Is There Pride in Being Blind or Visually Impaired?

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Editor's note: As we approach Labor Day, a day that is a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country, it is important to remember, that people who are blind or visually impaired need and want employment. This post brings up important issues to consider about blindness as a disability that impact every aspect of life, including employment.

Empish and four other people around a bronze sculpture of Franklin D. Roosevelt

A Response on "Becoming Disabled"

On August 19, I read a very interesting article called "Becoming Disabled" in the opinion section of the New York Times. It was written by Rosemarie Garland-Thomson. She asked the question, "Where is our disability pride movement?"

Unlike gender, sexual orientation, and racial/ethnic groups, she noted the disability movement has not received the same level of attention. She reasoned it is because we have a clearer idea of what it means to be of a different gender, sexual orientation, or skin color. But when it comes to being disabled, she felt we may not have the same understanding. I agree with Garland-Thomson. As a person who is blind, I have had to do a great deal of work in the 20+ years since the onset of my disability to educate people around me about what that really means. People make assumptions about my abilities in thinking that I can’t work, go to college, travel safely, cook in my kitchen, own my own home, enjoy a movie or date and the list goes on and on. I find myself constantly having to explain to people that I can do all these things and much more. Unfortunately, people are not convinced until they "actually see it," and then sometimes not even then. An even deeper issue is the varying degrees of visual impairment. Most people are not totally blind or totally sighted. Some people might have light perception, no center or peripheral vision. Their vision might be blurry or they might have floaters in their eyes. This is hard for the general public to understand.

Disability Is Everywhere

Garland-Thomson went on to say that once you pay attention, you will realize that disability is everywhere. Plus the numbers are growing. She said, "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in five adults in the United States is living with a disability. The National Organization on Disability says there are 56 million disabled people. Indeed, people with disabilities are the largest minority group in the United States." But, she states, the average person does not wake up "knowing how to be disabled."

This is also very true. When I lost my vision I didn’t automatically know how to be blind. It was actually the opposite; I had to be taught. I had to go through a vision rehabilitation program; where I learned braille, mobility, and assistive technology skills. There was a big learning curve for me and a huge life adjustment going from being a fully sighted person to low vision and later total blindness.

Learning New Skills and How to Communicate

Not only did I have to learn new skills, but I also had to "learn the language" and what that meant. Understanding that "I am visually impaired or blind now" is a hard pill to swallow. Then trying to communicate that concept to others can be overwhelming. Even though I went to college, got a degree in journalism, and thought I was fairly good at written and oral communication, I had to work very hard to get my point across after I went blind. People misunderstood what I wanted and vice versa. I had to learn patience and understanding. Sometimes I would have to rephrase the question or statement and try again to explain. People thought they knew better what I needed and wouldn't even ask me. Then I would have to find a gracious way to correct them. Also, in conversation people would be naturally curious, asking questions that were not always appropriate about my visual impairment. I would then have to find a polite way to tell them that it was none of their business.

What Do You Call Yourself?

Another point that impacts our pride movement is what we call ourselves. Do you call yourself "blind"? Do you call yourself "visually impaired"? What about "partially sighted" or "legally blind"? Do you use people first language, where you focus on the person and not the disability; or name the disability upfront? Trying to make this decision all plays a role too. I personally use the word "blind" because that is truly what I am. It is clear and straight to the point. But there are times in some social settings where I do use the word "visually impaired" to help make people feel more comfortable and at ease. This way they don’t feel so awkward or uncomfortable being around a person with vision loss. But should I be concerned about that? Maybe or maybe not.

Importance of Having Role Models Coping with Everyday Life

This leads to my last point. We may fail to see or read about positive images of blind and visually impaired people accomplishing great things in society. Thus, we have a negative viewpoint about what people who are blind or visually impaired can do. It is often hard for us to relate to situations and circumstances unless we have had direct exposure to it or unless we know someone personally who has. I remember growing up I didn't read or hear much about people with disabilities or people who were blind. I did read a book about Helen Keller when I was in middle school, and I did listen to music by Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles but that was about the extent of it. More importantly, that exposure didn’t tell me much about their personal lives and how they really dealt with their disability. So when I went blind, I was not able to really use those people as role models. I was fortunate to have had a blind co-worker when I was a teen working in a federal government summer work program. She was an older woman and used a white cane and assistive devices that I would later use myself. I remember how independent she was and how she was able to work and do her job very effectively so that told me I could do the same.

Empish Thomas

When I look back on my journey, I can’t say that I have felt pride in being blind because of the huge adjustments to vision loss that I experienced. But today, I can say that I am proud to be blind. I have accomplished much in my years and don’t look at it in a negative way. I see how my life has added value to society. I also see how I have been able to help many people through my own personal journey of disability. I can relate and understand people’s pain and problems a lot more than before. I am not ashamed to be blind because it is just a part of who I am not all of who I am.

So, what do you think? Is there pride in being blind or visually impaired? Please comment below.



Resources for Living with a Visual Impairment

Reprinted by permission from CVIGA.org


Topics:
Employment
Independence
Personal Reflections
Self-Advocacy
There are currently 26 comments

Re: Is There Pride in Being Blind or Visually Impaired?



Empish, so very well said, I feel you have spoken the words I also speak at times when I have to explain my so called 'disability'. I am proud of who I am, being blind? Well, I am not ashamed of this one aspect of who I am but also do find it difficult to think of myself as a disabled person because, whether sighted or not, I feel normal, capable and simply, being me. Yet, there are those days when explaining to others about being blind, is as if, I become a different species on this planet, a sudden divide as if an invisible gap has separated us that requires me to begin building the bridge back to understanding.
Your article is a real eye-opener and I appreciate you posing the question - I'm so very proud to be a part of the blind movement towards a vision of the possible!


Re: Is There Pride in Being Blind or Visually Impaired?



I'm proud to be an American, I'm proud to be a woman, I'm proud to be a mother and a grandmother, but I never really thought about whether I am proud to be blind. I'm proud to be as independent as I am despite my vision loss, and I'm no longer ashamed to be visually impaired, so I guess that really does mean I am proud to be blind. As most people I have talked with who grew up with low vision, I did my best to hide or minimize my differences when I was young. It's never easy being different and so many people who are losing vision later in life are doing just what I did as a kid...hiding their changing vision, making excuses and keeping quiet when they cannot see what everyone else sees. maybe it's more about being new to vision loss than the age when it starts. When something is new, we don't understand, so it's hard to embrace helping others understand as well. That's why getting connected with low vision rehabilitation services early is so important, especially for adults and seniors. children usually get connected quickly because of the education system, but still some kids live in remote areas, or like me, have parents who do not want to accept their child is different and keep them from the services that will eventually help them to function as independent adults. I've been thinking lately that we have to convince the world that being blind isn't bad, it's just different. I believe this with all my heart, but maybe you have hit on the solution to the real issue. Blind Pride! What will be our symbol? How about a cute bat? Nothing scary like Batman. Our colors should be black and white so there's good contrast for those of us who still have residual vision that contrast works for. I'm going to have to have a t-shirt made...How about Blind as a Bat on the front and Proud of It! on the back?Do you think they will sell?


Re: Is There Pride in Being Blind or Visually Impaired?



Maribel,
I like what you said about building the bridge of understanding. Yes, I feel that way a lot too. That is when I started to see how important my verbal communication skills became. Trying to be sure that I was on the same page as other people but slowly seeing that people came with their own ideas of what they thought blind people were. I also realized that people didn’t expect me to be proud of who I was. That I shouldn’t be out there and just stay in the background. That maybe I should be ashamed of my disability because I was different.



Re: Is There Pride in Being Blind or Visually Impaired?



Neva,
Thanks for your comment. Yes, I love the blind bat T-shirt idea! We just have to be sure we have not violated copyright and trademark laws first and then we can get rolling! Haha! But yes, I think that is what it is all about. Having a sense of pride in yourself and who you are. That you have nothing to be ashamed of with being disabled. That it is the world who has the problem not you.
But it is also understanding where all of this comes from because in order to understand the problem we must understand where it came from and destroy it at the root.


Re: Is There Pride in Being Blind or Visually Impaired?



When I began teaching blindness rehabilitation professionals to give awareness presentations as a part of building relationships with prospective employers, I realized I had been giving awareness presentaitions all my life in some way. I realized early on that everyone had a different perception of people with vision loss, sometimes they were accurate and sometimes they were so far from reality that it was easy to react negatively. I am afraid that a lot of society's poor perception of people who are blind is based on poor reactions from incidental encounters they have had. I once was at a restaurant and overheard two ladies talking about people in my group who had Seeing Eye dogs with them. One lady said, "Don't talk to those blind people, they are nasty when you even try to talk to their dogs." Obviously she had an encounter with someone who reacted negatively when she distracted their dog by talking or petting it. It's easy to snap at someone, especially the thirty-second someone who has annoyed you that day because of your vision, your dog, your anything, but it reflects on the rest of us for the rest of that person's life. It's a big responsibility to take on, living in society, I mean, but that's what we all have to do.


Re: Is There Pride in Being Blind or Visually Impaired?



Neva,
Yes, just being ourselves is bringing awareness to each person new to vision loss. So how about = Blindness Awareness Techniques = BAT!


Re: Is There Pride in Being Blind or Visually Impaired?



Let me preface my response to this article by stating that I have a BA in Deaf Studies from CSU, Northridge, and have been exposed to Deaf people and Deaf Culture. There is most definitely a pride in being a culturally Deaf person (the capital D signifies Deafness as a culture, a way of life and membership in a unique culture bound by American Sign Language, and doesn't see deafness as something to be fixed).

In the blindness community, I've not observed this; there is no distinct cultural aspect separating the blind community from the sighted community. I feel the reason for this is that we as people who are blind or visually impaired can communicate with the sighted world via our shared common language. This isn't so with the Deaf community and the hearing community; the inability of deaf people to communicate with the larger hearing community around them over time lead to the natural evolution of American Sign Laguage (ASL), which binds culturally Deaf people into a community.

Do I feel proud to be a person with a visual impairment? I can't say that I do, but I have no problem sharing the fact that I am legally blind. I can't really say that I'm proud of it, but I am certainly not ashamed of it.


Re: Is There Pride in Being Blind or Visually Impaired?



Maribel, I love the acronym!


Re: Is There Pride in Being Blind or Visually Impaired?



Neiva,
That is one of the biggest challenges with being a member of a minority group. People have had such little interaction that when they do whether good or bad they can use that one time interaction to paint the whole group. This can become quite stressful because we are all unique individuals and don’t do everything the same. I find that I have to do a lot of explaining which makes me tired sometimes. That is that mental work of being blind. That sharing that I am not like your blind grandmother, sister, neighbor, church member , etc. Or that character you saw on TV or read about in a book.

Jross, Thanks for your comment about Deaf culture and community. I had a deaf co-worker some years ago and she shared a little about that with me. I don’t quite understand all of it butI do respect it in the sense there is pride in their community that I don’t see in the blind.


Re: Is There Pride in Being Blind or Visually Impaired?



Great post and discussion Empish! To answer the question "is there pride in being blind?" I would say there is pride in learning HOW to be blind and living the life you want. And when I am in the company/community of friends who are blind, I do feel a sense of pride that we are engaged and finding our way successfully. Many of the people I know who are blind are incredibly resourceful, talented, resilient and doing worthwhile things to contribute to the world. That makes me proud! Blindness will either break you or make you...


Re: Is There Pride in Being Blind or Visually Impaired?



Empish, I once created some buttons as a small fundraiser. One had crossed white canes with a bat hanging upside down from them. It read: "Blind as a bat, but still hanging in there." It was just one of the designs. There were also ones that read: God grant that I be the person my guide dog believes me to be, and I am not lost, merely exploring alternative destinations. That one had a compass with a bent needle. The Dog one had a person with a bent halo. I have also asked an audience if they believed that my blindness was a tragedy, then went on to say that actually it simply a fact of life and that circumstances can even make it an advantage. If the place we are in doesn't have a source of natural light and there is a power outage, I am the one that can get them out of the building, help them accomplish tasks and keep them safe. I don't judge people by their appearance but rather by their actions and their inner selves. I am creative, a problem solver and a bit of an adventurer because dealing with challenges is something I have spent a life time practicing. Yes, I think I am proud to be who and what I am, including being a blind person. My life isn't limited by what I lack, after all, none of us have everything we might wish. The quality of my life is based on what I do with what I do have. My talents and natural gifts have been honed by living as a blind person.


Re: Is There Pride in Being Blind or Visually Impaired?



Audrey and DeAnna,
What great comments. The point about blindness will either make you or break you is so true. I think about the challenges that I have overcome within my life and this is truly the biggest one; and it is constant because having a disability does not go away but something you have to deal with on a daily basis. Which is why I think I am so proud of how I have handled and continue to handle it.


Re: Is There Pride in Being Blind or Visually Impaired?



Hello - I'm Carla Ernst from Milwaukee. These are amazing stories and comments. I find them interesting since I lost my vision in January. This is my little story:

In January, after a horrible bout with bronchial pneumonia, my life was turned upside down. I started to lose my vision. I woke up one morning and opened my eyes and was devastated, finding that I could no longer see. It was sudden and complete in my right eye, and then vision gradually deteriorated in my left. My ‘gift of sight’ was stolen from me, leaving feelings of isolation, loneliness, fear and grief. The hardest part has been accepting that I’ll never again see the faces of friends and family, the sky, the ocean or anything at all.

Most of the medical professionals I‘ve seen don’t understand what had happened to my vision and don’t have a definitive prognosis. At first I had sought help from my health clinic, but it has limited ophthalmological services so I stopped going there for vision care. So faced with no usable vision, I sought social services to learn to cope with my situation while the doctors moved methodically through the diagnostic process.

Initially I sought help from a great vision services organization here in Milwaukee which helped me immensely early on to cope on many levels, however I had no ongoing funding sources and was sent to the State for funding and job counseling. Unfortunately that’s been an extremely slow and bureaucratic process with orientation sessions, forms, interviews, meetings, referrals, delays, and lots of “hurry up and wait.” I’ve been in this process for about five months now, and am no further now in actually getting any help than from when I started the process.

Most everything I’ve learned I have figured out on my own by meeting other blind people, listening to videos and getting out and about as much as possible. I’m now getting excellent medical help from a major eye institute. Although they are eliminating most of the horrible diseases that can cause blindness (apart from my pre-diabetes and peripheral neuropathy), I’m still left behind in the dark with no vision.

For me the path to acceptance has been slow and arduous, essentially kind of a grieving process for the sight I once had. I’m now just starting to come to terms with the fact that this is what the rest of my life is going to be like, living in a world of darkness. It might sound obvious, but I’ve become a different person. How could I not? What once was easy, has become Herculean. Without vision you of course learn to use your other senses. You have no choice. Your brain seems to rewire itself accordingly. I see it as one sense gone but four are left. Thus 80 percent work fine. I feel that although my vision is gone, my independence is not, and daily is becoming stronger.

Sighted people have no idea what vision loss is like, no matter how severe. Society speaks in terms of binaries – zero or one, black or white, good or evil, male or female, and of course, sighted or blind. It helps people minimize fear when things can be separated into two neat (albeit artificial boxes). However, vision loss is far more complex to be represented in binary terms. Trying to box vision-loss people into a binary system when the universe itself is not binary, stigmatizes them for a physical trait that is entirely benign, causing us to ignore reality – something that should be anathema to the rational thinker.

There’s significant stigma, lack of understanding and marginalization associated with blind people. When people see me coming with my cane, I think it’s like the parting of the Red Sea. Many are willing to give me directions but many don’t. They stand next to me holding their breath hoping I pass them – thinking I don’t know they’re there. (Quite rude!) And others overcompensate in their kindness and try to take over. Their intentions are good but overwhelming kindness can also be insulting.

As overwhelming as blindness is, the most difficult part is managing the people around me who range from feeling sorry and pitiful about me due to my new “death sentence” of darkness, to those trying to help me, regardless of whether or not I need it. It doesn’t matter that I am highly skilled, experienced, mobile and happy. I had an experience where a waitress at restaurant asked my girlfriends, “What would she like to eat?” I told her I actually know what to eat since I have eaten before. Unless they have personally had experience with a blind person, most sighted people don’t understand vision loss or know what to do with us. How humiliating. Further, when people see my cane, strangers have asked me what’s “wrong” with me. I just answer, “Let’s talk about what’s right with me.”

The use of a white cane also is a source of stigma – clearly identifying me as a blind person. I have a cane (actually several) and can't imagine traveling without it. My self-consciousness about it is gone in exchange for my increasing level of mobility. With the cane, people notice you because you're different. This is both good and bad. One challenge is that you may give up your anonymity but you gain independence. I now ask, “Why do I even care what people think?” My cane is my lifeline to mobility. Unfortunately, once people see the cane, they often don’t see the capable individual and educated professional behind it. They get hung up on all the wrong questions such as, “Are you completely blind? What caused your vision loss? Have you been blind since birth? Will you ever see again? What do you see? How do you use that big stick? Can’t glasses fix it? And my favorite, “You’re faking, you can see something, so everything’s OK.”

All people can focus on is my outwardly apparent disability. Being blind without looking visually impaired is difficult for sighted people to understand. They seem to want “proof” of how blind I am. Some have actually said, “Gee, you don’t look blind.” Really? Perhaps not from their “seeing” perspective, but not from mine. This is insulting, frustrating and depressing. I sometimes say back to them, “Well, you don’t look sighted!”

I get asked a lot if I’m totally blind and if I’ve been blind since birth. What does that matter to them? If I answer “yes” that I am totally blind (which I now am and will likely be so for the rest of my life), that evokes sorrow and pity (and that can bring me down.) If I tell them I’ve had some limited intermittent lateral sight in one eye please don’t tell me “at least you sometimes can see a little something in one your eye with peripheral vision, so you should be OK.” That just makes it worse.

I understand that sorrow is a natural feeling to express, but having had no vision since last January, I’m already beyond that and focus my energies on going forward in my new life. That’s why I’ve told virtually few from my former sighted life about my blindness because they’re simply too hard to manage with their sorrow and pity. New people who meet me today just see a regular blind woman, then react how they would normally react to a blind person – good or bad – and often not too well.

I’m slowly discovering that there’s plenty of life to embrace. I’m finding that happiness isn’t something you can see. It’s the sound of laughter, the joy in a song, the sounds of the morning birds, the warmth of the sun on my face, and even while recently walking home from the bus, the warm rain on my head!

I now have new windows of perception opening for me everyday. I’ve met a few new people who are sightless and are helping teach me how to lead a fulfilling life as a blind woman. It’s not about vision; it’s about connecting with people and doing what you can do, and not worrying about what you can’t do. I also believe having meaningful relationships with people is what makes life worth living, not whether or not one of your senses doesn’t work the same as everyone else’s. These are some of the things I cling onto now that make my life to sta


Re: Is There Pride in Being Blind or Visually Impaired?



Hello again - I'm Carla Ernst from Milwaukee. It sounds like my post got cut off, so I am re-sending with less words, hopefully fitting everything on. I had said: These are amazing stories and comments. I find them interesting since I lost my vision in January. This is my little story:

In January, after a horrible bout with bronchial pneumonia, my life was turned upside down. I started to lose my vision. I woke up one morning, opened my eyes and found that I could no longer see. It was sudden and complete in my right eye, and then deteriorated in my left. I was devastated. My ‘gift of sight’ was stolen from me, leaving feelings of isolation, loneliness and fear.

At first I had sought help from my health clinic, but that has limited vision services so I’m now getting excellent medical help from a major eye institute on Milwaukee which is eliminating horrible diseases that can cause blindness, however they don’t have a definitive prognosis and still left behind in the dark with no vision. So faced with no usable vision I sought social services to learn to cope with my situation while the doctors moved methodically through the diagnostic process. Initially I sought help from the social service organization that has helped me immensely cope on many levels.Much of everything I’ve learned I’ve figured out on my own by meeting other blind people, listening to videos and getting out and about as much as possible. Without vision you learn to use your other four senses. You have no choice. Your brain seems to rewire itself accordingly. Even though people think my senses are more powerful, I’m simply getting better at paying more attention to them.

I’m now just starting to come to terms with the fact that this is what the rest of my life is going to be like, living in a world of darkness. It might sound obvious, but I’ve become a different person. How could I not? What once was easy, has become Herculean. Pouring a glass of milk was something I once took for granted. Now it’s a complex process – finding a glass, a container to work in, using my finger to detect the level, and knowing any error meant cleaning up spilt milk. This applies to everything I took for granted before – getting dressed, taking a shower, preparing food – actually everything one needs to do to live.

Sighted people have no idea what blindness is like, no matter what level of vision loss we have. As overwhelming as blindness is, the most difficult part is managing people around me who range from feeling sorry and pitiful due to my new “death sentence” of darkness, to those trying to help me, regardless of whether or not I need it. It doesn’t matter that I am highly skilled, experienced, mobile and happy. I find myself constantly having to explain to people that I can do many things on my own. People make assumptions about my abilities in thinking that I can’t work, or do many of the things I’ve done before, learn new skills, travel safely, work (as a writer), cook in my kitchen, get my clothes one, put on my makeup, live safely and comfortably in my home and enjoy a night out at a restaurant with my girlfriends, or even a movie (yes, blind people go to movies).


There’s tremendous lack of understanding and marginalization associated with blind people, and significant stigma. For example, when people see me coming with my cane, it’s like the parting of the Red Sea. Many are willing to give me directions but many don’t. They stand next to me holding their breath, hoping I pass them, thinking I don’t know they’re there. And at the same time, others overcompensate in their kindness and try to take over. Their intentions are good but overwhelming kindness can also be insulting. I’ve had many of these insulting experiences, from people shouting at me in thinking my blindness effects my hearing, to many who pull my arms in an attempt to guide me. I recently had an experience where a waitress asked my girlfriends, “What would she like to eat?” I told her I actually know what to eat since I have eaten many times before. Unless they’ve had experience with a blind person, most sighted people don’t understand vision loss or know what to do with us. How humiliating. Strangers have even asked me what’s “wrong” with me. I just answer, “Let’s talk about what’s right with me.”

A white cane is also a source of stigma, clearly identifying me as a blind person. I have one and can't imagine traveling without it. My self-consciousness about it is gone in exchange for my increasing level of mobility. This is both good and bad. With the cane, people notice you because you're different. You may give up your anonymity but you gain independence. I now ask, “Why do I even care what people think?” My cane is my lifeline to mobility. Unfortunately, once people see the cane, they often don’t see the capable individual and educated professional behind it. They get hung up on all the wrong questions such as, “Are you completely blind? What caused your vision loss? Have you been blind since birth? Will you ever see again? What can you see? How do you use that big stick? Can’t glasses fix it?” And my favorite, “Gee, you don’t look blind.” Really? Perhaps not from their perspective, but not from mine. This is insulting and frustrating. I’ve responded, “Well, you don’t look sighted!”

I’m slowly discovering that there’s still plenty of life to embrace. I’m finding that happiness isn’t always something you can see with your eyes. It’s the sound of laughter, the joy in a song, sounds of the morning birds, warmth of the sun on my face, and while recently walking home from the bus, even the warm rain on my head. I now have new windows of perception opening for me everyday. I’ve met new people who are sightless and are helping teach me how to lead a fulfilling life as a blind woman. It’s not about vision; it’s about connecting with people and doing what you can do, and not worrying about what you can’t do. I believe having meaningful relationships with people is what makes life worth living, not whether or not one of your senses doesn’t work the same as everyone else’s. These are some of the things I cling onto now that make my life to start to be worth living again.If the medical pros can restore my vision someday, that’s great. But I’m now essentially beyond that. I don’t want to sit around and hope, nor be disappointed by the prognosis, so I’ve been moving forward the best I can on my own – learning, coping, working and living. In the interim, I just ask that people don’t use the circumstances of my vision loss as justification for exclusion from life, and I ask for the respect, dignity and kindness you would give to anyone else, sighted or not. I may have lost my vision, but I am re-discovering again my independence and zest for life.


Re: Is There Pride in Being Blind or Visually Impaired?



Carla, You go girl! You are doing extrememly well and have just cause for feeling proud. You are moving on. Yes, there will be those times when the struggle of dealing with this blindness gig will get you frustrated, make you tired and irritable, but looking for those small moments of joy will keep you picking yourself up, dusting yourself off and stepping out again to explore the world on your own terms. Hugs, and know we understand how tough this can all be.


Re: Is There Pride in Being Blind or Visually Impaired?



Wow, Carla! Thanks so much for sharing your powerful story. I know that you are fairly new to your vision loss but I love the way you speak from strength, self-determination and courage. All of these things are essential as you travel on your life journey. I applaud you and what you have accomplish so far.

I can relate to the challenges of dealing with sighted people, social services, state rehab programs, etc. These things are similar all over the country. So, I encourage you to keep talking and share with us on the blog and to continue to perservere as you have been doing already.

Cheers.


Re: Is There Pride in Being Blind or Visually Impaired?



Thanks for your kind comments Quietwater and Cheers. That means a lot to me. This blind life is new and quite a struggle, but I'm determined to adjust as best as possible. My only question, are those your real names? I've never met a Quitewater or Cheers before!


Re: Is There Pride in Being Blind or Visually Impaired?



And yes, I will continue to share with you on this blog. It is very helpful to hear about everyone else's journeys. Thanks again for responding to me. It means a lot to me. The isolation is the toughest part, not the blindness.


Re: Is There Pride in Being Blind or Visually Impaired?



Hi Carla,

Our actual names are Empish and DeAnna. I am the one who wrote this post. I was just saying cheers at the end of my comment above. And Quiet water is DeAnna. She is a peer advisor like myself. A portion of her last name just appears on her comment instead of her first.


Re: Is There Pride in Being Blind or Visually Impaired?



Hi Carla,
I am another peer advisor like Empish and DeAnna and also glad you found us. Your story inspires me as we all go through difficult periods even after having been blind for awhile! You definitely sound like a strong person and will persevere to get what you want from life.
I lost my vision both quickly and slowly...born with glaucoma but not diagnosed until age 6 with tunnel vision already. Retinal detachments took the rest at age 16 and age 24...and it is now 26 years later already! I have gone through 3 state agencies in that time and they are not easy to navigate at times or quick by any means.
I did find out that you need to advocate for yourself, which you seem to be doing already. The Vision Aware and AFB resources can help in determining what is out there and what skills you may need or want to work on based on what you want to do (or are already doing!)
Keep moving forward-you are doing great!Feel free to contact us with anything we can help with.
Trina


Re: Is There Pride in Being Blind or Visually Impaired?



It has honestly never occurred to me to feel pride in being blind. Many years ago I remember feelings of accomplishment that I could live independently, own a home, and work a full-time job. But that was a long time ago.
To be honest, from where I sit today, blindness is one of the least significant things about who I am as a person.
Nor do I really think there will ever be a “Disability Pride” movement. We’re too diverse. You have your physical disabilities that are right out there for everyone to se: blindness, paralysis, Parkinsons, all those disabilities you couldn’t hide – even if you wanted to. Then there’s the plethora of “hidden” disabilities – disabilities no one would know existed unless you chose to reveal them.
And let’s not forget to throw in all the “fake” disabilities – the ones people pretend to have in order to get preferencial seating in theaters or in order to carry their dog on a plane. It all gets too muddled.
One thing about the comments I’m seeing does bother me. Why use the words “shame” and “stigma” when speaking of blindness? I don’t think those words should be part of our vocabulary when speaking about disabilities.


Re: Is There Pride in Being Blind or Visually Impaired?



Carla, I am so impressed with the way you are able to express all the frustrations, disappointments, anger, and bewilderment that all of us who are peer writers have experienced ourselves. You've only been blind since January, and yet, you are able to put into words what we all have been feeling for years. Please know that you are certainly not alone. We are all with you and know exactly what you are saying. You have a gift for expressing yourself, and I thank you for sharing it with us. I hope to hear more from you as more topics are introduced.
Mary


Re: Is There Pride in Being Blind or Visually Impaired?



Notes from a blind Girl:

Amazing comments Impish, DeAnna, Trina and SueMartin. It's all a lot to take in, but I see consistent themes. Vision loss, no matter what level you have is no picnic, but it seems that the bigger challenge for everyone is dealing with sighted people who have little to no contact with blind people. That's what I've struggled with the most. As someone said on this blog, it's draining to explain to the sympathetic and curious, if not just downright rude sighted people about being blind. Even today, on the way home from church I got off a bus to get to a second connecting bus. The driver was trying to be kind and get me across the street. But the only problem I actually had was his giant bus blocking the way. He came out and grabbed my arm and started pulling me. I guess I'm getting impatient with that as I snatched my arm away from him and told him it would most helpful if he would please move his bus so that I could cross in the cross walk that he was blocking. Then on my second bus, I arrived at the intersection across from my apartment, a place I'm now getting quite familiar and comfortable with zooming around with my long cane. However, I tripped on the curb and fell to the ground. But I did what anyone else would do and got up. No damage. But apparently there were people around me who saw this and they came running over to me in a panic, grabbing and interrogating me to see if I was OK, and asked if they should call an ambulance! I assured them I was OK and I would be crossing my street. Although a bit of a busy street, I actually can cross a street like any other blind person. But they would not let me. They insisted on dragging me across the street. I finally gave up and let them drag me across. I know there were kids seeing this incident and it makes me think how my "helplessness" must look to them, actually hurting our entire community. I'm sure those sighted people went home feeling proud that they did a good deed pulling a blind woman across the street. (Of course all against my will.) I am quite confident in getting around, particularly in my own neighborhood. Already when I feel the unique twists, turns and hills of my sidewalk with my cane, it's like instant contact with a good friend. I used to fall down there too, but no more.

Separately, since my street is a major East West street through my town of Wauwatosa, a small city annexing Milwaukee, which is quite busy, particularly during rush hours, in my newly gained "blind pride" I've gotten gutsy and have called the town asking to put up a blind chick crossing walk and signs. Of course there's a committee for that and they will have to discuss and debate it. In the meantime I'm dodging cars and buses, hoping to be in the bus, not under it. I've emailed and called them many times, urging them to do this. I even offered to paint the lines (if they didn't mind very crooked lines) and dig the post hole for them. I can't help to wonder what they have to debate here, but it's a local government initiative and will probably have to go through the Congress in D.C. I even suggested the sign copy to be: "Advanced-age blind chick crossing, don't run her over." (But he thought that may be a bit long.)

So onward and upward in my new world of sightlessness. I'll keep you posted on my crossing sign project. It would be a baby step in the world of Blind Pride.

Best,

Carla Ernst
Blind Post-hole Digger


Re: Is There Pride in Being Blind or Visually Impaired?



Hello Mary - you are very kind. This seems to be the cards we are dealt, essentially a minor life change. On the positive side, I'm finding good things about being blind such as being able to see deep into the the hearts and souls of people as I meet them. There is no innate bias as there is no perception of old or young, black or white, Asian or anything that is simply not pertinent to the relationship. I think the world would be a better place if everyone was blind. But that would be a lot of white canes tapping around. Mary, tell me about yourself. You sound very insightful and you look great (although I'm speculating a bit on the latter). Carla Ernst, New Blind Chick, Milwaukee Wisconsin


Re: Is There Pride in Being Blind or Visually Impaired?



Sue,

I, like you, had never really thought about being proud of being blind, but as I read the post and thought about what Impish wrote, I decided that since I am not ashamed, I must be proud. Maybe that is a little too polarizing, one extreme to the other, but I think it has merit. I could decide to be neutral about being blind, it's just a "what is" or a "given", nothing to be done about it so go on about your business, and that too resonates with me because blindness does not define me either. It has very little to do with my identity, and yet it shapes how I do things in the world every day. I don't glance in my closet and grab my red shirt and black slacks; I read the tactile tags or use my color identifier to make sure I'm color coordinated along with my sense of touch and my memory of what particular items of clothing feel like. I don't jump in my car and drive to work; I ride to work with a carpool buddy that accepts gas money from me to defray his cost to operate a car. I don't print out my calendar for the week and take it to the staff meeting to review with colleagues; I take my computer to the meeting and tab through each appointment and listen to the time and the subject in order to share my plan for the week. I do the same tasks that someone who is sighted might do, but they are done differently and sometimes at a different pace. I want the world to know that being blind isn't bad, it's different but doable. Life is worth living whether you can see or not because there's joy and happiness to give and receive.


Re: Is There Pride in Being Blind or Visually Impaired?



Wow. That is well said Neva. You really captured what it's like to live as a blind person in the world of sighted people. That was particularly on the money when you said, "It has very little to do with my identity, yet it shapes how I do things in the world every day." Thanks so much for sharing that powerful concept. Carla Ernst.


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