about what would happen if they ran out of prescriptions for me and what I would do next. You give me hope and inspiration, Amy!
    Alana recently posted…The Boy and Some SnowMy Profile

  • January 21, 2015 at 4:09 am
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    Alana,
    Those experiences sound scary, especially being a young age when your glasses flew off!
    Experiencing short-term vision loss is frightening for that period of time and sometimes maybe moreso because at some point, those who are vision-impaired kind of know what to to expect. I know I won’t recognize people’s faces, will have difficulty navigating stairs and the dark without my cane. If it happens unexpectedly, you’re caught off guard.
    I learned there were specific eye exercises one can do to strengthen eyes muscles. I did them for a time and I think it helped slow the progression down for a period. Some of the people who did them stopped wearing glasses. This was in Malibu, CA in 2004-05.
    Thanks for sharing your experiences.
    Amy

  • January 21, 2015 at 4:19 am
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    I have eye damage from being born prematurely and put in oxygen. I manage with my bifocals for now (have since I was 2) but it’s definitely getting worse. I hope I can manage any needed changes as well as you have!
    Elisabeth recently posted…4H Crochet Project: Crochet Tools You NeedMy Profile

  • January 21, 2015 at 4:32 am
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    Hi Elizabeth!
    😀 Thank you. So glad you can manage with your bifocals! For awhile, I had trifocals that helped me to see. I used to joke about them that I was prematurely aging! They don’t help me anymore. But it was fun while it lasted. Thank you so much for sharing your situation with me.
    Amy

  • January 21, 2015 at 4:42 am
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    I read your letter with great interest. I was recently diagnosed with glaucoma and went through laser therapy to stop my vision loss, (at least for now), in its tracks. So reading what you dealt with gave me a little better of a perspective.
    Thank you for sharing your personal story.

  • January 21, 2015 at 4:55 am
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    i love your sense of humor and willingness to share your story. Another great post Amy. I love the letter format, too. I am overdue for an eye exam but will call tomorrow to schedule. I appreciated your reminder to be pro-active when it comes to our health!

  • January 21, 2015 at 5:11 am
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    You are so welcome, Terry Lynn!
    I am amazed at how many people do struggle with vision that no one even knows about. It really is often a hidden disease, not only for those with progressive vision loss with no outward signs but also in situations like yours. So, did the laser treatment actually stop it? What a relief! I know several people who suffer from glaucoma but who are not good candidates for that surgery due to their age. I think talking about vision loss really bridges the gap in the community. It’s easier to relate to the struggles we each have. Thank you for sharing your story with me.
    Amy

  • January 21, 2015 at 5:13 am
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    I’m so happy, Minette! <3 Glad you are going to make that appointment!
    Totally made my night!
    Amy

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