Have you ever been highlighted in the spotlight but in a way that devalued you instead of showed off your talents? I sure have!
I had been a successful teacher overseas for many years, had navigated through mega-airports without blinking an eye. I was savvy to passport and visa regulations, restrictions and even various caveats. I had followed travel schedules of all kinds—bus, subway, air, and train. I felt accomplished and proud of who I was.
When Our Disability Takes Control.
I returned to my hometown to help my mother, but it wasn’t long before I felt like I was on a journey without a map. How did I get here and where was I going? Why did I trip up the stairs in public or stumble over a curb? I couldn’t walk out at night without crashing into some kind of an obstacle. Why couldn’t I see that pop machine in front of the store?
I knew why but I pretended I didn’t. Decades earlier a retinal specialist had diagnosed me with Retinitis Pigmentosa, an incurable eye condition that resulted in blindness. It was a hidden disability with no tell-tale signs. My eyes—actually, one of my best features—looked as sighted as anyone else’s eyes. The speckled pigment that covered my retinas and the faulty nerve ending that disintegrated my rods and cones caused the loss. But only the specialists knew that.
I had always adapted and never allowed my sight loss to deter me. But my time was running out. I didn’t seem to be in control anymore. Never-ending shame accompanied me everywhere, like a naughty shadow.
Navigating the Tunnel.
It was as if I was driving an out-of-control “car” bouncing off the walls of a tunnel in obscure lighting. The foggy “tunnel” in my vision grew longer, narrower and had no clear end. As the driver, I had to make my way forward the best way I could and try to minimize the damage.
I tossed the many other hats out the window, saying goodbye to the confident teacher, the leader, the knowledgeable traveler. Hatless, the cold wind whipped my hair across my eyes, further obscuring my view. I recalled how the Detroit airport tunnel with its bright fashionable colors and beaming lights on either side at the top used to look and how the colors delighted me. In this obscure tunnel, the memory only taunted me. This tunnel often made me stop and start in hesitance, unsure of my “driving” capabilities.
I was sideswiped by the lack of visible cues. Every time I crashed, I knew the car gained another dent, suffered a bent mirror here or paint scratched off there. But I reassured myself, “This car is getting older. That’s to be expected. It runs well and it will be okay.”
White Cane Training.
But accountability comes to us all. A crossroads. We must decide how to handle it. Luckily for me, the Bureau of Blindness guided me to an orientation and mobility coach that changed not only my outlook … but the way I looked out at the world.
My white cane did the grunt work—it saw for me. I treated it, eventually, like a trusted teacher’s aid worth its weight in gold. We made a good team.
Somehow with my white cane, the educator surfaced again. It was as if I slid my clumsy feet into a pair of sturdy shoes with comfortable soles that moved me more smoothly from one place to another. With my writing, I brought my hidden disability to light, and I focused on mobility – how to get past the embarrassment and unexpected debacles that no longer derail or define who I am.
Now I fill my car with the gasoline of self-confidence and unleaded acceptance for who I am. With the windows down, refreshing breezes of humor blow in. I’ve inflated my tires to the brim with patience. A GPS helps me get out of the tunnel.
I am not alone in my disability, and neither are you.
Sometimes our obstacles overwhelm. It’s impossible to find a way around them. We need each other as fellow guides.
Top of Mt. Fuji with sunrise sky in spring season
We often need to leave our cars and take to the footpath. Our world is like a mountain. Climbing higher requires certain skills and a lot of good will. In Japan, when I climbed Mt Fuji, the elderly gave me a valuable Japanese phrase to motivate me to climb higher when I felt exhausted and couldn’t see clearly where I needed to go. They shouted, “Gambatte Kudasai!” – Do your best.
Sometimes the ooji-sans (elderly) pointed to the trail when I lost track of which route I needed to follow. The mountain had five or six trails that ran parallel from time to time but led to different places on the mountain. Some held danger, even in good weather. I didn’t want to get lost or cause a rock slide, so I followed their instructions. Sometimes I pointed out key routes to travelers that followed me.
We listened to each other’s words. We became courageous messengers as we traveled the mountain together. The goal was to seek the best route and stay on it to move ahead safely. We had to learn sound techniques to descend back the base of the mountain safely. Sharing that information helped each of us. I was a newbie, who leaned into the experience of the Japanese climbers who knew the mountain well—and so glad I listened to their words.
Whatever Terrain You Find Yourself in …
You may find solace in the story of how Aimee overcame bullying, self-harm and depression to advocate for those with mental illness and who were bullied in schools.
Or Emmanuel’s story may resonate with you as he tells you about the bullies and abuse he went through as he dealt with deafness as a toddler, bullying and then extreme sight loss as an adult. How did he move forward to smile and laugh and empathize with others today?
Autism might be your challenge-or a struggle of someone you live with or know. How does Casey live and handle it? Why does he find so much strength in sharing his tale? How does Erica cope with two children who struggle with Autism? How does she help find the right trail? What knowledge can we learn today to help us navigate this disability?
Wherever we go, we sit at the driver’s seat of our own car. We get out and climb, and get back in to travel other landscapes.
Come, load your courage and dialogue into your backpack. Let’s connect at Disability InSIGHTS 2019.
5 Stars “…I’m not vision impaired. I don’t read non-fiction for enjoyment. I am not what some might consider the target market for this book, but I can tell you that I would recommend it to my own teenagers, my husband, my teenage students, and anyone else I know as a book of bravery, encouragement, motivation, testimony, and just as a pleasure read. Don’t pass it by: You will be blessed.”–An Amazon Reader
–An Amazon Reader
5 Stars“Living in the Power instead of the fear!”
Mobility Matters elegantly shares Amy Bovaird’s emotions and experience which anyone going through vision loss can identify with. The transformation as she overcomes her fear and the enemies voices that her loss of vision will now define who she is as a person and dictate the rest of her life, will inspire hope to each reader. Amy’s journey stepping out in faith and how the Lord’s Word gave her the strength to keep going, is a must read.
This book is not only for those going through the hallway of vision loss, but for each family member or any one who loves someone losing their vision would also benefit by reading.
Mobility Matters Stepping out in Faith has left me thinking I will now call canes power sticks!!!
Michael Benson, Founder
Visual Experience Foundation
4 Stars “…As a mobility specialist myself, I found this book of great interest to me for its subject matter. I was quite amazed that Amy could get around on her own with her genetic condition, particularly at night, since individuals with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) tend to lose their night vision and are using a cane at night much sooner than Amy was using any assistive device (even a bright light). Amy maintained her positive attitude, her faith and her sense of humour. If only we all could do that in times of crisis!” –Kathryn Svendsen, Mobility Specialist, Canada
5 Stars “Couldn’t stop reading until I finished. Very inspirational. Will definitely be looking for more by this author!” –Sharon Hannah
5 stars “…This book really inspired me. Amy’s outlook on life is what I would like to model in my own. Yes, going blind SUCKS but she took it to another level. She made it into an adventure and I needed to be reminded of that again. Her positive outlook on this all has really encouraged me in my current situation now. Taking the step of faith to move on forward and embrace life for what it is. I highly recommend purchasing this book! Be inspired, take a journey behind the life of someone with Usher, smile, laugh, and enjoy! –Andi Nicole
5 Stars “As a person who lives with chronic illness, I sometimes get bogged down with books on illness that feel really heavy. This one does not. Author Amy Bovaird, who is losing her sight, writes so well about her personal experiences, I feel like I’m walking alongside her as I read. I kept coming back to the story to see what happened–was she going to let fear stop her? Would she overcome?
The lessons Amy learns through her experiences apply to any of us who fear aging, illness, new symptoms, or really anyone who needs some inspiration, and that reminder that much can be accomplished if you step out and forward–even when you cannot see beyond that first step. I definitely enjoyed this book. –Kimberly Rae, Bestselling Author of the Stolen Series
Blog post review by Gillian Davis, RP Tunnel of Sight
One of the best books I have ever read about mobility and white cane use is called Mobility Matters: Stepping out in Faith by Amy Bovard. It is funny, poignant and packs a lot of tips and useful information. You can find it by following the link below to Amy’s web page and listen to a chapter before you buy, it is wonderful.