10 frequently asked questions about sight loss

There’s no denying that quite a few questions arise when people learn that I am vision impaired. People seem to be curious about how it affects my life, how I adapt things to make them accessible for me and how difficult is it to live in such a sighted world without much vision to experience it.

It’s understandable that people are curious, we all want to learn about different things, different aspects of life and how something might affect us while we go about our day-to-day lives.

I receive many questions regarding my disability both on and offline, from males to females and people of all ages. In today’s post I’m hoping to highlight some of the most frequently asked questions I receive regarding my vision impairment in the hope of giving you some of the answers that you might have always wanted to know.

A photo of Elin in a black dress with yellow embroidery, standing in front of a black fence with a background of trees with autumnal leaves on the floor

I thought writing this post would be a great opportunity to delve into the most frequently asked questions that I personally receive as a severely sight impaired person. If you have any more questions/things you want to know or learn about then don’t hesitate to let me know and I’ll be sure to update this post as time goes on with anything that you might find interesting.

I just want to say before we begin that these are questions that I receive personally, other blind/VI people might never have been asked these questions and will probably have completely different answers to the ones I’m about to share with you.

How much can you actually see?

I’ve talked about my level of vision in many blog posts of mine but I’ll try my best to just give you a brief answer here. I have a degenerative eye condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP for short) which means that I suffer from progressive loss of vision. I’ve been registered blind since 2010 at the age of 12 but I still have some remaining vision which confuses people at times as they wonder how can I still see a little if I’m registered blind? Fun fact for you, 93% of those of us who are registered blind/severely sight impaired have some form of usual vision which you’ll probably know if you’ve read my previous disability related posts. My vision is blurred (hence the name of my blog) and it is deteriorating everyday. I tend to describe my vision as being a camera that is constantly out of focus. I now suffer from black outs due to a condition called Optic Disc Drusen meaning I lose my vision for about a minute or so at a time, this can occur several times a day some days.

How do you use technology?

Not all technologies are accessible which is unfortunate but with a few adjustments some can be made to be. When it comes to technology I use Apple devices as they have always been the best in terms of accessibility in my opinion. Apple have always been on top of their game when it comes to accessibility features, they provide a built-in feature called VoiceOver which will read anything displayed on the screen. Granted a few apps and websites aren’t all accessible but hopefully this can be changed in the future. Personally I use VoiceOver on both my phone and laptop but I also use the zoom feature every now and again which is also quite helpful, I tend to depend more on the voice now though as my vision deteriorates. When using standard Microsoft computers or laptops I use a speech/magnification software called ZoomText (I’ve also used Supernova in the past) which also read out information/text on the screen and allows you to magnify it also. Having a vision impairment definitely doesn’t limit a person when it comes to using technology just like everyone else.

How do you recognise money?

I think the most common questions surround the topics of daily tasks, things such as handling/recognising money. How can we pay for something when we’re out and about? How do we know we’re giving the right amount of money to the person behind the counter? In my opinion recognising loose change (coins) is quite easy as they have a distinctive shape to them. In terms of notes I did struggle with this and tended to ask whoever was with me to grab whatever money I needed out of my purse but I seem to be able to recognise notes better now since the new £5 and £10 notes were introduced. It’s easier to distinguish between the notes in my purse in my opinion because they have a different feel to them than the £20 note and the £10 note also has braille on it which is great for us blind/VI people. There are also apps that help people recognise money, if you were to hold a note or coin in front of your phone when the app is open it will be read out to you but I don’t use this very often.

How do you apply makeup?

Writing about beauty and makeup online has resulted in many people wondering how can I possibly apply makeup as a blind/VI person. It took me a while to get used to applying makeup, knowing if a product was blended properly and finding the best way of applying products was difficult to figure out at first. I apply foundation and concealer using the Real Techniques miracle complexion sponge which for me is the best method of application and I find that the products blend much more seamlessly by using this rather than a brush. If I have more than one shade of a foundation, concealer or lipstick I label them using RNIB’s Penfriend which allows me to record voice messages onto small sticky labels which I then place on the product. I have also used braille labels in the past. I tend to stick to creating the same look every time I do my makeup as I know it will look presentable (or at least I hope it does!), although I have been creating different eye makeup looks recently which I’ve been enjoying and I’ve tended to follow tutorials on YouTube. After completing my look I will ask my mum to check it’s all blended in properly and looks semi ok.

 How do you shop/pick out an outfit?

I must admit that I am always drawn to online shopping, I find it the most accessible way for me personally to buy my clothes and put an outfit together. Accessibility can be an issue on some websites so I tend to stick to the same ones. With the zoom feature on my laptop I can see some of the items if my eyes aren’t to irritable and if I don’t strain them for too long but I find that some websites have good descriptions of the clothes so I can go off them sometimes when deciding if the item is for me or not. I can’t deny that I do enjoy a trip to the shops every now and again though but I always go with my mum or my nan (or both) as they know my style, what I like and dislike etc. When it comes to picking out the items from my wardrobe I tend to be able to recognise the clothes by touch which I always find to be effective, if I can’t find what I’m looking for then I’ll ask for assistance.

How do you know what food is on your plate?

Some people might be surprise to hear that we receive these kinds of questions as blind/VI people but for me some of these questions aren’t that surprising anymore as I’v heard them so often. People are curious and that’s absolutely fine. I personally have some remaining vision as I mentioned previously so I can sometimes see a little of what food is in front of me but if I’m not sure of something then more often than not I’ll ask whoever I’m with to tell me what something is or where it is on my plate. But sometimes it’s just guess-work and whatever I’ve just picked off my plate can be a surprise.

Did you attend a specialist school?

Many people who I’ve met across the years have assumed that all blind/VI people must attend a specialist school but this is definitely not the case. Yes, some blind/VI people might prefer the option of going down the route of attending a specialist school but there are many of us who prefer attending mainstream education. I personally attended a mainstream school as it was the best option for me. I must admit that my school experience wasn’t the best but I did have some good times and achieved the grades I wanted. Although there were a few barriers and hurdles along the way all the support I required was given to me at all times so I was very lucky in that sense. It’s definitely possible for blind/VI people to attend mainstream education and do well.

A photo of Elin

Do glasses help?

I’ve heard a lot of fellow blind/VI people say that members of the public ask them wouldn’t glasses help? The reality is that if they did, the person they’re asking would be wearing them. I personally wear glasses and they do help a little but much less than they used to. My vision is really blurred and I can hardly see anything without my glasses but when I wear them they do make things a little clearer but my vision is still very blurred and I struggle to recognise faces, read print etc.

Why don’t you have a guide dog?

Another common misconception surrounding sight loss is that every person who is blind or partially sighted must have a guide dog. This isn’t the case. Yes, many blind/VI do have guide dogs but others have a long cane, a symbol cane or maybe no mobility aid at all. It’s all down to personal preference. But some blind/VI people you see out and about might be on the waiting list for a guide dog, it’s a really long process and the waiting list can be up to two years.

How do you watch TV and films?

Some people are curious to learn how we do generic visual things such as watching TV and films. Personally I use a feature called audio description (AD) which is essentially a narrative on programmes and films which describes the things that are happening on the screen. I’ve been using audio description for quite a few months now and I’ve realised that I was missing out on so much detail since I couldn’t see the screen. AD isn’t available on all programmes but it is on the ones that i watch most regularly and it is also available on some films in the cinema (it is provided through a headset I believe) although I haven’t used that personally. But having AD on certain TV programmes and films means that we as blind/VI people can enjoy watching them just as any sighted person would.

Are you blind/VI or do you have any other disability? If so, what are some of the frequently asked questions you receive? Let me know in the comments below as I would love to hear from you.

Elin x

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6 Comments

  1. Lynne Nicholson
    November 26, 2017 / 11:16 pm

    As i started my journey 14 months ago with diagnosis (or almost 18 months ago with referral) most people i know knew me as sighted, but a month ago the paper work was filled in to register me blind (& almost 9 months ago i was registered partially sighted).
    For me that means almost no sight at all in my left eye and other than light detection not useable. My right eye is blurred to the extreme however four inches from my nose is my clearest vision so i can read a phone or tablet screen for a short burst. The other thing my condition does is give me a continuous and irritating light show that is worse in bright and low light the optimum range is small but yellow lenses quiet it down a bit.
    I also have Charles Bonnet Syndrome (i call them Charlie Hat Moments)- basically i have hallucinations where my brain makes up what it is seeing – they can be scary or creepy but since they are in focus at distances that in reality are blurry to the nth power i know they are not real and most of the time can overrule my brain.
    A former colleague in a local supermarket recently made “blind jokes” while serving me and was shocked when I said that they were inappropriate as i was legally blind as I’d recognised her on the shop floor a few weeks prior. I pointed out i recognised her general height and shape but most importantly is heard her voice as she said goodbye to another customer she was helping.
    I believe in educating people so try to stay calm and explain my reality even when i want to whack them with Wanda (my white cane named Wanda Power because she is my wand of power that has magically given me back my independence).

    • myblurredworld@gmail.com
      November 27, 2017 / 10:39 am

      I completely agree that the best thing to do is stay calm and try your best to explain the reality as you said. It can be hard when people don’t understand but hopefully more awareness can be raised in the future and I hope that people will gain a better understanding. What a great name for your cane, love it! Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment 🙂

  2. November 27, 2017 / 8:03 pm

    Love this post! You’ve highlighted some really important questions here and I’m sure a lot of people will learn from this post xxx

    • myblurredworld@gmail.com
      November 27, 2017 / 10:52 pm

      Thank you so much Hols! I’m really glad you liked it xxx

  3. Thomas Quigley
    November 28, 2017 / 6:02 pm

    Hi Elin, Many of the above questions are ones I’ve been asked as a totally blind person. A few additional ones I’ve got are, how can you live on your own? Can you walk up stairs? How do you cook? The most common one with taxi drivers in particular is, have you always been blind? I have to say, it’s sometimes difficult not to come off with a comment like is that the only thing that defines me being blind but on the whole I find it’s better to try and educate however frustrating it can be at times! Good luck with the blog!

    • myblurredworld@gmail.com
      November 29, 2017 / 11:47 am

      Hi Thomas, I’m glad that you could relate to the post. Yes I definitely agree, it’s always good to try to educate others, that’s what I hope to do here on my blog. Thank you for reading 🙂

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