Growing Up Blind in a Developing Country

Being blind or partially sighted in a developing country is a topic that I don’t hear about very often, and this blog is to hopefully shine some light on this topic that doesn’t get talked about enough.

Moving to Canada after growing up for 12 years in a developing country  has been such a huge blessing in my life. I truly didn’t appreciate the significance of the support system that Canada has in place for people who are blind or partially sighted when I first moved here in 2014. My first experience of the support system in place for people who are blind or partially sighted was Blind Beginnings, to which I was introduced by a friend.

The amount of support at Blind Beginnings is incredible, and I couldn’t be any more grateful to have so many programs the readily available to me and that’s because I didn’t have a support system growing up in a developing country. Which brings me to my first point, my school life and experiences. From Kindergarten to my Sixth grade (after which I move to Canada), I never had any support in terms of braille.  In order to get large print books, it would take months in advance for them to order and produce it. In Canada, people who are blind or partially sighted get a Vision Teacher who teaches them how to navigate their school life and a Mobility Teacher which shows them how to navigate the outside world.  These two were foreign to me when I first moved to Canada. The concept of having two different teachers in place especially for me because of my vision was totally crazy.

Back in my hometown we barely had any experience with working alongside Vision teachers, something that is very readily available for students in Canada at every school district. The subject of students brings me to other fellow blind people in my life before moving to Canada. To make a long story short, I was not in contact with any other blind students during my school life or social life. In fact, the lack of support was so significant that I didn’t truly realize that I had a difference in my vision to begin with. The lack of support was so normalized that I didn’t see a difference between me and the other kids, which, on its own is good, but the struggles I still had to go through that my peers didn’t, made it hard.

The concept of having a white cane was something I hadn’t even heard. I didn’t even get the opportunity to hold one until I moved to Canada. In my 12 years of living in a developing country, at most I might have only seen one or two people who were using a cane in the street. In a developing country, traffic lights for pedestrians doesn’t exist, there are no chirping sounds, tactile indicators, or even visual cues for sighted people. People gamble with their lives every day when crossing the street, I could not imagine how a totally blind person would be able to independently go outside without getting hit by a car. It is an incredibly visual world and people with any kind of disability as a matter fact are a minority, and that’s speaking generously. I am so wonderfully blessed to have moved to Canada and to have come to a great organization like Blind Beginnings, where support is so readily available and I am so happy to see school-aged children getting the support here that I never did back home.

by Rose N