This may seem a surprising topic to talk about for a blog that’s primarily about writing and books from a disability perspective, but it’s more relevant than you may imagine. People who don’t know disabled people often think that having a disability wrecks your life. This has a great deal to do with the fact that most narratives about disability focus on either pitying the disabled person or the disabled person as an inspiration, which is something I’ll discuss in another post. But I like being blind and wouldn’t change it for the world So today, I thought I’d tell you why.
Before I get in to that, I just want to emphasise that everyone’s experience is different. We have a very big societal problem with wanting to know how things “normally” are, but there is no such thing as normal.
Also, how different people experience things will depend on their unique circumstances. For example, I know many blind people, but I don’t know anyone who has the precise same level of sight as me. This is because how much a person can see depends on their eye condition and how that has effected them.
Being blind is not a literal experience. I can see light, I can see colour. It is detail that I cannot see.
So when I’m talking about what I think of being blind, I am talking about how I’ve experienced it. Other people tell totally different stories, but none of us are wrong, we’ve all just had different experiences.
Furthermore, I think I’ve been very lucky. I was born blind. I started learning Braille when I was 3 and now I can type Braille faster than many people can hand write or type on a computer. But Braille is in many ways like a language, it can be easier to pick up the earlier you learn it.
Many people think blind people can’t do anything, but the truth is, we only can’t do some things the way sighted people do them. The truth is, we can do a lot of these things, often to the same ability or better than our sighted peers, we just do them differently. I can read, I just do it with my hands rather than my eyes. I can get about, I just use my cane and my other senses a great deal more.
But I did have to learn all these things and that is worth pointing out. Had I just lost my sight, or lost my sight more recently, I may not be able to do many of these things or be able to do them as well as I do now. So I am grateful for being born blind.
So I would like to say, to anyone who is losing their sight or has lost it in more recent times, please try not to be overwhelmed by some of what I will talk about. Do not feel bad if you are not as happy or as competent at blindness as I am. I will tell you, from having known many blind people, particularly some who have lost sight, that it is normal to feel sad and even depressed about it to start off. But you can learn to do anything you might want to do, the way you get there might be slightly different.
Now, let me talk about why I like being blind in more detail.
Braille probably tops the list for me. As a reader and a writer, it’s probably no surprise that I love language.
But more than that, I very specifically love Braille. I guess that this may be hard to understand if you have no familiarity with Braille, especially as it’s difficult for me to explain why I love Braille so much. But I just do.
I obviously wouldn’t have had the opportunity to learn Braille at such an early age had I not been born blind and I am forever grateful for that. Also, were I not blind, it would not be my primary means of communication.
The second biggest reason I like being blind, is because of the other wonderful disabled people I know and have had known. This is not something that all blind people experience, but I have been lucky enough to know and continue to know, many disabled people.
Most of my friends have some sort of disability. It’s not like I haven’t come in to plenty of contact with non disabled people, because I have. I have just generally found that disabled people and I have a very broad definition of disabled people, understand me better and are more accepting of me for who I am.
It’s not like I don’t have to explain things to them, because I do. In fact, I’ve had people with other disabilities ask me some very interesting questions over the years. But in the same way, I’ve learnt a lot about other disabilities through knowing other disabled people. I think being different and needing extra help with certain things being a two way thing can be easier, as it makes you more understanding of each other.
I wouldn’t have the friends I have if I wasn’t blind and I think I have met some amazing people.
I think being blind has helped me to think differently.
I think having a disability increases creativity. As I have said before, having a disability doesn’t have to mean you can’t do stuff, it just means you may have to do stuff differently. And I love coming up with creative ways to do things differently.
My life as a blind person has certainly provided me with ample ways to do that. My eyes are light sensitive, meaning computer light hurts them, so I worked out that rotating the computer screen to face away from me was a good idea. When I get a drink of water, I have learnt to tell when something is full by how heavy it gets. Naturally, this only works with containers I am familiar with, but it’s still a cool trick. The list goes on, but I have lots of creative ways of doing things.
Similarly, I think being disabled can help with empathy. This is not the case with all people, but in my experience, I’ve got to know people with all sorts of different experiences, who do things in all sorts of different ways. I think that has helped to make me a less judgmental person. I’m certainly a very opinionated individual. However, I get a lot of people come to me for advice, some of whom have said it’s because I’m not a very judgmental person and they feel comfortable talking to me.
On a similar note, I believe very strongly in judging people for who they are, not their appearances. These days, society seems to place such a high priority on appearance. Whether it’s keeping up with the latest fashion or trying to take the perfect picture, many people are obsessed with appearance. And well, I’m not.
I genuinely want people to judge me for who I am, therefore I dress and act accordingly. This does not mean that I do not want to be clean or presentable. On the contrary, I am very interested in cleanliness. However, what I am not interested in is fashion.
I am not fully attributing this to being blind though. Some people would think that, but actually, there are blind people who are in to beauty and that’s good for them. There are accessible ways to apply make up and keep up with beauty related trends. In fact, there are blind beauty bloggers.
Similarly, there are sighted people who hold the same beliefs I do, who would rather be judged by who they are than their appearance.
But what I am saying is this: I think not being automatically exposed to beauty and appearance made me more interested in not regarding it as so important. I think the moral beliefs I have, ultimately define my interactions with appearances. But blindness paved that road to those beliefs and opinions.
Finally, over the past couple of years, I’ve done a lot of research about the ways disabled people are represented in fiction. And It’s something I’ve really enjoyed learning about and talking about, hence this blog. But I don’t know that I’d have had that interest, were I non-disabled.
I also think, even if I did, I’d be an outsider. And we really need more insider voices in the discussion of disability in fiction. So I’m glad to be an insider.
As I’ve said, everyone’s experiences are different. These are mine.
Please do not try to take them as facts or hold other people to them. Everyone’s experiences are different and there’s no right way to experience blindness. That said, I hope you’ve found this post interesting.