By Holly (Life of a Blind Girl)
Our guest blog post today comes from Holly, who is a disability and lifestyle blogger on her site Life Of A Blind Girl, which details her life living with a vision impairment. Holly’s excellent blog features posts on what it’s like to live with a disability, makeup tips and advice to others, as well as reviews on products which help with day to day life. In this great contribution, she tells us about her life and provides helpful tips and advice!
My name is Holly, I am 21 years old and have just finished university. I am a disability and lifestyle blogger. I have been blind since birth so I wanted to give you an insight into my life with a visual impairment. I am your average young person – I love music, going to concerts, seeing friends, shopping, and that sort of thing. I am blind due to a condition called Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP). There are 5 stages of ROP and I have stage 5, meaning that I have a detached retina in my left eye and only have light perception in my right eye. I attended mainstream school all the way throughout my education, it had its challenges but I fully believe that it made me into a stronger and more determined person. Going through mainstream education and university meant that I have been surrounded by sighted people, just like in the wider world, meaning that not all of them would understand my disability. Therefore, it allowed me to have a backbone, learned to stick up for myself and educate others on my visual impairment. I feel that these experiences have set me up for the future as not everyone is going to understand your disability, have knowledge on disabilities and you’ll have to fight for what you need and deserve.
I try to not let my visual impairment affect me or limit my opportunities, but naturally it has affected me in various ways. I wouldn’t say that these impacts are negative, as that’s far from the truth. I can’t simply list all the ways in which it’s had an impact on my life, but I want to discuss a few of them. I’ve struggled socially because of my visual impairment, as I’ve said previously, not everyone you meet is going to accept your disability. This has had an impact on me socially as at one point during my time in sixth form I really struggled to connect with people in my year, as they were learning to drive and those sorts of things so obviously I couldn’t do that. Although this was a struggle for me, looking back, I’m glad I had those experiences as it really taught me who my true friends are. I also have a mix of both sighted and visually impaired friends so this really does help. I’m extremely lucky in the sense that I’m surrounded by amazing, supportive, and inspiring people.
My visual impairment also had an impact on me when having mobility training. The thought of using a cane filled me with dread and anxiety and I felt that I couldn’t fit in with my peers because I was using a white cane and probably stuck out like a sore thumb. This wasn’t the case at all, as the cane is like a key to independence. It took me a long time to get used to the idea, but I eventually did and let me tell you, I am now so much more confident in using a cane. I enjoy mobility sessions now and enjoy learning new routes. I no longer have a sense of dread or anxiety when using a cane which is such a great feeling. I think that university was the turning point for me in terms of mobility, independence, and confidence.
As I’ve been blind since birth I feel like I can offer some helpful advice to others going through similar experiences. The portrayal of disability is often negative, but if you look beyond that, there are so many positives of living with sight loss or another disability. It equips you with new skills such as braille, using assistive technology, learning independent living skills, being able to use a cane or training with a guide dog and so much more. If you think about it, there are so many advantages of having a disability.
Another piece of advice that I would give to people going through similar experiences is to always speak out, stand up for yourself and fight for what you need or deserve. This is so important because it not only makes your life so much easier, it also gives others the opportunity to learn and how to best support yourself and others. Having the right support, equipment and provisions is invaluable when you have a disability. One other piece of important advice that I would give to others is to use the services available, there’s no shame in doing so. Charities and organisations are there to offer help and advice, so if you feel like this could benefit yourself or someone you know then make sure you use their services.
A piece of advice for people with a friend or a relative with a disability is to never assume, always ask. It’s important to ask whether a person needs any help, need guiding or assistance completing a certain task. If they need help, then chances are that they will tell you. If not then let them do it themselves, no means no. If your loved one has recently been diagnosed then remember that their disability does not change them as a person.
This leads me to my final piece of advice; remember that your disability does not change you as a person. Having a disability is nothing to be ashamed of. Having a disability can be a struggle, isolating and may feel like a constant battle but it’s important for you to remember that it does not change you as a person. We all can do something great with our lives, so let your disability enable you to do so, not disable you.
I hope this post has given you an insight into my life with a visual impairment and helped some of you that are going through similar experiences. If you would like to learn more about visual impairment then check out my blog where I discuss my experiences and share useful tips for others living with a disability. You can also connect with me on Facebook or Twitter.