Normalizing the “B” Word

Growing up partially sighted, the word “blind” was never a part of my vocabulary, mostly because many people who met me didn’t consider me to be blind. To them (and myself), blindness meant having no vision whatsoever. I grew up with the idea that blindness was an all or nothing concept, and although I only have roughly half of my visual field, I still had remaining vision and ergo wasn’t considered as being a blind person.

Media and medical visits really shaped my concept of blindness throughout my childhood. There weren’t many blind role models that I could look up to at the time, and whenever there was representation of a blind person, they were always portrayed as having no vision whatsoever, further associating the black-and-white concept of blindness in my mind. Medical professionals always describe me as having vision loss, and never once described me as an individual who was blind. They often commented that I would be lucky enough to have remaining vision throughout most of my life. That idea really stuck with me. The idea that I am one of the “lucky few”, who will still have usable vision. It bothered me a lot because it perpetuated the idea that people who lost most or all of their vision are unlucky. All of these factors really made me distance myself from the word “blind”. I never associated with it and always came up with convoluted explanations when explaining my vision to others.

After being at Blind Beginnings for two years now, the word “blindness” has a whole new meaning to me. Blindness is no longer a black and white definition, rather a spectrum that many individuals, myself included, identify themselves with. I also learned that, as the Blind Beginnings mission statement describes, our potential as blind individuals are limitless and incredibly vast.

I still consider myself lucky, but not because I still have remaining vision, but because I identify myself as a person who is blind, capable, and a part of an amazing community here. I made it a point to normalize the word blind in my own vocabulary, and try to educate others who have the misconception that “blind” is a bad word. I think if my younger self saw me as I am today, she would be very proud and excited of the fact that I have re-defined blindness for myself, and proudly identify as a blind person.

by Ishita