It’s true! There are some things people with a visual impairment can do better than their sighted friends. Come take our hand and we can show you key ways to keep your face to the sun even on a cloudy day.
‘Master yourself, and become king of the world around you.
Never be a victim of life; be its conqueror.’ Mike Norton
You may not think it possible to rediscover the joy in life when you are losing more of your sight or when you have to face the frightening reality of impending blindness. Your life is never going to be the same, it is true, but it’s going to be different, not necessarily worse.
Being blind or having a degree of vision loss brings a new spin on life. When you accept the ride, you actually find many ways in which to excel, exciting ways in which you can put your ‘foot to the pedal’ and enjoy life to the full.
Key 1: blind people are experts in decision making
We know how to cut down on too many choices and make a decision to save mental energy.
According to research, we all have a limited amount of brain power available to us every day. The more decisions we have to make, the weaker our ability to decide on many aspects of our day. And we can suffer from brain-fatigue too. The simple act of having to choose between too many options can lead to overload.
It became clear to me why as a vision-impaired person, I like to ‘cut to the chase’ and focus on realistic options when I am with sighted people because it allows me to reserve my thinking-battery and be more effective with brain-energy for those other important decisions.
The mere action of getting around is taking up most of my brain and sensory cells in decision making, to stay safe, to negotiate around obstacles, to listen out for sudden changes as I tread carefully around my neighbourhood.
Making a firm decision once we know our options is also liberating for our sighted helpers: we have freed you from feeling overwhelmed by having to tell us every detail in front of your eyes. Let’s keep the wires clear to our thought process and enjoy the decisions we make with confidence.
Key 2: blind people are natural problem solvers
Every single day, we are confronted by tasks which would be easier if we could see but our eyes have gone on a long vacation without us so what can we do? We can adapt to seeing the task differently.
Watch how your vision-impaired or blind friend finds creative solutions that meet the task requirement by being resourceful. We problem solve and conserve frustration by looking for alternative methods to achieve a visual task.
Getting from point A to point B without sight requires practiced skills in problem solving, being tenacious and persistent as well as open to creative solutions – which is why asking a blind person directions is not as silly as it sounds because we have already mapped out the route…going my way?
Key 3: blind people are natural observers
Gathering detail about our environment is not only in the seeing, it is in the feeling, in the knowing, in the observing of tiny details the eyes can miss because they can’t see for looking. Close your eyes and what happens? Your entire body becomes alert to subtle sensory observation. We are expert detail detectors because we take notice from a variety of sensory skills.
Our ears hear you, our heart feels for genuine communication or awkward silences, our body alerts us to physical changes, our hands hold a picture of life and our intuition has a clear line to a deep knowing that guides us.
Close your busy-body eyes in a café or any other place as an experiment and see how well you begin to observe so much more. Leave your visual prejudice in the dark and open up to the full experience of observing life differently. We actually do see more in the dark than you realise.
Key 4: blind people are awesome time managers
You know the saying, ‘if you want to get a job done, ask a busy person? This is because they know how to manage the task within realistic time constraints and boy, have we had our share of adapting to visual restrictions.
Losing the ability to see means people who are vision-impaired or blind take much more notice of the time it takes to achieve their tasks. We have to be realistic in setting our goals and pace ourselves.
Time checks are a regular part of our day: as in preparing for an outing, a meeting, a deadline, cooking for our family, organising our children for school – we have learned the essential skill in keeping time so the key is, being realistic when setting deadlines.
Key 5: blind people are ambassadors for living life to the full
People who are vision-impaired or blind wake up every morning alongside their sighted loved ones with the same desires: to be happy, to be fulfilled, to be at peace, to feel a sense of belonging, to want to contribute to our families wellbeing, to feel safe and secure emotionally and physically, to take our place in the world, so why would anyone see the one weak part of their life as the whole part of who they are?
I won’t deny it has taken many bumps and bruises to my ego and much effort and soul-searching to understand this ‘blind-life’ but what I have discovered is a real treasure: being blind doesn’t stop anyone from enjoying a fulfilled life.
It’s the choice and decisions we take that can keep us striding onwards like ambassadors for life. After all, it’s the life we were born to live, so we might as well make it the best one we can…
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Copyright © Maribel Steel 2017
Photos Copyright © Harry Williamson