Beauty in Blindness

I am Blind. I am BeautifulBlindness is beautiful.

I love my life as a blind individual. Growing from a person with full sight, to a person with low vision, to a person who is legally blind with very little vision remaining, I have learned a lot and believe I have a special outlook on life. With a lot of the scientific research that has been happening, I get asked increasingly more often.. “If you could, would you become sighted again?” Honestly, right now my answer is no. I love the life I live right now. Blindness doesn’t define me but it has most definitely shaped me. Here are some of the many reasons I love being blind or that being blind has taught me:

  • Personality vs. Appearance – I get to know somebody first based on their personality. I can still see a little but what they look like but their personality weighs much heavier than their physical appearance. I realize that some sighted people are like this too but I just think it’s much easier for me to see someone for who they are on the inside than who they are on the out with limited vision.
  • Airports – In most airports, we get to skip the long lines at TSA and go right to the front.
  • Performances – I often get to sit up front at performances and those who accompany me do too!
  • Spidey Senses – As I’ve discussed on here before, it’s a myth that when you lose one sense, your other senses are automatically better. Often times though when someone loses one sense, they become more dependent on the other senses so they concentrate on them more, thus giving off the impression that they are automatically better. I know who is coming down the hall often times at the office by their footsteps, their shoes, or some other indicator. A lot of what I can’t pick up on visually, I can audibly or tactually.
  • Dirty Looks – If other people give me dirty looks, I often won’t see them.
  • Designated Driver – I never ever have to be the designated driver – win!
  • Problem-Solving – I have had to problem solve a lot more than many of my peers have, to do the simplest of tasks. Many bigger problems don’t phase me any more because I’ve become so accustomed to staying calm and just working out the problem.
  • One car household – Steven and I will only ever have to pay one car payment and one car insurance payment per month. Now, the not being able to drive thing does suck a lot on most days but this is definitely one of the advantages.
  • Knowledge of governmental agencies/legal agencies – Unfortunately, I have been discriminated against on multiple occasions due to my blindness and/or using a service animal. I have learned a wealth about the Fair Housing Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, Air Carriers Access Act, as well as the complaint processes through HUD, Department of Justice, and Disability Rights Texas.
  • Career Choice – Losing my vision led me to the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services Division for Blind Services several years ago as a consumer and transformed my career path into becoming a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for the agency. I absolutely love what I do and don’t think I would have found this career path without my vision loss.
  • Empathy – My job is all about working with individuals with disabilities to transition out of high school. I feel like I can empathize with my consumers on a deeper level in some ways as I’ve experienced a lot of what they have experienced, just maybe in different ways.. especially if it relates to transportation.
  • Self-Confidence – My self-confidence has increased exponentially as I’ve had to “sell myself” as in show my strengths to various people, such as employers, and have developed a strong level of confidence in my skills, strengths, and abilities.
  • Tough Skin – I’m still pretty sensitive about many things but my skin has definitely become thicker since losing my vision as I’ve had to deal with some pretty difficult things.
  • Friends – I have met so many wonderful people through my journey as a person with vision loss. One of my very best friends I met specifically because a mutual  friend knew we both had the same eye condition (Retinitis PIgmentosa) and introduced us.
  • Presentations – When I’m giving large presentations, since my peripheral vision is so narrow, I can’t see more than one person in the audience and I can’t see them with any definition. Many have joked about this in the past but I do think that this has helped me over the years cut down on the anxiety of presenting in front of large groups a little bit.
  • Technology –  I have always loved technology but especially now that I depend on technology for many parts of my personal and work life, I am pretty skilled with all different types of traditional technology and assistive technology. I am able to provide a lot of assistance to my sighted/non-disabled peers on a daily basis because I have had so much experience with it.
  • Guide dog/Makiko – Last, but certainly not least, I have had the opportunity to be partnered with Makiko, my beautiful guide dog, who has encouraged me through some really tough times, has taught me to be confident, has shown me how independent I can be, and is always so loving. Through her, I have become really involved with Guide Dogs for the Blind, taking on a leadership position as one of the founding Presidents of our state Alumni Chapter, “The Eyes of Texas,” participating with Lone Star Guide Dog Raisers, our local puppy raising group, creating and facilitating “Guide Dog Handlers Network,” a Facebook social/support group for guide dog handlers from all over the world, and giving presentations in the local community about guide dogs, service dogs, the ADA, and blindness etiquette. I did a few presentations before her about some of these topics but she has opened many doors for me.

I have gained so much as a person with vision loss. Sure, I have lost a few things too (such as my ability to drive) but what I have now is beautiful. I love the life I live and I love the opportunities being a blind young woman has given me.

The First Time We Were Told “No”

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Well, I’ve been told “no” many times in my life, but Makiko and I haven’t ever been told “no” we could not go into a public place.. until today. Today is Father’s Day and it’s my first without my father physically present with me since he passed away in January. Mom and I decided to do things that we have done in the past or he would like to do in memory of him. We went to Maxim’s, a Dim Sum Restaurant. On many occasions we would go there as a family in the past and then usually right after Dad would go home and take a nap and watch a football game or some other sports game. That was tradition. So we walk in Dim Sum, and I don’t think the hostess saw Makiko over the desk. She handed menus off to someone else and that person sat us. Mom and my great-aunt went first, and I told Makiko to follow them. I was concentrating really hard on making sure we were going with Mom in the crowded restaurant. There were people, chairs, and tables everywhere! As we were walking to the table I heard “Excuse me! Excuse me!” But I ignored it because I didn’t know if it was directed at us and I was super focused on where we were going. Well by the time we got to the tabled there were MULTIPLE people chasing us saying “Excuse me! Excuse me!” They then started saying “No dog. NO DOG. NO dog. Dog not allowed..” over and over and over again, and they were each saying this. Quite obnoxious. Mom and I each tried to tell them she was a guide dog, that didn’t compute (language barrier), then tried to tell them that my eyes didn’t work, that didn’t compute, so then I said “She has to be with me, it’s the law.” And then they backed away, or so I thought. Next thing I know this guy is going around to all the surrounding tables apologizing to them for having a dog in the restaurant. Some of them were American, some of them were Asian, however MOST of them didn’t even realize Makiko and I came in. There was a nice couple right next to us that I heard tell the guy “It’s okay. She’s beautiful and so sweet…” and then I turned and said thank you to them and we chatted a little bit about her.

Now, I will say that I’m trying to be really understanding because it is a cultural thing, or so I am told. I realize that to many Chinese people they eat dogs, may not have service dogs in China, and therefore do not want them in the restaurant and I understand that they couldn’t easily understand why I had a dog in there because of a language barrier. However, it was still humiliating to be chased down by many members of their staff and then have someone go around apologizing essentially for our presence. Then later this guy, who was the main one that was chasing us down, came to bug us about a tip. Mom left a good tip at the register but this guy came and just started talking to us about the tip as we were heading out, stopping by the restroom first. Mom told him that she left the tip at the register and he then started saying “thank you, I try to say thank you.” So we aren’t really sure what that was about.. our best guess was that he was trying to thank us, and again this might be a problem of the language barrier, but this dude sure likes to chase us down!

So anyway, I respect that this is probably a cultural thing and thats why I didn’t get too upset over it. But it was interesting in that it was our first time we were told we couldn’t go in the restaurant together, even though we eventually got it sorted out. It was kind of humiliating too, but nevertheless it was a learning experience and I can appreciate that.