Who Should Know About My Visual Impairment?

Hi! I just finished a chocolate whoopie pie with mint frosting. Yum! I am practicing what I preach. I am accumulating positives to buoy me up when times are rough and being grateful to every Amish and Mennonite lady in the area who makes whoopie pies possible and improves my life. Thank you! Now may I have a couple of the pumpkin spice ones, please?

Who should know about my vision impairment?

Okay. Moving right along, I would like to offer a different point of view about who should know about my vision impairment. I have heard people say it is a private matter and none of anyone’s business. I have heard people say they let people know on a need to know basis. That’s fine. It is a personal decision and each of us is entitled to his own preference. My personal decision is to pretty much tell EVERYONE.

Working with vision loss

First of all, I really cannot get around it at work. A client walks in and there is this big, honkin’ CCTV in front of my chair. If I don’t explain it, it is sort of like the elephant in the room. It becomes something we are all aware of but no one acknowledges. Get it out of the way, acknowledge it and move on.

I am also to the point I sometimes make “silly” mistakes when I am reading. This is especially true when reading paperwork the client has filled out. My options are to have them think I cannot read, tell them they have horrible penmanship or blame it on my visual impairment. Quite bluntly I would rather have them think I am visually impaired than handicapped in some other fashion...and insulting people you have just met is not good for the relationship!

Trying not to come off as spacy

Bringing me to another point about the perceptions of others. I don’t know about you, but I can miss things that are right in front of my nose. And that is not even talking about the stuff I cannot see on higher shelves. Once again, not wanting to look like I am too spacy, I will often preface a request with “I’m visually impaired, could you…?” Even though we get evidence of the evil in people daily, I have yet to have anyone be evil to me. People help and it makes them feel good to do so.

Trying not to come off as standoffish

Another thing I don’t want to be seen as is too standoffish. I laugh at myself but I wave at every single car that passes me when I am walking the dogs. I can not see any of the drivers. I probably don’t know most of them at all. However, I don’t want to snub the ones I do know. Besides, what does it hurt to be friendly? From what I can see, almost everyone who passes me now waves. I also believe, if I were in trouble, many of them would now stop.

Recognizing faces

Of course, that doesn’t exactly relate to whom I tell and whom I don’t, but a related situation does. When someone hails me across a room or a parking lot, I act funny. I know I do. There is a hesitation while I try to figure out who the hey is talking to me. I don’t want people to think I am trying to decide if they are “worthy” of my attention! I usually make a joke of it, scurry over to within my vision range and say something like “ Aha! Samantha! How are you?” If that person does not know, I mention my visual impairment.

Not ashamed of vision loss

These are all good reasons but I now want to get to what I consider to be my most important reasons. I am not ashamed of my vision loss and I don’t want other people to be ashamed of theirs either. I also want to normalize vision loss and educate people about it.

Ever since I started sharing about my sight loss, a fair number of people have said something like “My wife/ husband/sister/brother/etc. has macular degeneration and s/he is afraid of what will happen.” Seeing someone with vision loss who is functioning in life is reassuring to them. Some of the monsters go away.

So, that’s my take on things. It is just easier not to have to pretend. I am in the community. I am functioning with a little help from my friends and you can too. Enuf said.

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