I’m one of several folks on this great planet that has some form of visual impairment. I’m not legally blind, at least I don’t think I am, but my vision is pretty bad. I’d like to thank a few folks for winning this lack of sight award. First I’d like to thank God, everyone else does. I’d like to thank the countless generations of my personal lineage whose marital decisions, life choices all worked hard to provide me with a solid genetic predisposition toward blindness. I’d like to thank my childhood friend Kevin, and Charles W. Kirsch (1907 inventor of the curtain rod) for their dual efforts in the tearing of the retina portion of my eye ball.
For those visually impaired like myself the ‘impairment’ simply means a thicker pair of glasses, a stronger type of contact lens, and the extra time and maintenance associated with either of those two products. However others are visually impaired to the point where they see only faint blobs of light or shadow, or see nothing at all. Far too often I see folks try to gain perspective, probably an ironic word choice, for the visually impaired by closing their eyes and trying to navigate their living room. That may give you some sense of the difficulty of physically finding your way around objects in a room that you’ve seen a thousand times, and allow you to vaguely relate to those who have lost their sight, but what about the folks born without sight. I personally can’t truly understand what this is like, but I would hazard a guess that it would be similar to you or I being born as we are, yet coming to realize that everyone else can fly. Sure we get along fine walking and driving and even swimming, but we are deprived of the otherwise normal ability to fly like our peers. Consider how much longer it would take you to get even simple tasks accomplished without the ability to fly. Imagine how it would feel to have those around you constantly using figures of speech, euphemisms, analogies, and illustrations that referenced the one inability that you have, flight. Think for a moment about how those around you would try to ‘understand’ your inability by forcing themselves to walk down a flight–uh–section of stairs rather than diving through a window and being on their way. I’m sure that the other flying folk would find us a bit of an obstacle, in the way, a hindrance that they are forced to wait on. The few that would try to help would probably speak to us like we were children, with slow enunciated speech, a lot of physical demonstration, and the like, or perhaps treat us like their current project of the week. It’s not an easy task to deal with those who are different, so most try not to think about it, and avoid it at all cost.
What about the deaf, the dumb, and all the other varieties of physical and mental handicaps? Yeah, what about all that? We can’t just limit this conversation to just one of the multiple impairments. What do others do well that you struggle with? Surly we couldn’t all just get along, help each other, teach each other, love each other. That would involve effort, time, resource. Do you love your neighbor as you love yourself? I know I don’t. Perhaps today is as good a time as any to start thinking about this simple concept. Every major religion has a tenant with this premise, so it must be fairly foundational to human experience. But things are tough, money is tight, time is short. Trust me, I get it, I’m living on planet Earth, too. Even in these tough times, as in times past, there is something that you can do. Odds are there is something that you can do, that you enjoy doing, to support another in your community. What hobbies do you love that you could share with those around you? What talents do you have that could benefit others? What skills have you learned that you could teach to someone wanting to learn? This isn’t just about pulling a bill out of your wallet and dropping it in the mail. Make T-Shirts, or posters, or songs, or films, or poems, to promote awareness of a cause that you’re drawn to. But I don’t play guitar, or piano, or make pottery, or paint, or draw, or…or…or. How about supporting someone who does? Listen to someone play, watch them paint, look at their pottery, or…or…or.
There are several support agencies for said visually impaired individuals, however there truly isn’t enough being done to design new technology or even modify existing technology to better accommodate the visually impaired segment of our population. Please support the NFB (National Federation of the Blind), the CftB (Center for the Blind), and your local branch for the visually impaired or center for the blind. Support isn’t just a check in the mail, get out and volunteer your time and talent to your local organization for the blind, deaf, dumb, etc.