As you prepare to read Through The Haze: Living With Limited Vision, I thought you might like a little insight into my world as a visually impaired person. I became legally blind in 2002 and my vision has continued to deteriorate over the past seventeen years. Some of these questions I have been asked throughout my life as I have never seen well. Some of these questions are quite serious while others are on the lighter side. People do not immediately realize that I am visually impaired, but when they do, they often have questions. Here are answers to the five most common questions I am asked.
Number One: How do you know you have sufficiently cleaned yourself when you go to the bathroom?
Yes, this is a rather personal question and it always catches me off guard. My best answer to this rather probing question is the next time you go to the bathroom, close your eyes and see how you manage. Seriously! Don’t you have more interesting things with which to fill your mind.
Number Two: Did you have glasses when you were a baby?
I first got glasses when I was about three because that is when my eye condition – albinism – was first diagnosed. My mom says she should have realized I could not see before that because when she would tell me to go pick up my toys I would go feel all over the floor trying to find them. She would have to come and tell me, “Barbara, they’re right here.”
A lot of children do not find out they need glasses until they go to school because this is the first time they are given an eye test. I do not know if my parents would have caught on if I had not had a cold and my doctor noticed my rapid eye movements and sent me to an eye doctor.
All of my childhood memories come with glasses. They are just a part of who I am just like having limited vision is.
Question Three: Is one of your other senses stronger to make up for your poor vision?
I used to have really good hearing so I would have said yes. My family could not even whisper a secret about me because I would hear it. You hear about people have an eagle eye. I had an eagle ear. Then after years of listening to very loud music I experienced a 40% hearing loss in my right ear. Now I have to ask people to repeat themselves over and over again. Sometimes I hear people talk about being able to “feel” their surroundings. They say they can tell when they are in a room with a big vaulted ceiling. I completely understand this concept.
Question Four: Does it hurt when your eyes move back and forth?
I like to say my eyes “dance”. This is a much nicer way of describing the movement that bothers so many. The medical term for it is nystagmus. It refers to the rapid back and forth movement of my eyes. They do it on their own and I am unaware of it. I cannot control it or feel it. Objects do not appear to move to me. Interestingly enough, everyone’s eyes do this. When a train passes at full speed, your eyes are unable to focus on the cars so they move back and forth. It will forever be a part of my diagnosis.
Question Five: Why don’t you just have surgery to correct your vision?
This question probably bothers me most of all. There is no surgery that will correct my eye condition. If there were, I would have had it done years ago. My family and I have chased the dream of perfect vision all over southeast Texas and never been given even a glimmer of hope for this illusive dream. I had to give it up for my mental well-being and accept what the doctors had been telling me all along. The only option available to me glasses, contacts, and low vision aids. I am all for people who are candidates for surgery to correct their vision getting it. If I were eligible for surgery, I would have it in a heartbeat.
These are just five of the questions that I am asked about living with limited vision. If you have any further questions, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.