Does a person who's been blind all their life, see in their dreams? This question was asked on my original article under this name. Here's the answer, finally. In a word, no. I asked the two people I know who've been totally blind all their lives. Since they've never had sight in their waking lives, they would have no visual perception to use as a benchmark, so how would they recognize it? Hmm?
How did I become blind? This is a question I frequently get. I know there are many causes of blindness, from diabetes to macular degeneration. My type of blindness is called cortical blindness. That's because the problem isn't in my eyes, but the vision center in my cerebral cortex. Injuries I sustained in the car accident I've mentioned caused blood loss to my brain, which mostly wiped out my visual cortex. (The culprit died of cancer almost two years ago, after having served prison time.)
Was it hard to adjust to blindness? My vision was never good. I was born with extreme myopia (nearsightedness) and amblyopia (lazy eye.) I developed astigmatism as I matured. Naturally, being visually impaired, some of my childhood heroes were blind. Ann Sullivan, Helen Keller and Louis Braille were my role models from earliest childhood. As I've matured, I've also learned of other blind role models like singer-songwriter Tom Sullivan. Last but not least, the blind comic-book hero Daredevil is my fave! These real and fictional people's resilience and perseverance have encouraged my own over the years. (Want to know something I think is funny? What cured my lazy eye was going blind!)
What is the proper way to lead a blind person? I was taught by my orientation/mobility (O and M) specialist to lightly grasp my sighted guide's elbow. Going single file, you should swing the arm your blind companion is holding behind you so your companion can slide his or her hand down to grasp your wrist. If I follow my teaching, I'm supposed to keep my arm tucked close to my side and stick close to my guide, but I'm not very good at it. I'm as comfortable companionably tucking my hand in the crook of my guide's arm, or hubby's fave, holding hands. :D
Why don't I get a guide dog? I haven't applied for a guide animal for several reasons. Foremost is, we have three pet dogs who wouldn't welcome an addition. Another reason is, hubby wouldn't understand that the guide dog's purpose is to work. His philosophy is that dogs are only meant for companion animals. Third but most important, I don't feel equal to the task of caring for another living creature. I do well to remember to feed and water myself!
How do I handle mealtime? What works best for me is called the "clockface method." In short, when I have a plate of food before me, a sighted person could tell me where different items are using the clockface as a reference. "Meat at 12:00, potatoes at 4:00, broccoli at 8:00, drink at 1:00," etc. Without sighted assistance, though, I usually figure things out and rarely spill - much, lol!
How do I get any local news? I learn news in a variety of ways: TV news, of course, and online friends who post links to articles of interest. I'm also a subscriber to the free Ohio Telephone Reader service. I obtained my subscription through the Goodwill-Easter Seals office on Kuntz Road in Dayton. I memorized the login information they sent via standard mail (hubby read it to me,) learned the menus, and now read my local paper daily. Anyone can dial in and listen to the demo by dialing 888-333-8181. There's also an Ohio Radio Reading Service, but the telephone option is more convenient for me.
Do I Vote? How? Yes, I vote regularly. I won't go into my political leanings, but I'm very thankful for the "Help America Vote" Act. Before my voting precinct got an electronic voting machine (which uses similar technology to my JAWS screen-reader and tactile controls,) I had to use the sighted assistance of a poll worker. Now I'm sure my vote is really MY vote.
Where can I find help if I have vision loss? Since my goal was to go back to work, I was able to get help from my local Bureau of Services for the Visually Impaired (BSVI.) This is a division of the Rehabilitative Services Commission (RSC.) To my admittedly limited knowledge, they decide whom to help on a case-by-case basis. My local county's Committee to Aid the Blind has helped me get a couple of "big-ticket" grants. The Lion's Club is another organization whose mission is to assist people with blindness and vision loss obtain items they need. You can check your local Yellow Pages or your favorite search engine for information on these organizations and more.
Where can I learn more about issues concerning the blind? There are a variety of organizations whose mission is to make blind people's lives fuller and richer, and to contend for better living and working conditions. The organization I joined is the National Federation of the Blind. "We're not people speaking for the blind, we're the blind speaking for ourselves." You can find more online at http://www.nfb.org.
By JustPlainJo from Springfield, OH
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Crone, my friends wouldn't go into detail on content. Their sensory experience, however, was the same as in their waking life. Pixiedust, please don't glorify me, only God could've made me the way I am, and all my gifts (inside and out) are from Him. Thanks for the encouragement, though.
Hi Jo. Thank you for answering my "dream question".Now for the next part. I didn't think a person who had never seen would "see"to dream,what then are their dreams like? Keep up the wonderful work you are doing to "open the eyes of the sighted world!
JustPlainJo, you are amazing! Thank you for your uplifting and candid posting. Yes, you are beautiful, in every way. I admire your spirit and independence. Maybe someday there will be a medical solution to your visual problem, and I hope you take advantage of it, just because someone like you deserves the gift of sight. In any case, you are an inspiration because you live a full life on your own terms and without self-pity. What a lesson for us all. Best wishes to you!
Oopers. I just realized someone asked if the included picture is of me? Hmm. Can you describe it? I am a redhead, if that helps...
Thanks for the great feedback, ladies. Julie, I don't think hubby feels he's selfish. If he weren't around I wouldn't have a guide animal. Gads, I have enough to do to remember to take care of myself, lol!
Angolamom, I have a standard computer equipped with a very special adaptive program called JAWS. If you look up my prior articles, you'll find one titled "Tools that Help the Blind today." Poor hubby barely knows how to turn on my computer, let alone operate it. Besides, I'm too independent to enjoy relying on someone else for too much.
Thank you so much for your postings. It was so interesting. I noted you mentioned the computer. Do you have a special computer or does your hubby input for you. Thanks. I hope you become a "regular" with this.
Firstly, I'd like to say thank you for these enlightening postings. I have enjoyed the information you have shared. Next , I don't know if this is a photo of you, that is posted, if yes then you are very beautiful. Lastly I'm sorry to hear that your husbands feelings or opinion is selfish and unhelpful to his wife, especially about a guide dog, which is surely a wonderful necessity to you. Sometimes I think all men need a lobotomy, haha. Thanks, Julie.
Ten Questions You Always Wanted to Ask a Blind Person But Were Too Shy to Ask:
What do I see? This is a question I get a lot. I never mind answering it. Blindness comes in a wide variety of degrees. Some people have no sight at all. I can see light, shadow, and movement. Everything looks dark and blurry to me, though. If you're familiar with the "Lord of the Rings" movies, you probably know what I mean. I see the way Frodo sees when the ring is on his finger. Or, think about old movies set in London. ("It was a dark and foggy night.") Sometimes, more often now than even a few months ago, I can tell if a color is bright or intense. Red tones are fairly perceivable to me, don't ask me why. My color vision is far from reliable, though.
Do I watch TV? In a word, yes. As folks used to do when radio was in its heyday, I fill in the blanks using my imagination. I prefer programs without a lot of background music that covers ambient sounds. I tend to enjoy talk programs more these days than anything else. Also, Jeopardy is, and always has been, my #1 favorite program. It keeps my mind sharp. I had to give up Wheel of Fortune; I can't see the puzzle anymore, darn it!
How do I match my wardrobe? I was more or less sighted most of my life (my vision has always been poor,) so I know what colors look like. I also know most of my wardrobe because I've had most of it for some time. If a sighted person can give me an idea of the color of a new item, I can make an educated judgment of what matches. For folks who've never had sight, there are tools available that will identify colors. Another strategy I use is to hang matching outfits together. On "lazy days", t-shirts and jeans are easy.
How do I know which way clothes go on? You may never have noticed, but most clothes have tags and seams in the same places all the time. During my early days of orienting to my vision loss, a specialist worked with me to help me learn the right way to put everything on. Now my method is second-nature to me, just like it is for you.
What about hairstyles and shaving? I've never been a slave to fashion, so a simple braid suffices to keep my hair out of the way. I braid it myself, just like I've done all my adult life. Sometimes I ask help trimming my nails. Other times I manage, if not perfectly, then at least sufficiently. I brush my hair and teeth just like you do, but without watching myself do it like you might. Shaving can be trickier, since I have to remember where I left off, lol! I use a regular razor, though, just like anyone else. I rarely cut myself - no more often than you might. A visually impaired man I know prefers an electric razor. To each his or her own, I suppose.
How do I know where I am? For any blind person, correct orientation is the key to avoiding disasters. That's another area where familiarity is an advantage. I live in the same home where I lived before I lost my sight. I know it very well. I'm also a quick study, so can readily learn a new environment provided it isn't too complicated. If I walk into a new environment and a sighted guide gives me a quick mental picture of the space (chair straight ahead, kitchen door a couple of steps ahead and 90 degrees left, etc,) that's a great help. Please remember to warn me of obstacles too, thanks!
Why don't I run into things? I do, actually, you just don't see me, lol! Again, because I've lived here awhile, I know where things are. Inattention is the most likely culprit for mishaps within my home. Other likely culprits are sighted folk who move things around and our spoiled dogs who are prone to forget I need maneuvering room.
What about money? Coins in the USA are relatively easy to identify, because there are obvious differences in size and weight. Additionally, some coins (quarters and dimes, for example) have roughened edges. Paper money is tricky. That's why I'm grateful for hubby, my sighted guide and helper. He identifies bills for me. Any trusted person can do this task, though. Once the bill has been identified to me, I've developed a system of folding so I'll know the difference without having to ask again. If you've seen the movie "Daredevil" with Ben Affleck, that'll give you an idea. There are tools that can identify paper money, but I don't own one.
How do I read the mail? I don't, actually. Hubby faithfully reads the mail to me. I could use the scanner in my multi-funcion printer in its optical character recognition mode, but that's too slow and clunky for me. For leisure reading (I'm a lifelong bookworm), I have Talking Book machines. More about my tools in another article.
What about cooking? Believe it or not, I'm not a bad cook. I usually use the same basic items a sighted person would, like oven mitts. (They're easier for me than potholders.) I also have a few "blind-friendly" kitchen tools that help me be safe and make my "non-blind-friendly" stove and microwave controls accessible. I remember recipes for a lot of things, like the round steak I made hubby for Father's Day. When necessary, I draft sighted assistance, especially for reading long recipes. Cans are really tricky. I usually have sighted assistance so I don't end up with green beans instead of peaches, but I also have an audio labeling tool.
Hope these little articles of mine are opening a new world to you - the "blind side" of life, lol!
By JustPlainJo from Springfield, OH
By Hate Litter
By Robyn Fed
Also, I have yet to get the answer about what a lifetime blind person's dreams are like, sorry about that. I have my monthly NFB (National Federation of the Blind) meeting next Saturday, though, and I'll keep working on the question. Looks as if this article will also have a sequel, lol! Thanks again, everyone! (07/17/2010)
Since I had sight until 7.5 years ago, I still see in my dreams. My vision in my dreams is, of course, better than that in my waking life. However, as my visual memories fade somewhat, the visual aspect of my dreams becomes less vivid.
Hope this answers your question. I'll try to remember to include this info in a future article, too. (07/25/2010)
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