There are a lot of fears and negative assumptions around people that have vision loss or are blind. These societal fears and assumptions can cause exclusion for people with visual loss like myself. October is Blindness Awareness Month and according to the World Health Organization, globally there are 285 million people with vision loss and that number includes 39 million that are completely blind.
My aim for this article is to dispel some of these myths and societal misunderstandings. I believe that I can provide a different perspective based on my personal experience living as a woman that is blind. My hope is this glimpse into my life will give our readers a better understanding about blindness.
Living with Vision Loss or being Blind is Not Miserable
“To be blind is not miserable; not to be able to bear blindness, that is miserable.” – John Milton
I first read John Milton’s work in high school and this quote really spoke to me. I found it relatable especially at that stage of my life. It was the time when people were constantly trying to put me in a box and often making me feel that I just did not belong or fit in. Before that experience, I never thought anything about my blindness because it was my normal. My family always treated me with respect, love, kindness, and made me feel accepted. It was the outside world that treated me like I was different, somehow broken, and slowly this abuse started to make me despise my disability. After that experience, I started finding my blindness unbearable and it was to blame for all my misery.
People were giving me limitations and trying to force me into a box. They were asking me questions that only made me feel smaller. They would ask me mean questions. Why are you going to a regular school? Why are you not with people ‘Like you’? I remember thinking, “People like me? What is so wrong with people like me that we have to be excluded??” My young mind couldn’t understand and it started to blame everything on my blindness.
It took me a long time to realize that people’s poor understanding of my disability is not my fault. Their reaction towards my blindness is a reflection of them and not myself. Realizing that and understanding that it was their problem and my being blind does not necessarily mean being miserable. Understanding that point was one of the most liberating things that has ever happened to me.
Some people automatically assume that just because someone is blind it must mean that they are living a meaningless and terrible life. I came across a tweet about a month ago from a person with visual impairment. This person tweeted that someone told them they would kill themselves if they were blind. As you can imagine this kind of comment is hurtful in many ways.
I understand they were speaking from the fear of the unknown but think about that comment from my perspective. People would rather die than live with blindness? Being blind is not a death sentence. We just need society to be accessible for everyone. I also understand that this person was responding in fear but it’s terribly insensitive.
You don’t know what someone is going through. What if that person has just lost their eye sight and is in the process of adjusting to their new life? What if that person is having a bad day and has been struggling with bullying and discrimination? These careless comments could push someone that is struggling over the edge and they could even commit suicide.
My life as a blind person is not so terrible and tragic. I have a beautiful life and it allows me to help others. Of course, there are struggles associated with my being blind but isn’t that just life? Some days it is not all rainbows and sunshine. Sometimes it is all about dealing with discrimination, inaccessibility of things, inclusion, rude people, misunderstanding my journey and just life. Despite obstacles and trials; I live a meaningful, impactful, and happy life. Maybe this sounds like your life. Of course, I am subjected to obstacles but I do not let them stop me. I work hard to overcome them; I focus on what is working in my life and how I can give back to my community.
I am also employed with a global firm that focuses on disability inclusion and accessibility. I work for Ruh Global Impact as a Social Media Coordinator and Content Contributor. Prior to this position, I worked at remote job roles for different offshore companies. I attended a regular school, hangout with friends, watch movies (yes, we do use the word “watch”), read books, travel, love to shop, select my own clothes, go to bars and clubs, I also date and live my life like everyone else.
Of course, sometimes I wish I could see the world around me, especially my loved ones’ faces, and beautiful sceneries. I hope someday to have a husband and children, would I want to see them – yes – but it is more important to truly be with them. I have a lot to offer the world, my family and friends. Despite being blind, it doesn’t mean that my life isn’t worth living. People like me that live with blindness can live very meaningful lives and it sure would help if society did not need to pity us or feel sorry for us.
Challenges are part of living with blindness. A lot of those challenges can be avoided if we have a society that is more accepting and accessible for all of us. If people learn to open their minds and stop limiting someone just because they have a disability. If we all learn to consider the needs of every individual and focus on our abilities. If more companies and employers would be open to disability inclusion like the clients that work with Ruh Global Impact. That is when the world will work better for all. Society must choose to look beyond disability and learn to appreciate everyone’s capabilities, abilities, contributions, and recognize the value that they add to the workforce and society. Just like Ruh Global IMPACT who has given me the opportunity to be employed, contribute, and enabled me to live a financially independent life.
Don’t let your fears and negative assumptions be the barriers that stop others from being included in society. If you want to know about our blindness, ask us, we love sharing our stories. Don’t just assume. Your willingness to learn about my disability is what is going to eliminate these invisible barriers between us. Always try to empathize and be kind to everyone.
To learn more about Ruh Global IMPACT please visit www.RuhGlobal.com or follow us on most social media platforms at @JazzAmbiong, @debraruh, and @ruhglobal. Please also subscribe and like us on YouTube at www.YouTube.com/debraruhglobal.