Letter of Advice to Vision-Impaired Folks
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).
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.
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!