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Woman showing another person a pair of binoculars on a cruise ship deck

Feeling Like an AMD Ambassador

Do you ever feel like an AMD (age-related macular degeneration) ambassador? Someone who goes out into the world and shows people what AMD looks like? I have been on a cruise for about a week now and I seem to be doing just that.

Lack of vision impairment awareness

Amazingly, people know absolutely nothing about what I understand is the leading cause of blindness in the developed world. They pretty much have never heard of it! People also have no idea what visual impairment/blindness in general looks like.

There is a lot I cannot see but there is a lot I can. That confuses people. They expect people who have "legal blindness" to have canes and sighted guides. They don’t expect us to be mobile but to be sitting in a corner doing nothing.

Navigating the ship

I have been able to motor independently around this ship every day. I climb the stairs and I walk the track on the sports floor.

Do I get lost? Of course! Just about everyone does! Getting lost on a cruise ship is normal. I probably have more problems than average because I cannot see signs.

Instead, I use other clues. For example, descending the stairs, I know I am nearing my floor when I pass the little girl’s “dress” artwork hanging on the landing. If I get too confused, I ask. There are so many staff members on the ship, I am always guaranteed to get help.

Vision impairment is misunderstood

I went swimming with the piggies and the next day I went to “swim” with the sea lions. There was a family on both of these tours that I started talking with.

In the course of the conversation, I mentioned my sight loss. The response was typical: amazement! How could a person who is “legally blind” “pass” as I do? Either I was lying or their beliefs were mistaken. I would vote for the second option.

Twice this week I was being given a form to read and sign. I don’t bother to carry my hand-held magnifier or iPad around the ship with me. My assistive devices were back in the cabin.

Patronizing questions

Also, I had my glasses on my head. My prescription is for distance and does nothing for me for close work. Twice – I repeat TWICE – I was told to put my glasses on and that way I could see! I hesitated to ask if I actually appear that old and that addled. Of course, I knew my glasses were on my head! If they would have been beneficial, I would have used them. Good grief.

I tried to explain that I have a central vision loss. I don’t see what I am looking at. Refraction has nothing to do with my problems. I don’t think I was understood, but I tried.

Bringing me to the last bit of education I had to do. To wit, I was asked why I would take a helicopter tour of Miami if I could not see it.

For what it is worth, I saw a LOT while zooming around a clear, blue sky. I have good peripheral vision and most of the panoramic view I had was recorded on my peripheral retina. What was blurry or absent because of my scotomata was ‘filled in” by my brain and I never missed it. Bright, blue sky looks like bright, blue sky no matter if you are really seeing it or if it is a phenomenon of perception.

The hopeful ambassador

So, that’s that. I have been an AMB of AMD on this cruise. Hoping I did something positive. Maybe? All we can do is try.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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