I was born with 1 third normal vision (I could say “OCA Type 1B with associated Nystagmus” but that would mean nothing to you, and even google can struggle with it) so I think its fair to say that after 21 years I’ve got used to it. The first time I was really aware that I was “different” was at primary school when I couldn’t see the blackboard/whiteboard and my P1 teacher actually yelled at me and sent me to the back of the classroom where she proceeded to read what was on the board so I could write it down (through my tears!). That was really the only negative experience I had a primary school. Everyone accepted me for who I was, and the teachers were more than helpful doing their best to ensure that I could keep up with all the notes. The kids were cool about it too- I was one of them, I just had binoculars which were fun to play with! I couldn’t do the 11+ test like everyone else and had to do different tests to see whether I was clever enough for grammar school (I passed- yay!). But other than that never really felt “different”.
Secondary school was a little bit different. We had to change classrooms for each lesson so myself (and my twin sister) got a classroom assistant. We only knew each other because everyone else from primary school went to different schools. We got a classroom assistant who followed us around to make sure we didn’t’ walk into anything… Yeah, blind but not THAT blind. It’s fair to say that my sister and I were TERRIBLE to her! (SORRY!) We got to the end of a corridor or the top of a flight of stair and split off into different directions and walking around to a pre-arranged location. It took the teachers a while to get the balance right between, letting us do our own thing and giving us ALL THE HANDOUTS. It was quite irritating to have to balance books and A3 pages on the desk… The kids at secondary school were less accepting of our eyesight than at primary school. We were stared at. A lot. I guess it didn’t help that we were twins… We got bullied a bit, which sucked. I was a very shy kid and didn’t like to make a fuss about things… Eventually I made some great friends who accepted my weirdness (not just my eyesight) and helped me out a lot! By lower sixth I had decided that I was pretty happy with who I was and if other people weren’t or thought I was weird, then that was their problem. I was more confident than before and with the teachers I was able to tell them “No I do not need enlarged papers. This is fine I can deal with it” or actually something similar to “Don’t do anything unless I ask”. Those final two years of school were the best because I was more open about everything. People asked me questions about my eyesight (which is SO MUCH BETTER than just staring at me!) and they seemed to understand it better!
Duke of Ed was quite fun. I have a good sense of direction- hey, I have to! I can’t rely on road signs like everyone else. I have to describe the area like “Is that the place past the big yellow house with the white front door with the six fields of sheep beside the stable?”! Even though I had to look at the map quite close and finding bearings on the compass was pretty much to the nearest 5 degrees or so, I usually just went in roughly the right direction keeping an eye out for trees and hills that should hopefully be in the right places!
… and then I left and went to university. I was already pretty happy with who I was BUT I had to go through the whole explanation of “yeah I can’t see things so well so I have to use binoculars” and “no glasses don’t help” and “no I can’t get laser eye surgery because that won’t help either”. I had to say those sentences so often I was tempted to get it on a t-shirt… Student support were good and tried to help explain to lecturers but eventually it came down to me (and my twin, she’s still there) to approach every lecturer and say “hey we can’t see can we please get a print out or can you email us the tuff in advance” and MOST lecturers were great and by our second year field trip everyone pretty much understood, and those who didn’t came and asked us questions “can you see that?” (“no”). I was able to join rugby and rowing. I got hit in the face at rugby. A lot. But I loved (and love) it still! (I’m not even sure I ever told them about my eyesight). Final year was great, apart from one time when twin and I got lost in Barcelona because we couldn’t see the street numbers and everyone around us spoke Spanish… I honestly loved uni, it was one of the greatest experiences of my life and I’ve made some great friends there!
Graduated uni, with a few struggles but who doesn’t have tough times? And started looking for work. I feel obliged to put on my CV and job applications. I haven’t got very far in most job applications… Some companies have stated that I would not be suitable for the job because I have a visual impairment (even though I am qualified!?) which is annoying to say the least, but some (very few though) are more open to the idea, allowing me to attend an interview… yet they never ask about my eyesight. Personally I think they should enquire more about it rather than just accept it and move on, but maybe that’s just me.
That’s pretty much it so far…
Some random points before the end:
– I don’t always feel comfortable telling people about my eyesight because I feel like, a lot of the time, it makes them think of me differently. Usually I get to know the person first and let them find out OR wait a while and then tell them about it… Sometimes I’ve started straight off with “Hi I’m Judith, I can’t see very well, let me explain…”
– Leading on from that- when I tell people about my eyesight I much prefer it when I can use an example, so, if I’m standing near a sign I would point at t and make them stand where they feel comfortable reading it and then show where I can read it from (or use a piece of paper with writing on it)
– It’s awkward at times, trying to read signs in cafes or the number on the bus- I hate asking people for help, I’m very independent!
– Because I can’t drive it frustrates me a lot, like, I don’t have the same freedom as everyone else (and I know that not everyone drives a car but at least they have the chance?!) Seriously if I had a car I would never be at home… Or if I didn’t have to walk a few miles to get a bus I would probably not be at home much either!
F.A.Q: If science improves and there is a way to fix your eyes, would you get surgery that would correct your vision?
Honestly, no. It’s been 21 years and I’ve learned how to adapt to the world around me. It would be really strange to suddenly see everything up close and in huge detail. Although maybe it would be interesting to see “how the other half lives” so that I can see what most other people can see, maybe it would help me to explain my eyesight to you! But no, I can’t imagine my life with full vision. I know that sometimes I’ll go off on one and rant about how unfair it is, but I also love making blind jokes and sarcastic comments when someone says “Oh look over there isn’t that so cool?!” like “um yeah I’m sure it’s great”! But honestly I love my life the way it is- I’ve adapted and I’m determined…Please, someone hire me?