Over the last couple of years, my circle of blind and visually impaired friends has grown significantly. I grew up not knowing that many blind and visually impaired people, probably because I was in mainstream education and the services for blind and visually impaired young people in my area were very limited. During my time at sixth form I felt rather isolated from all of my “sighted” peers, this time was definitely the lowest point that I have experienced so far. I felt very socially isolated because everyone was learning to drive, go out clubbing and I wasn’t part of any of that. Whether it was because it wasn’t “cool” to hang around with the blind girl we’ll never know but I believe that experience and feeling of isolation made me so much stronger and more prepared of what to face in the outside world. When I felt low and isolated, I could have done with blind and visually impaired friends in my life, even if it was just for reassurance that I wasn’t going through that myself and that in fact those feelings are completely normal. Now that I have blind and visually impaired friends, I am a lot happier, more comfortable with myself and my disability and I feel so much more confident. I’ve come to realise that having blind and VI people in my life really does make a difference. Having people in your life with the same disability as you is something that I believe is so important.
There are two ways in which how I met my blind and visually impaired friends. In 2014, I spent a week at a specialist school for blind and visually impaired people and this is where my friendship started with a few of my VI friends. Whilst I was there I enhanced my independent living skills and my mobility skills. I loved every minute of it and would definitely do it again!
For me, making friends there was one of the main highs of that experience. I never expected to stay in touch with any of them, let alone be so close but two years on and our friendship is still as strong as ever. They definitely made my time there even more enjoyable and have helped me grow as a person a lot over the last two years.
The other way that I have made blind and visually impaired friends is through blogging, through the power of the internet. I never expected that I would make friends through writing blog posts and commenting on others posts. My Blurred World Thinking Out Loud-Sassy Style and Yesterdays Wishes are three of my best friends and I couldn’t imagine my life without these girls.
There are so many reasons for why having blind and visually impaired friends is so important for me and I’m going to discuss those with you. Firstly, they know the everyday struggles, embarrassments and achievements that you face. Whether that’s completely embarrassing yourself at university, making a silly mistake in a shop or becoming more confident with a cane etc., they know and understand it all. You name it, they’ve probably been there. They’ll either laugh at your misfortune or be like “you know what, I’ve been there too, we’ve all done that and warn the t-shirt”
They can pass on useful tips and tricks. If I’m struggling with something to do with my disability, I always go to my girls because they more than likely know the answer.
They help you grow in confidence. The majority of my VI friends have had confidence and self-esteem issues just like I have and for most of us that’s often been due to our disability or people’s lack of understanding. We know how each other is struggling or what they’ve been through and we’re so proud of each other when they get passed that point even when they thought they couldn’t.
They’re always there to have a rant with! Whether that’s on skype/the phone, in person or via text…they get everything you’re saying and that sure does make you feel so much better!
They understand how important technology is. If you live in the same town or city as your VI friends then you’re lucky! But if you’re like me and don’t, technology is your only means of contact with your VI friends and this is vital.
They never take anything disability related to heart or too personally. Chances are, they’ve been in the exact same situation with their sighted friends as well.
They understand the smallest of things that annoy you and the larger things. Whether that’s just something silly like your sighted friends putting pictures on a group chat and you can’t see them or something major such as you not feeling comfortable doing something. Those things probably annoy them too!
They’re 100 % always, and I mean always there whenever you’re having a bad day or feeling low because of your disability. When you just want to curl up in a ball and cry but they always put you back on track and give you a firm talking to! And when it’s the other way around, they need that, you’ll always do that for them because that’s what friends do. They understand like nobody else.
Now you know the reasons for why I think having blind and visually impaired friends is so important, you’re probably thinking to yourself that you haven’t been to a specialist school or you aren’t a blogger, well don’t worry. There are various ways in which you can meet and connect with other blind and visually impaired people.
I’m going to tell you about an exciting project that is being launched and which I feel very honoured to be a part of!
LOOK-UK is a registered charity that supports blind and visually impaired people and their families. I am a volunteer for look and I feel so honoured to be part of such a wonderful organisation.
This summer LOOK is launching Skype chat groups aimed at young people with a vision impairment. These skype groups will be run by a facilitator and will give the young people the opportunity to discuss many aspects of sight loss such as technology, mobility, education, employment and so much more. The mentoring project provides help and support for children and young people living with a visual impairment. The facilitators have been in the same position as the young people so will not judge or dictate what the members of the group are saying. The facilitator can also pass on their tips or comments on any topics that are being discussed, supporting the young people even further. The mentor will be older than the members of the group but will still be young enough for the young people to relate to and possibly look up to.
Personally, I think this is a great opportunity for blind and visually impaired young people to connect with others just like themselves. Not only will it be fun, it will also be safe and secure. I will be a facilitator myself and I am so excited and feel so humbled that I can hopefully help other blind and visually impaired young people through this mentoring project.
If you think this is something you would be interested in then here is the advert:
Are you aged between 11 and 29?
Do you want to join one of our LOOK Skype groups and meet other visually impaired people your age?
Or, if you’re over 18, why not become one of our Skype group leaders. Now’s your chance. You’ll get lots of training and guidance all which will look great on your CV. And it will be fun.
You could join one of the following groups:
11 years old to 14. 14 years old to 16 16 years old to 18 and 18 years and over or further and higher education students
This is part of our new mentoring project which will be launched later this summer.
Please get in touch if you are interested. Please contact: email@example.com
Or if you would like any more information before you contact LOOK then please feel free to contact me. I really do hope this is something my blind and visually impaired readers get involved in, I would have loved this when I was younger! The opportunity of being a facilitator gives young people the opportunity to enhance their teamwork and communication skills.
I would also like to tell you that LOOK will be launching a mentoring project later this summer which will give the chance for a mentor and mentee to connect and for young people to have more help and support from someone that’s been there and knows what it is like to be a blind or visually impaired person in a sighted world. This mentoring project will be one-to-one communication whereas the Skype mentoring is in groups. They will also be holding events throughout the year for different mentoring opportunities. Watch this space for more information on this!
Check LOOK’s Facebook page for more updates. They will also be launching a new website very soon! You can find their website here One of the main aims of LOOK is to improve young people’s confidence and skills through mentoring. Personally, I think a mentoring project like this would have definitely helped boost my confidence, self-esteem and given me the opportunity to enhance my skills when I was younger.
As you know, my blog is all about helping other blind and partially sighted people and I feel that this could really be beneficial to young people. I have discussed with you the importance of having visually impaired friends and I think that LOOK’s mentoring projects could really make a difference to young people’s lives.
Please share with anyone you think might be interested and spread the word about this fantastic charity and the work they’re doing!