Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better!!!



I regularly receive the comment, “I didn’t know you were blind!” I am what they call “high functioning”, which has always pissed me off. High functioning is a fancy way of saying I’m not blind, or I’m not blind enough. Lets stick purely with the facts, I am blind; yes I still have some vision. What I do with that remaining vision most people think is amazing, cool. Stop for a moment though, I’m still blind.

It regularly freaks people out that they perceive that I can do what they do. Frequently I can, or I’ve adapted and figured out other ways to get the same result. There’s a point there, “result”. If we were to measure what you do and what I do as “results” the differences between what you can do and what I can do would be, interesting. There would be capabilities we share, things we both can do, there would be things you can do and I can’t, there would be things I can do and you can’t. Surprising isn’t it that’s what we’d expect with most people, we all have our strengths and weaknesses and talents. Yes I’m still blind, so there are two other categories there are things I can’t do because I can’t see to do them or it isn’t safe for me to do them because I don’t see well enough.

But at the end of the day I’m still blind. People out there regularly get freaked out and compare themselves with me. Compare is just a fancy word for threatened. If that blind dude can do what I can do and he’s blind well then why can’t I do more. Not a good place to be generally if the relationship with this comparing person is personal I’ll never see them again, but if the relationship with the comparing person is professional, holly cow watch out for the shit to fly. It’s not uncommon for me to get fired, be accused of plagiarism, be undermined somehow and then fired, it’s all bad. People forget that God put us on this earth to respect each other and each others differences and not compare ourselves against one another. Don’t we all have our own journey to make?

My ability to be high functioning isn’t cut and dry. Even people in the business of disability think “if you can do it, you don’t need accommodation you don’t need our help.” People, it’s not that simple, it’s not a binary thing. For me my “High Functioning” depends on “PEFS,” Pain, Energy, and Fatigue, and in combination these things determine what I can see, what I can do, and for how long. Every day I’m in pain from over stimulating my eyes, everyday I’m at least at a perceived pain scale of three out of 10, everyday even holidays. Every day I get up in the morning and depending how I am feeling I’ll have a set energy budget for the day, don’t all of us. There are days I get up and feel great and there are days I get up and feel like poo. My fatigue levels are directly related to a couple of things; the accommodations I am using to do my high functioning thing, lighting conditions, how long I’ve been doing something and finally how much detail do I have to deal with. As they say the devil is in the details. Below are rough estimates on what I do that is considered “high functioning” and how long I can do them for during a given day.

• Drive: None
• Walk: Probably most or all the day, I love to walk or hike. I’ll need your help the first time I go to somewhere though.
• Work on the computer: Real work, on a Microsoft Windows computer 2 hours maximum, on a Apple Mac 4 to 6 hours depending
• Watch TV: Who «Wrong or Missing Preposition» care I can’t see it anyway. I’ll sit there and be social
• Read: Maximum 1 hour a day, then done
• Email: See reading
• Eat: Tell me what does vision have to do with eating? Watching the food network I guess things taste “better” if they’re prettier but with respect for my French ancestors eating is a full body sport, including vision. How you can eat lobster I have no clue, butt ugly, and it smells bad, yuck….
• Exercise: Depends on what shape I’m in, right now 30 to 60 minutes maximum.
• Talk on the phone: unlimited, but frequently interrupted by bio breaks and fueling, food.
• Meetings: If I have to watch the presentation you’ve got a good hour a day with me, I’m too exhausted to do more.
• Sex: Depends

As you can see there are things that become painful things that become exhausting and things, I just can’t do. So what? right? What’s your point, so you’re blind, thank you yes I am. Here’s the kicker, I have adapted I have found alternate ways to do things manage my energy and get things done. I tease people that I am the next level of evolution with 95% less sight I can do 95% of the things you do, maybe you’re the one who is disabled, spending so much time and energy focused on your eyes, I continue perhaps it’s my genetics that nature is trying out for the future of our species and by the way you’re probably the one who’s obsolete, the throw back.

The playing field isn’t level. My adaptations are not something I can hang my hat on. If I’ve overdone it visually and over extend myself, there will be two weeks where I’m useless for any kind of detailed task, I will miss things in email and I won’t read until I’ve recovered. People have accused me of not working; one of my adaptations is using the old noodle. I work things out in my head then do them, so for a few days it might look like I’m doing nothing, but I’m formulating and crafting my work products in my head. When I have a clear picture on what to do I do it.

People expect that if you can do something once it means you can keep on doing that thing, and I can’t. People get frustrated with me and the paradox, trust me I get frustrated too but I have to live with the paradox. I’ve concluded that accommodation isn’t only a technology thing, a process thing or a cultural thing, accommodation also covers how someone gets things done. Many organizations I’ve worked for can’t make room for different ways of doing work. Some of the best organizations I’ve worked for have their teams collaborate and work remotely from the office and each other. For me being a home based worker works great. I have all my gear, and accommodations I need and no one can give me grief or judge me on how I get my work done, I just have to get my work done.

Yes, I can be high functioning but being high functioning isn’t something I can count on, to be there most of the time. It’s more realistic to say that under the right conditions on the right day when the moon is in the right place I am “high functioning. I have to pick and choose where and how to spend my energy budget well. I can’t let myself get too fatigued or more disastrously, exhausted, I have to manage the energy, pain, fatigue and deliver. I have too many variables to contend with that effect my capabilities. Furthermore, although I can do most of the things you can do, and a few things you can ’t do; I’m still blind. I still need to be accommodated, I still need your help and I’ll ask you for your help when I need it. If you still think I’m cool and can contribute and you haven’t already gone off of the deep or your trying to discredit me or get rid of me, lets talk. If you find it necessary to judge me then I challenge you to walk a mile in my moccasins using my white cane, then we’ll talk

About the Author:

Kyle has ocular albinism and has been legally blind since birth. Kyle leads a very active live and is besides his professional career involved in many projects for persons who are different.

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