The Paradox of Blindness

Being legally blind is a paradox.   You can, but you can’t!!   The real problem is its never consistent.   It all really depends on many factors.    For me light is a big one.  In some lighting conditions I can see very well and in others I can’t.  As a general rule dawn and dusk is when I can see the most.   Bright sunlight, total darkness and over cast skies makes it very hard for me to see.  Sometimes I am totally blind.

The Paradox of Blindness Podcast
I like to say I don’t see in real time.  I see in memory maps.  My mind fills in details that I can’t really see but through experience remember instead of really seeing.    This allows me to be very high functional and most of the time to appear that I’m not blind at all.   Most sighted people don’t believe me when I tell them I’m blind.   They sort of consider the possibility when I walk right by them without seeing them.

My recognition circle for people is very small.  If I haven’t seen you in a long time I won’t be able to positively identify you until you are within 3 to 5 feet.    If I see you often then I will be able to see you well off in the distance.

Experience makes a big difference.  The first time I do something or go somewhere new I might as well be totally blind.  I have to go through the process of applying my past experiences or memory map the new environment to become functional.   This process generally makes the first visit very strange for those around me as I am having to process and process and don’t always tend to enjoy the experience.   The next time I’m there I can usually function and navigate like I built the place I know exactly where everything is and I can have a much better time.   Changing my focus to the experience and not the logistics.

I have a friend the one and only who has made playing board games fun for me.  Board games are generally so much work that I won’t play them.   This one friend of mine can make it a fun experience for me to participate.   When I figure out his tricks I’ll share them with you.

The amount of energy I have.   Be it intellectual, emotional, or physical has a huge impact on my abilities.    There is a direct correlation.  If I’m worn out I don’t see as much.  If I get exhausted its time to go home and relax period.

I manage my days based on a visual budget and once the budget is spent there is nothing I can do to get more.   Professionally I can balance computer work and meetings to extend the visual  budget.  During my personal life it really depends on what I’m doing.  Somethings I can do for hours some for minutes some if I attempt them I’m toast.    Museums are very demanding you have 5 to 15 minutes of my attention tops even with visual aids.

Photography is very helpful.  I call it seeing out of band.  Or seeing with latency. If I am in a museum or hiking or somewhere I want to really see something I’ll take a picture of it.   Later I’ll put it on the computer screen where I can magnify it.      This lets me share the experience in near real time.

I have to say it is very entertaining for me to watch peoples expressions when I’m carrying a white cane and taking pictures.

Historically I’ve been very stubborn and have chosen not to use navigation aids such as a while cane or a guide dog.   I’ve had to learn the hard way.  Surgery on my ankle from all the unnecessary injuries and many many days impacted because I ran out of visual budget before I should have.   Using a visual navigation aid takes so much pressure off.    Using a cane provides so much piece of mind and gives me back so much energy the use has added so much to my quality of life.

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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