I don’t believe I have written a blog solely dedicated to blindness, what I see, or how to describe that. So here it goes. . .

Constantly I either get asked or someone asks someone who knows me, “What does ty see? Can he see anything at all? How does that work?”

First of all I think it is important to understand that few blind people (and I mean very, very few) have no light perception or see absolutely nothing. Some do have this condition. Here are sort of the general descriptors of blindness taken from American Federation for the Blind website:

Legally blind: This is defined as no better than 20/200 corrected vision (the top 2 lines on the eye chart) in the better eye, or a visual field not extending beyond 20 degrees in the better eye, or a visual efficiency of no more than 20 percent. The “legal” refers to a determination of the person’s eligibility for government benefits resulting from his or her visual impairment.

Blindness: A wide array of conditions ranging from a limited ability to see objects with special aids to the absence of light perception. Most people who are blind have some light perception.

What I see

So in the day time I can see globs of colors everywhere that may or may not help me identify objects. For example, I can walk into a parking lot and see that there are lots of cars parked. I can even distinguish if they are light colored or dark colored but I can see no details about those cars whatsoever. Also, the different colors of the cars can blend together at times and it can sometimes seem like a kaleidoscope. If there are huge contrasts between sidewalk and grass or different levels of pavement, I may or may not be able to see it. The larger the contrast, the more likely I will be able to see it. That continues to fade however.

When I am talking to people, if there isn’t a perfect lighting situation I cannot see their face. I definitely cannot see their face if I’m more than 7 feet away from them no matter how good the lighting is. I will see nothing on the floor if you point it out to me and likely will never catch any gestures or facial expressions. It is pretty much safe to say that all detailed vision is completely gone and the vision I have is not very useful.

In terms of computer use, reading, and writing, I use a talking computer, read braille, and I have an Iphone that also talks to me. As I lost vision I switched the contrast on the computer to a black background with white font and continually made the font larger as my blindness set in. Now it does not matter how large you make the font, I can’t see it. I may be able to make out a word every once in a while but using my hands and ears to read is surely much, much faster. Interestingly, blind people train themselves to listen to things at a very fast rate on the computer or phone. SO when I am reading a book off of my Kindle app, I probably listen at about 550 to 600 words per minute. I still am a slow braille reader, likely reading at about 40 or 50 wpm. Braille helps to read notes when speaking or to proofread. It is excellent for that actually. I have a camera that scans any printed documents and my computer will read them aloud. It is an amazing scanner bought by the US government. I also have a small machine called a refreshable braille display that hooks up to my phone or computer and I can read anything from my computer in braille. Small wirey pins pop up line by line and this machine is very small . .. about the size of a tablet or IPad. Now any blind person can read anything in braille with such a machine and be very portable. Long past are the days of having a book that takes up half your bedroom.

Traveling around and walking brings on different aspects of blindness. Asalready stated, I don’t see any detail. At night, I see absolutely nothing unless there is a light source. So when navigating, I am not using my eyes very much. I know they will fail me and if I trust my eyes, I’ll probably get hurt. So I use a long white cane and scan the area in front of me. I must listen for sounds all around me, follow the traffic to my right or left to walk in line with it, and do my best to find curb cuts, alleys, and road crossings. Crossing the road is done by listening and I have mastered that pretty well. When locating a new business or office, I get an exact address and plan out my trip ahead of time. If I don’t know exactly where I’m going, I don’t go. With planning however, I can find just about anywhere when traveling alone. Open areas such as parking lots or parks are much more challenging as it is difficult to listen for surroundings and a massive open area is tough. I have developed enough confidence by now though that I can go anywhere, anytime independently. I may have to get information by asking questions or whatever. . . but I get there. No point A to point b stuff. Life needs to happen.

Here in Narnia this takes on new meaning when walking up and down trails. Blind folks here are generally kept inside a house and most people do not believe I am blind. They question the authenticity of my sight loss because I do not have a condition where my eyes have deteriorated or look differently from a sighted person. I also make fairly good eye contact because I have had sight most of my life and learned those visual social skills. “You don’t seem blind” or “you don’t look blind” is said almost daily. So in Narnia, I have to shoreline the road and building or grass next to me to make sure I don’t drift out to the center of the road. There are very few sidewalks here. Walking on trails are up, down, and all over. Basically I need someone walking in front of me to talk to so I know where they are. If there aren’t huge drop offs, cliffs, or crap like that I can go solo on trails by simply using my cane to navigate.

So there is a little snapshot. Many think it would be so hard or say they couldn’t do it. Well, you could do it because you would have to. You either choose to live or you watch your life waste away. There is a Kingdom to be announced, demonstrated, and enjoyed.

Lastly I will list a few things to avoid or pointers when dealing with your blind friends

Pointers When Hanging with Your Blind Friends

1. Tell, don’t show. If you are describing something, especially if it has to do with directions, it must be done verbally. Landmarks are bad but road names are good. Exact-ness is our friend.
2. Don’t congratulate a blind person for walking up or down the stairs by themselves. That is kind of like me congratulating you for being able to pick up a fork and eat your food. It feels patronizing. We walk around and do stuff everyday you know?
3. NEVER NEVER NEVER talk to the person that I am with and ask them about my opinion on something or what I can see. Talk to me. Reach into your head jiggle your brain loose, and then start talking to me as a normal person. I cannot handle when I go to a restaurant and the waitress ask Janessa what I want to eat. Talk to me, not the person next to me if you are talking to me. Ok, that’s a bit of a rant, but this one bothers me more than most.
4. When walking together with a blind person, keep the conversation going. The oral clues help a lot to keep us walking in the correct direction.Don’t plan your life or events you need to do around the comfort of a blind person. We need to learn to go to all kinds of different places that don’t guarantee our safety or comfort. If it is way too stressful, we may just take your arm and walk that way.
5. Don’t grab a blind persons arm and lead them somewhere without being asked. I go nutty when this happens. This is a normal occurance here in Narnia that I’m still trying to figure out how to address.
6. If a blind person asks to help with something, please give them something to do. Don’t assume they won’t be able to do it. We want to help and it feels awful, very very awful, to be a sidekick when everyone else is working hard to clean up, work on the house, or whatever task at hand may be.
7. Identify yourself when talking if you haven’t seen the blind person in a long time. My voice recognition is good, but I’m not God. It is not insulting to do this. I can’t tell you how many times I have faked like I knew someone just because I couldn’t see their face. More and more I just ask but that can so easily be avoided by the sighted person initiating.
8. You can ask most blind people anything you want to know about their blindness. We are pretty open. BUT, this is not the only thing about us. A conversation starter should not be “Oh, you are blind? How much can you see? Are you totally blind or partial?” Ok that has happened a million times over and is just wacky. What if my first question to you was “Oh hi. I heard you have cancer. What kind is it?” Weird and intrusive when you don’t know someone. Get to know them, then ask.
9. Don’t move stuff that a blind person has put in a particular place, especially in their own home. This is life or death for us. Everything has its place

And oh yeah, “You don’t look blind” is pretty stupid to say. Don’t say it. .

Alrighty, I hope you enjoyed that one. Feel free to ask questions or email and I’d be glad to respond. Peace.

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