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Coping with Low Vision
What’s an ‘RP Moment’?
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An RP Moment.jjpg
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An RP Moment certainly isn’t something one would choose to have. It’s like having a root canal, you have to bear with the pain and just get through it, or like having  a ‘senior’ moment where you forget what you’re doing or where you’re going and have menopause to cope with at the same time, so you’re hot and flushed and forgetful!
 

An  RP  Moment is usually caused by something we didn’t see. ***

Of course, RP stands for Retinitis Pigmentosa. But calling it a Retinitis Pigmentosa Moment doesn’t carry anywhere near the same flair, does it?
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So, RP Moment it is.

I kind of like this term because when people say this, the unspoken message is,”I-can’t-believe-I’ve-done-something-that-embarrassing-but-I-choose-to-see-the-humor-in-it.”  Like when one accidentally sits on someone’s lap in the dark movie theater, or bumps into a waiter and food flies. Or getting lost in my one’s own neighborhood. I’ve learned to laugh at these things(which, by the way, all have happened to me).

People take themselves way too seriously.
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But sometimes an RP Moment is a time to vent frustration (we all need to) and also learn from.  That seems to be the case with this situation brought up by a member of my support group.
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Problem Situation: 
A man was at the mall looking to buy his wife a birthday present. He accidentally bumped into a young guy about 25 years old. He simply didn’t see him. (Remember, he has LOW VISION).
The conversation they exchanged:
I automatically said, “I’m sorry.”
The man responded angrily, “What are you, blind?!”
I quickly said to him, “Actually, yes, I am legally blind, so I did not see you. What’s worse is that you can’t see [at all].” Then I wished him a good day, and walked off. (I wondered if he meant, ‘stalked off.’) At any rate, he left him with those words seeking some kind of dignity.
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His post went from the zinger to frustration. “I wonder what [the man] was thinking [after I said that]. My problem is, I am a tall, normal looking, just-like-everybody-else person, you cannot see that I have RP. Several times I have people get mad at me because they think I am being a jerk. I wish I could stop this.”
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These are very emotional moments in our lives.
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No one wants to be thought of as a jerk and misunderstood at the same time. RP is an invisible, genetic disease with no outward signs.
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In times like this, we do wonder. I wish I had a crystal ball and could see the other person’s face after delivering a line like that. (Actually, I’d never be bold enough to say that). Or that I could somehow sneak up on him  and see his response. But in sneaking up, I’d probably trip and that would ruin my whole dignified exit.
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I could definitely relate to my colleague with the RP Moment.
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I would run into little old ladies in the subway in Japan. (My then-Japanese boyfriend, Ni-shi-mu-ra, who I’ve since re-named ‘Wi-shy-wa-shy,’ actually pretended not to know me several times on the train and subway as well as in other crowded public places. (My penchant for bumping into the elderly caused ‘hazukashii’ – great embarrassment – to him) . Thin-lipped, he’d later say, “Why you don’t watch where you’re going?” Obviously, he didn’t know I needed the entire imperial army and him to watch where I was going with me!
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It’s not that easy.
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I also ran into the ropes in  banks, tripped over children in strollers, as well as tree roots along the Nile River– all kinds of things that made me stand out for all the wrong reasons and at those times, I longed to melt into thin air.
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But the only one I ever knew of who melted was the Wicked Witch of the East in The Wizard of Oz.
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So, what to do?
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The outcomes from the discussion around my colleague’s post was terrific.  Members looked (pun intended!) at the situation from all angles. I thought it was a teachable moment so I wanted to share it.
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Counting Down to the Top 5 Responses: 
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5. Wear vision-impaired  badges
Limited effectiveness since people are too busy to notice someone wearing a small badge.
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4. Try a signal cane. 
A great “first step” in busy, public places. A signal cane is shorter than a regular cane and doesn’t reach the ground. Its primary purpose is to let others know that you have a vision problem. Therefore, people are more likely to understand when / if you do run into them. Disadvantage: may be confusing to others because of the cane’s shorter length.
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3. Employ various methods of “looking”
– Continuously scanning from left to right to “see” better. Good active vision- tiring.
– Looking down to avoid the harsh glare of lighting (i.e. mall) – Disadvantage to this: able to see where to move but run into someone head on. You can’t see straight ahead if you’re looking down. (These two methods are how the majority of people handle the problem).
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2. Get a white cane.
One woman challenged everyone reading who struggled with running into people and them not understanding why. When I read her challenge, I imagined she was issuing a battle cry, “Charge!”

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“I challenge all of you who do not use a cane because you think you’re ‘not there yet.’ People allow for faults and mistakes when they see a cane. Sometimes it’s worth it just for identification purposes. Try knocking into somebody without your cane and then a few minutes later pull your keynote out  and knock into somebody.  You will be surprised at the results.”
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Aha! This solution is the crux of the struggle for many – myself included, for years!  When is one ready for a white cane?  Well, this is the point of the whole complaint in light of the rude response when it happened, right?
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Notice that my colleague pointed out that he was “legally blind,” in his response to the man he ran into?
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In many minds, there’s a big difference between being legally blind and blind. The idea of a cane isn’t even a blip on the radar screen.That’s for “when or down the line.” (when we become totally blind). Many partially-sighted people manage in this weird state between being sighted and blind. Kind of like that awkward phase between being a child and an adult. One isn’t comfortable in either group anymore.
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Perhaps people don’t know that many cane users aren’t totally blind. Others fear how society will view them and losing their independence to a stick. The truth is, a cane actually provides independence and empathy. As the woman issuing the challenge pointed out, people do understand why even with a cane, we run into others.
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One lady posted this humorous line,”When I use my cane I don’t bump into people … I just wish I had one more hand though!”

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Me, too! It’s hard to carry bags, my purse, and whatever else when I’m guiding myself with a cane. Imagine how these dangling object bump into the cane and cause me to slow down. I’ve often thought how good I’d have it if I were an octopus!
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**1. Empathize** (#1 Response!) 
Of course, a big part of a support group is understanding. Lots of people have “been there, done that.” People just want to voice that it’s a common struggle. Thank goodness because feeling alone in this struggle  is the worst. So topics like this bring out a LOT of personal stories and experiences. We all love contributing, whether venting or seeing our own embarrassing mishaps in a more humorous light. We love reading them just as much as sharing.
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In the midst of the discussion, there’s  always someone who points out the situation from the other person’s point of view–and I like that, too.
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In the moment of impact people may be embarrassed not knowing if they caused the problem and they react rather than respondI choose to believe that people are just people and most times given the chance they will respond kindly if they realize someone has a disability.”
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I think at the end of the day, it all goes back to accepting ourselves as we are. Everyone with progressive vision loss is at a different stage of accepting it. And everyone else in society is at a different stage of noticing others. 
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By the way, a cane doesn’t STOP us  from having an RP Moment. It might cut down on them, but I can attest it certainly does not eliminate them! What helps is understanding and dialogues like this. Unless, we compromise and communicate how we feel, not much will change.  Although our society is filled with people who are too busy, I don’t think it’s filled with people who are too uncaring.
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So now, if I could figure out a way to be an octopus, I could go shopping (under the sea) and guide myself along with my red and white cane without too many problems–unless I hit a tangle of seaweed! But since the octopus thing is not likely to happen, one day I look forward to having a guide dog!
Question for you: What kind of moments are you susceptible to having? Can you share one of these moments or one in which you’ve felt misunderstood and put someone in their place?
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 You have just read, “What can an RP Moment Teach?” by Amy L. Bovaird. © February 28, 2015. If you learned something from this post, please Comment, Like and Share it.
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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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What’s an “RP Moment”?

8 thoughts on “What’s an “RP Moment”?

  • February 28, 2015 at 9:16 pm
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    Hi Amy,

    Love your definition of “RP Moment.” And yes, I hate those bank ropes! Ugh! I’ve had some RP Moments that have felt like hours. I have very poor facial recognition now. One time, while I was director of our daycare, a police officer walked into my office. Through my foggy, narrow vision, I was able to determine he was a policeman by his hat and badge. He said, “I have some paperwork for you.” He’s serving me a warrant I thought. I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong. And the things I had done wrong were well beyond the statutes of limitation. LOL Yet my heart raced, while these words flashed like neon through my mind, “What have I done? What have I done?” So I sheepishly asked him, “Um! Are these from the courts?” “No,” he said. “This is the paperwork you need for my son. He starts here tomorrow.” Since he was in street clothes when he had come in the previous day to enroll his child in our daycare, I didn’t recognize him in his uniform. I tried to make a joke about it but he didn’t have much of a sense of humor. I was sentenced to several minutes of extreme embarrassment. LOL

  • February 28, 2015 at 9:47 pm
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    Definitely an RP Moment, Matt!
    Made much worse by his lack of humor. That’s when you have to have enough humor for the both of you!
    Wish I could give you back at least 10 % of your vision. I’m glad you can at least chuckle about it now. You ARE chuckling, aren’t you???
    Take care and thanks so much for reading,
    Amy

  • February 28, 2015 at 11:01 pm
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    Yes, I am still chuckling. I’ll have to tell you about another RP Moment I had with Homeland Security one evening. LOL

  • March 1, 2015 at 12:11 am
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    LOl! Waiting to hear it, Matt!
    Save it for June. It sounds like a long one! 😀
    Amy

  • March 1, 2015 at 11:03 am
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    I admire the way you are able to share your embarrassment while keeping your sense of humor, Amy. I know just how hard it must be to walk along with a cane in one hand and still carry what you need. I use a walking stick even at home. So frustrating when carrying things from one room to another, which happens all the time, even if it’s just a mug of tea.
    Francene Stanley recently posted…Do we need to be taught racialism?My Profile

  • March 1, 2015 at 3:01 pm
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    Oh Yes, Francene! Awful! My mother has to cope with that.(I can see well enough in the house — or so I say — that I don’t use my cane indoors). Going through a buffet line in a restaurant is a challenge for me, too! 😀 When I use a backpack, it’s not too bad. But I usually have something I’m carrying … and I often turn the bag upside down since I don’t always see the top. I don’t know how many times cat food cans have rolled out of the bag onto the cement after getting out of the car! And you should watch me pulling a grocery cart through the store! LOL. It’s not easy for either of us, for sure.

  • March 1, 2015 at 3:16 pm
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    Amy,

    This is what I love about your writing. These RP moments happen to everyone at some time. Even those with no impairment. There have been times I’ve tried to explain why a situation occurred, and others I’ve not even bothered.

    When you deal with anxiety, panic attacks, and various other social and mental disorders, it’s much the same. People either understand or think you’re making excuses.
    Carrie recently posted…Compassion Creates CommunityMy Profile

  • March 1, 2015 at 4:41 pm
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    Thank you and You are so right, Carrie! A few others have also pointed out that you don’t have to be impaired to have a “mement” of some kind. They ARE universal, just caused by different things. So glad you can relate! And the biggest thing is to be patient with each other because no one knows exactly what the other one is going through… which will be the topic of today’s post! Stay tuned…
    Thank you for taking time out to read my post! Always love having you visit.
    Amy

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