Over the last 20 years, my eyesight has transitioned from low vision to blindness. Of course, it hasn’t been easy. The emotional effects of vision loss wore me down more than anything else. While there is hope and help, I’ve got one word for you, "Adapt."
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t expect you to adapt to vision loss by simply snapping your fingers. I know, first hand, it is a process. In some cases, like mine, it’s a long-term one.
Vision loss doesn’t mean the end of your education or your career. I was in college when doctors diagnosed me with retinitis pigmentosa. My vision deteriorated slowly at first, and then blindness moved in some years later. Along the way, adapting to changes in my vision became a necessity.
Enter vision rehabilitation services. They played pivotal roles throughout my career. There were tools, equipment, supplies, and training to help me continue my education and my career endeavors. These things paved the way for me to adapt at every turn of the journey.
Starting with Education
Reading college textbooks was no picnic, but combine it with low vision, and it’s like having a picnic in a thunderstorm. At first, I revolted from college studies. Eye fatigue shortened the length of time I spent reading. I couldn’t stay between the lines of my notebooks when writing. As frustrated as I became and as much as I thought about quitting school, I forced myself to stay on track.
Here’s where the vision rehabilitation services come to my rescue. A low vision professional helped me learn about the tools for reading print visually. Then, by using large print, optical devices, and electronic devices, I was able to use my remaining vision to work more effectively.
Searching for a Job
With a degree in hand, I began a job search. It took three months to land my first full-time job, but I was thankful.
I hit a snag though. The job required some accommodations to be effective. The company tried handling the issues in-house. Let me put it bluntly, it was a disaster.
I moved on to another job within a year. This time, I coordinated with the employer and the state agency providing vision rehabilitation services. I received additional technology training and orientation and mobility training too.
I became more effective and more successful in this second job. I credit the employer and the additional assistance from vision rehabilitation specialists for working together to enable it.
Since then, more career changes required more services. Every step along the way required a commitment to adapt myself. Whether it was learning to use a CCTV/electronic magnifier, a screen reader system, or a dog guide; I had to be ready, willing, and able to adapt again and again.
Adapting to vision loss is a step-by-step process, but if you feel lost, you’ve come to the right place. The American Foundation for the Blind’s website is packed with information and resources for you.
It’s a modest beginning, but it’s a great first step to adapting yourself. Make it your goal to visit AFB’s website two or three times per week. Explore it. Challenge yourself to read a few articles or blogs. Click on the various links within each blog to expand your understanding of living and working with vision impairment.