October is "Meet the Blind Month." In honor of it, here's the follow-up to my original "Ten Questions You Always Wanted to Ask a Blind Person."
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.
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 Lelia Jo Cordell from Springfield, OH
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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.