We at AFB have the unwavering belief in the capabilities of people with vision loss, and we hold the philosophy that blind and visually impaired people can and do live and work with dignity and success alongside their sighted peers. We believe that people with vision loss can contribute in so many ways to their communities, to their families, and to society as a whole.
Because of these beliefs, we sometimes overlook or underemphasize that the onset of vision loss can be devastating to those with the loss, as well as their family members. When I was continuing to lose vision in my late teens and early twenties, I had a great deal of difficulty coping emotionally to my vision loss. I wanted to be like everyone else, but I could no longer do the kinds of activities that my sighted peers could do. I felt that I was different, and being different, I felt rejected. It took me years to realize that I could move on to a happy and productive life.
We must remember that losing one's vision is traumatizing to many people. It often takes a protracted period of time for visually impaired people and their families to get beyond the denial, anger and mourning phases of grief. We must send the message that we understand the pain that visually impaired people and their families are experiencing. We must ensure that we connect to where they are.
The stories we tell about visually impaired people becoming independent and contributing members of society should start with the fact that there is an adjustment period emotionally, and that learning adaptive skills takes time and patience.
That is just one of the reasons why we share stories of adjustment and success, stories that inspire and provide encouragement. I believe that, in these ways (among many others), we can truly assist the people we serve to strive for and achieve their maximum potential.
Blurred photo of people crossing street courtesy of Shutterstock.