Not Just a Store Run
As previously mentioned, one of the greatest beauties of living with macular degeneration is that I have overall learned to navigate life and utilize my "see"port system. After years of practice, I now confidently consider myself an expert on letting those around me know when and how I need assistance. Unfortunately, because I have become skilled in self-advocacy many people often forget I have a visual impairment. When this happens, they tend to expect me to execute task the same way a person without a visual impairment would, without consideration of the additional obstacles.
Different considerations for the visually impaired
I feel there is a fine line between treating me differently because of my visual impairment and understanding that different treatment needs to be in consideration because of my visual impairment. It’s not as complex as it sounds.
Let me provide an example: Going to the grocery store.
A trip to the grocery store looks a lot different for me
Fact: running to the store to pick up a few items looks a lot different for me than my counterparts who do not have a visual impairment. Allow me to walk you through my process. Typically, when I need to "run to the store" I have to bring my son. Now, I understand there are many moms and single moms out there that also have to bring their child. However, since I cannot drive, putting him quickly into the backseat of my car is not an option.
Taking public transportation since I can't drive
Instead, we have to walk and/or take public transportation. Since I am being transparent, let me just add that my son has become quite fond of taking Ubers; therefore, before we even set out for the store I have to have a back-and-forth conversation with him on why we are not taking an Uber to a store that is less than 15 minutes away. After we have moved on from that, it turns into the cliché, “Mommy are we almost there yet?” even though we both know exactly where the store is located.
Once we arrive at the store its not unusual for certain scenarios to take place.
Scenario 1: Assistance Finding Items
Me: Excuse me, but can you please show me where I can find the (insert obscure item here)?
Sales Associate: Oh sure. It’s down there. Do you see that blue box? Right down that aisle.
Now, usually, I do my best. I go in the direction they pointed and hope by some stroke of luck I find it; however, more times than not I have to return to the sales associate and explain that I physically need them to walk me over to the item.
Scenario 2: Checking Out
Me: (staring closely at the credit card prompter)
Cashier: Girl, why are you so close? Did you forget your glasses?
Me: (internal debate on how I am feeling, and if I am up for a discussion on Stargardts)
Most credit card readers have poor color contrast
With the exception of Trader Joe’s, most card readers have poor color contrast. This makes it more difficult for me to see when trying to pay, which is why I have to get awkwardly close to the screen. However, we aren’t done yet. Now it’s time to restart the Uber debate, before ultimately walking back home – all while reassuring that my son that while we are not home yet, we are close.
A draining experience
The point is, it can feel like a whole song and dance to get paper plates and leave me feeling drained. In an effort to avoid these situations, I prefer to go to stores and locations I am familiar with and already know the layout. If I can, I prefer to go to the store with a friend. Going with a friend means that they can often find items quickly, easily identify the price of items, and usually, there is the added perk of built-in transportation to avoid lugging bags on my walks and/or public transportation.
Simple tasks require more planning for the visually impaired
Sometimes simple tasks that others can do on a whim needs more planning for me. Therefore, while I do not want to be treated differently because of my visual impairment I would like people to understand and consider the extra steps I have to go through. As my example illustrated, it's not just a quick “run to the store”, it can be more of a marathon... at least that’s the way eye see it.
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