Those of us with low vision or blindness collect information about our environment differently from sighted people.  That stands to reason when you consider that we have one less sense to rely on.

          I often hear that people without vision or who have low vision have their other senses enhanced.  Let me put that to rest.  Other senses are not improved.  Rather, we just rely on and use them differently.  A couple of examples may help to explain this.

          When I walk on a quiet street I can generally hear traffic even if I cannot see it.  Now add someone cutting the grass with a power mower.  The sound will oftentimes mean that I cannot hear the traffic. As a result I sometimes take a different route when someone has the unmitigated gall to cut their lawn while I am walking.   Speaking of traffic, all you Prius owners should get a real car.  I know you think you are all cool being green and such but you piss me off.  I cannot hear your damn car!  Forget the environment.  This is about ME.  And for those drivers who do not pull up to the stop lines thinking you are helping when I am waiting to cross the street, think again.  I want to know where you are.  I don’t trust you anyway so as least be sporting and let me know where you are lying in wait idling.          Another difference in collecting info is when we go up or down stairs.  A sighted person sees the stairs and automatically knows where the handrails are, the approximate number of stairs, where the landings are, whether or not there is an obstruction on the stairs, etc.  This info is usually collected and processed in less than a second.

          I deal with stairs with the use of a long white cane.  With the cane I will know when I come to stairs and how to go either up or down them.  I can do this through my senses of feel (through the cane) and hearing the sounds that the cane makes going up or doesn’t make, going down.  Obstructions are a little harder but not impossible.  Occasionally people will decide to sit on, oh say, subway or train stairs.  These stairs are not park benches where you and your friends can sit and amuse one another.  To the person that I recently hit in the head with my long white cane, it was not an accident.  And when I said I was sorry I didn’t mean it.  Keep out of the way, will you please!  I have enough trouble without having to fear tripping over your idle butt.

          If you are blind or have low vision you just have to get a long white cane to assist you with your orientation and mobility.  You could get a dog but that’s a whole other deal.  Any questions?

Ten Fun Things.
There are some fun things about vision loss or impairment that you should know about.

1.      Everyone looks great.  Women are beautiful and men are handsome.  Wailing children are not great unless you are also deaf.

2.     You can barge into a room and become the immediate topic of conversation.

3.     If people do not move when you barge into the room you can hit them with your long white cane with virtual immunity.

4.     When you go to the airport make sure you have your white cane and look confused.  In extreme cases bump into things.  This will often result in a representative of the airline taking you to the front of the line.  This will also get you on the plane first thereby insuring a spot for your luggage.

5.     Make the political correctness people crazy.  When I lived in NY I would often go to a popular deli for coffee.  The owners would simply say “next” to wait on the next person in line.  I never knew if I was next or not so I told the counter people to just refer to me as “blind guy”  as in “blind guy you’re next.”  This would often make some sensitive type go nuts yelling things such as ”how can you say that”  and the like.  It was fairly entertaining and I sometimes got free coffee out of the deal.

6.     Make fun of organizations that have really stupid slogans.  One organization I know of has something like "if properly trained low vision can be nothing more than a nuisance."  This was clearly written by a sighted person.  These organizations should be made fun of at every opportunity.

7.     Sometimes when people talk to me they will speak up in a loud voice.  I tell them I am blind, not deaf.  This should be done in a nice way so as not to embarrass anyone. Odds are you will both be laughing about it in a minute or two.  Laughing is always fun.

8.     Entitle a blog 10 fun things and then only write nine.  People will say “well he’s blind you know” as if that had anything to do with it. 

9.      See The Scent of a Woman.  Al Pacino is great in the final scenes.  Actually, he was great throughout the movie.  I think he got the academy award for best actor.

OK, OK.  This is meant to be lighthearted.  But the point is not to wallow in the valley of gloom and doom.  Laugh at yourself and laugh with others.  Above all let’s all remember rule 6 and we can all have a laugh.  Nuisance indeed!

When a person suffers from a disability/impairment/issue (or whatever the correct term is these days) there is a tendency to feel that all must somehow accommodate you.  After all, you’re the one with the disability, right?  Wrong. 

          Having a disability means that you must also take the time and extend the effort to let those around you know what is going on in your world and, for you to realize how your disability is affecting them as well.  It’s not all about you, and you better realize that this business of living requires some work and education. With or without a disability, life is a two way street.

          Now let me say this:  some people just will not be able to “handle” your disability.  I am not talking about those people.  That is a very different post.  I am referring to the people who simply do not know what to expect from you in every day situations, how to react to your actions or how to be helpful generally.  You have to educate them just as you educated yourself about your disability.  I cannot tell you how many times friends have said to me “what am I supposed to do when . . . ?”  They simply do not know and why should they?  I usually tell people that if I need any help I’ll let them know.  This is good for you and assists them in dealing with you.  Be aware that, even after you say something like that, people are going to tell you that you are coming to a curb or stairs etc.  Don’t get angry or throw a hissy fit.  Thank them and be happy that you are surrounded by people who care enough to assist you in your mobility.  I used to get annoyed with people who continually tried to give me unsolicited help after I asked them not to.  How stupid was that?  (If any have read any of my other posts you will already know that I can be remarkably stupid.)  Any time someone offers aid to, you be grateful.  This is generally a good rule regardless of whether or not you are disabled. You can tell them you are OK but be sure to thank them for their concern. 

          One of the things that surprised me when I began using a long white cane was how many people did not realize it was an international symbol of blindness/low vision.  Again, why should they?  I don’t remember how I became aware of this fact and no one seems to know how they did either.  I guess the point is not everyone will know.  One of my canes has a golf grip and a large roller ball for a tip.  Apparently, at a quick glance one restaurant patron asked me why I was bringing a golf club into the restaurant!  My wife assures me that the guy looked serious.

          Last thing for now.  Your disability affects others.  When people ask me what my biggest regret is about not having good vision I tell them that I regret the burdens it places on my wife in our everyday life.  Her life has been impacted every bit as has mine.  Keep that in mind.  I did not sign up to be blind.  She did not sign up to be married to a blind person.  It’s not all about you.