On the bus last week I met a woman with the same eye condition as me. Her diagnosis was fairly new, and had come much later in her life. Mine has been with me since birth. “I wouldn’t wish this condition on my worst enemy” she proclaimed. I didn’t know what to say to that. I could think of a lot of things that were far worse that I could wish on my enemies. Poverty, starvation, loneliness, homelessness, terminal illness, etc. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this statement, and it continues to surprise me.
“I’ll pray for you” is another one random strangers say. But why? You don’t even know me. I have a rewarding job, a husband and a child, friends, and an advanced education. What exactly are you praying for? I’m sure the answer would be for a cure to fix me so I can stop being flawed, broken, blind.
The thing is, I don’t feel flawed or broken. I joke often about the advantages of being blind, but honestly and truly I think I’m exceptional because I’ve figured out alternative ways to do things. I use a speech program on my computer so I can read very long documents without my eyes getting tired, I can catch typos that most sighted people miss, and I can navigate the screen without a mouse which is faster and more efficient. This is just one advantage of many.
When the general public thinks I would be better off if I was sighted, I feel inferior. I don’t want to feel inferior. I want to be equal. How can I ever be equal if you will always see me as broken?
People who are really close to me often forget I am blind. Some of my friends have even expressed envy at my blindness. They see the advantages, and also recognize that my blindness isn’t that much of a barrier. Maybe the advantages even outweigh the inconveniences. What if I’m actually at an advantage?
That would be quite the shift in people’s perspectives.
by Shawn Marsolais