By Erin Wynne, age 16
Do you believe that being visually impaired means a fabulous and fulfilling life is off the table? That visual impairment stops us from having fun and being active? Well, I can tell you for a fact it doesn’t. Here’s what I’ve learnt.
So many parents believe/are told that their visually impaired (VI) and blind babies won’t have a good life; that they won’t be able to do a lot of activities or have independence. My parents were devastated when they found out that I was VI because they didn’t understand about visual impairments. No one could tell them what I would be able to see or how it would affect me. They were upset for me, especially when the doctors told them I probably wouldn’t even be able to ride a bike! Not only does this idea worry parents, but it causes them to bubble wrap their children, which then causes them to be less independent and feeds the notion that a lack of vision holds us back.
However, the truth is, this is a load of rubbish! Being VI or blind makes things harder, but there are ways around everything – ways to make things accessible to be able to live an awesome and fulfilling life.
I was lucky that my parents didn’t listen to those people: they raised me with the mentality that my vision doesn’t stop me doing anything I set my mind to, which in turn gave me the confidence to try everything and realise that my vision doesn’t have to hold me back – that I was unstoppable.
What can we do?
In short, almost anything! The only things that may not be possible (depending on vision level) are driving or flying a plane – we don’t want a real life bumper car scenario taking place on the roads!
My parents have always made it clear to me that I wouldn’t be able to drive, so now, at 16, it’s not a shock or a huge disappointment. It can be frustrating, but I’ve always known it would be the case, so it is what it is and there are ways around not being able to drive as well.
Apart from this, almost anything is possible.
Over my life, I’ve taken part in a wide variety of clubs and activities, such as: horse riding, Beavers and Cubs, trampolining, Irish dancing, swimming, gymnastics, clarinet/band on the run, sailing, VI cricket, kayaking, goal ball, tree top adventures and rock climbing to name a few. My parents always encouraged me to try everything and see what I could do without any delimits beforehand. They taught me that the only way to know if it’s possible is to try, and this opened up so many incredible adventures and experiences for me. Admittedly, I struggled visually with Irish dancing as I couldn’t really see what the instructor was doing, but dancing wasn’t my thing anyway!
Personally, I found horse riding to be the best and it’s become my passion and my life. When you’re riding a good horse, they become your eyes and you don’t need to see. Riding is mostly done through feel and connection, which are actually heightened when you have less vision. Riding for the Disabled (RDA) are also absolutely fantastic and there are so many wonderful opportunities in the riding world- I rode in the RDA National Championships!
Riding isn’t for everyone though, and there are many other activities you can try out, even some VI specific ones!
Some sports are harder to accommodate for vision impaired people and therefore have a VI version. For example, there’s VI cricket and VI football. I used to play VI cricket for Surrey and the adaptions are a larger ball with a sand like substance in it so that it rattles. The ball is allowed to bounce on the floor a few times when it’s coming so that you can hear it. VI cricket was fun and had teams filled with a variety of different sight levels. On top of this, if you play for England, you can go all over the world with the team. A few years ago they even went to Barbados!
There are also some sports that have been created specifically for blind and VI people, such as goal ball. Goal ball uses a ball with a bell and everyone is blindfolded. There are teams of four or five and the aim is for the ball to hit the wall behind the opposing team; all players have to try and stop the ball.
Overall, there are many sports visually impaired people can do, and even some specifically for us!
Limitless and Loving Life
The truth is, being VI or blind doesn’t stop us from living a good life. I’ve never let my vision (or lack thereof!) hold me back, and that has opened up a world of opportunities and experiences for me. By trying everything and finding ways to go about things despite my vision, I’ve not only learnt resilience, but I’ve also learnt that the only limits are the ones we put on ourselves. My parents encouraged me to try everything and see for myself what I could do and what was harder for me, and this has instilled confidence in me, as well as given me a better understanding of my vision, which has helped me as I’ve grown older.
I’ve found so many resources that help me in every day life, as well as do the things I enjoy, such as enlarged/talking scales when I cook (I love to cook and bake!) and text reading apps for scanning small documents.
There truly is a way around everything, and we can live a truly fabulous and fulfilling life!
Do you still believe that blind and VI people can’t live an fabulous and fulfilling life? Don’t be fooled by stereotypes or what people say. The only limits are the ones we put on ourselves.