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Monday, March 21, 2011

Blind vs. Blindish

I've always been extremely near-sighted and have worn glasses since I was 6 years old and contacts since I was 12. Without either of these corrections I was self-proclaimed, "blind as a bat." For the last 10 months I've become acutely aware of how inadequate this frequently used hyperbole describes blindness.(Digression - Bat Fact: The majority of bats have much better vision, especially at night, than most people with vision impairments, due to echolocation. And apparently, fruit bats aren't blind at all.)

Over the last nine months I've learned how little people who aren't affected with vision-loss know about the variations and degrees of blindness. Although I am learning, I still count myself among this population. Prior to last June when (if ever) I thought of the continuum of vision loss I envisioned blind (no sight) on one end, 20/20 (perfect vision) on the other, and legally blind somewhere in between. While not incorrect, I certainly wasn't completely accurate either. After attempting to clarify my newly gained knowledge and describe it succinctly, I finally caved and turned to the Internet. 

Currently there are approximately 20 students here at the MCBTC.  A question that comes up FREQUENTLY in conversation, especially with newcomers is, "So. . . What can you see?" The answers vary from person to person, and often from situation to situation. We run the gambit from completely blind (having no vision), seeing light and shadows, utilizing primarily central vision, relying heavily on peripheral vision, to everything in between. 

So . . . What can I see?

I consider myself blindish. There is a lot I can see and there is a lot that I can't.

As of November 2010, my visual acuity (sharpness) measured 20/500 in my left eye and 20/200 in my right eye. My field of vision is unknown but definitely obscured due to the damage in the center of my retinas. This means that no matter how close or large an object is, I can't see it clearly. It's as if I am constantly viewing the world through smudged glasses. Light passes through the smudges but there is no definition. I've described these smudges as being blind spots, but really they are more similar to lines or stripes. The "lines" intersect at strange angles, forming vague translucent V-shapes. By shifting my eyes, using my peripheral vision I can fill in the pieces in an image. But in order to do this I need to look off center in various directions continuously, because every time I shift my eyes, another part of the image loses focus. It is terribly time consuming. 

The amount of light and contrast in my surroundings impacts my vision greatly. On one hand bright sunny days are great because increased light enhances my ability to see objects at a distance. But when the light reflects off surfaces the glare causes me to squint, my "blind spots" seem to increase in size. Environments with dim, artificial lighting are very difficult and make reading or analyzing detail almost impossible. Clear nights without a lot of outside light from traffic or street lamps are ideal. I feel a comfort in these situations because my blind spots almost disappear. In the dark I forget for a moment about my vision loss entirely. That doesn't mean it's very easy to navigate at night, just that I feel a lot like "my old self" during these rare moments of night time clarity.

Can I read? Yes. 18 or 24 point font seems to be the size least strenuous on my eyes. Too large of font I can only see parts of letters. Too small and the words blur and spaces between letters and words become almost indistinguishable. High contrast text - black lettering on white background or the reverse are by far the easiest to read. High contrast colors in pictures or on websites allow me to see more detail than tones of gray or brown. 

As I continue to figure out my preferences for color, contrast, size, and font I'll have a much easier time using technology to access a wide variety of texts. 

Hopefully I've painted a somewhat decent picture of what it is like to look at the world through my eyes. Feel free to contact me if you'd like more detail about how I see. I in turn, will probably respond by asking you how you see your world. 

2 comments:

  1. Wow what an amazing description of your sight...it absolutely makes you thankful for what you can see...and its amazing the process you are going through and how they can help you :) We miss you at Long Meadow and I continue to hope the best for you and your family...Abbey

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  2. Christy, I can't imagine the strength, hope and courage it has taken to get to where you are today. I hope that as the sun rises each day your become more and more comfortable in your surroundings. It is clear from reading your blog that your spirit is beautiful and strong. You are an inspiration. I will continue to check in. Stay strong, Stay positive, and laugh as much as you can..... Dawn

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