I hope you’re all well.
I’m sure some of you will be familiar with today’s topic but for those of you that are not, I hope it’ll be more of an educational post.
As a blind person myself, people often say to me ‘you don’t look blind’. This is something that many blind or visually impaired people are told and it can often leave you puzzled or wondering, “what does being blind actually look like?” Stop and think about that question for a minute, do you know the answer? Many people do not. For example, I am registered as severely sight impaired but have light perception so therefore I do not see total darkness.
There are many misrepresentations of sight loss and typical ideas of your average blind person, some of these stereotypes include:
- Blind and visually impaired people constantly wear dark sunglasses.
- The older generation are the ones who are affected by sight loss.
- Blind or visually impaired people are incapable.
- Blind or visually impaired people cannot be confident.
- Blind or visually impaired people are often seen as being miserable.
- People with a vision impairment cannot be fashionable, can’t apply makeup themselves, be beautiful or express who they truly are.
These depictions of blindness are rarely the case, they may have been true at some point but this is not the case in contemporary society. They have been interpreted by the media’s wrongly perceived ideas and people’s own opinions/views on this topic.
There are many reasons for why people may have these ideas; it may be because some people with sight loss act or present themselves in this way, their age – often a lot of eye conditions are linked to older people so they don’t expect to see a young person with a visual impairment, or that they do not portray characteristics such as being vulnerable or miserable and are in fact happy and outgoing.
Personally, I think it is a mixture of various factors that contribute to people’s perceptions. It can be how a person acts or how they present themselves, for example, wearing make-up. I also think that the way a person looks is very much a contributing factor; some people’s eye conditions affect their eyes, for example they may be sunken in or cloudy, but for others there may not be any visible signs when looking at their eyes and they just look like a sighted person’s. How a person walks is also something that people may assume if a person is blind or not, whether they walk confidently with a mobility aid or are being sighted guided, rather than looking down at their feet and being conscious whilst walking.
As I previously said, I think one of the main factors is how a blind person looks and dresses; there are many blind people, myself included who love fashion and like to be fashionable, wear make-up and keep up with the latest trends even though we are blind. Our disability doesn’t stop us from being fashionable!
There are many disabled people who don’t let their disability get in the way of them living life to the fullest, they are confident, smart, amazing in many ways, driven and open minded.
There are many ways of being able to do various tasks, we are lucky enough to have assistive technology, mobility aids, support groups, and people like myself who are trying to help others in the same or similar situations. These mean that we often do not fit the stereotypes of being blind as these gadgets or mobility aids enable us to be fully independent.
I want to address some questions which I often get asked about how I do certain things even though I have a visual impairment, therefore I don’t look blind.
How do you apply make-up?
I apply my make-up myself, I learnt to do this by practicing over and over again, being shown by my Mum, I was determined to be able to apply my make-up myself. It’s all about touch and memory.
How do you style your own hair?
I use tools such as straighteners and curlers but I did my research into ones that were the most accessible for a person with no useful vision, I also asked the blind community for their suggestions. My straighteners beep when they’re ready to use and my hair curler is extremely easy to use.
How do you keep up with the latest fashion?
When shopping, I always go with someone that I trust, usually my Mum and they can tell me what looks nice and what doesn’t. I mainly use the internet to keep up-to-date with the latest fashion.
We can be interested in fashion because we can feel fabric, ask those closest to us how they think we look, use screen-readers or magnifiers to look at items on the internet and even get assistance in shops if we need to.
How are you confident despite your disability?
Confidence is something that I struggled with for many years, but this has improved a lot over the last few years and it has made such a difference in my life. I am confident because I have dealt with a lot, learnt to stand up for myself, overcome many challenges and my disability has made me a stronger person.
How are you so independent?
I am independent because I have always encouraged to be as independent as possible, especially by my Mum and Dad. I have always been a person that likes to do things for myself, and often find it easier to learn that way. I have never been wrapped up in “cotton wool” so to speak. I use a cane, I have assistive technology and I have supportive friends and family around me. I want to travel like sighted people, I want the freedom just like everyone else and want to try new experiences.
If you take anything from this post, I want you to remember that sight loss does not take over a person’s life and it does not define them as a person, Disabled people have dreams that they want to pursue, they have aspirations and they want to live life to the fullest, I know I do! Remember that a disabled person is so much more than their disability.
The next time you see a person with a visual impairment who doesn’t fit the typical notion of a blind or visually impaired person, think of the facts, not the misconceptions. And have an open mind.
That concludes today’s post, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and that some of you may have learnt something from it.
As always, thank you for reading!