Tag Archives: Blindness

If I could suddenly see

Let’s imagine I woke up one day and I could suddenly see. 20 20 vision and I also knew how to see so I didn’t have to learn it.

Many people have asked me how I would spend my first day with sight. And this is what I would do.

First of all, I would enjoy putting on make-up. Seeing how different colour eye shadows and eye liners changed how I looked. Being creative with new combinations.

Make-up on along with a killer outfit I’d put together for the first time with sight, I’d walk out of my house and continue walking, enjoying the fact that my eyes would help me memorize the route along with my other four senses. I would look at shop windows and enjoy not having to wonder what shop was behind each door.

Then I would go in to a bookshop, browse the books and buy one I really wated to read. I would take it to a park with a nice bench where I’d sit down and read. Maybe I’d listen to music too, or maybe not. I would at least enjoy the fact that I was holding the book, turning the pages and that the book was a normal, regular print book.

Hungry after a few hours in the park, I’d go to a random café, scan the menu and order lunch. There, I would pick up a newspaper and read it. Enjoying too that this was print.

In the afternoon, I’d go cycling. And I’d go to a supermarket and browse the shelves, finding new products I didn’t know existed. And in the evening, I’d watch a movie or two, not needing audiodescription or explaining what happened.

I guess this is a pretty boring, average day. But for me, doing these things would be pretty cool as I can’t do them now. I rely on technology, audio and the internet to manage on a day to day basis. And though I’m not complaining about that, it would be cool and exciting not to need a phone to read a newspaper, or the internet to discover new supermarket products.

I would of course sign up for driving lessons pretty quick too.

One thing I would still do if I got sight though, is to keep using my other senses. My sensory world is in some ways more varied without sight I think, because I have to use so many other clues to work out my surroundings And with sight, I’d be a ninja woman.

And wouldn’t it just be nice to turn off the JAWS or the voiceover? I’d certainly love that. That way I could chat on what’s app while listening to music on my phone.

Blindness is NOT an imperfection!

My first single Let’s go party is out! I can’t quite believe it’s happened. But it’s on music blogs all over Nigeria, even Ghana and people have been sharing my video from Norway to England to Australia. It will soon be available on iTunes and other digital platforms, but I’ll announce that when it happens.

This is the least serious of my songs. And what you will hear from me in the future will sound less pop, and more, hmm, serious is not the right word, but never mind. You’ll hear it when it comes. Still, this is my first baby and I’m very proud of it. The song puts me in a good mood and will hopefully do the same to you.

My dream has really come true and this is just the very tip of the iceberg. The only bad thing I feel deserves a mention, is how the music blogs talk about me. Firstly they state my blindness. Fair enough. But then they go on to say that “She has always had a passion for singing and performing despite her imperfection”.

I don’t know about you. But this is both insulting and patronizing. Why, first of all, does blindness have to be called an imperfection? It’s at times an inconvenience, but imperfection?!

And why should I have a passion for singing and performing DESPITE this so called imperfection?
I don’t know if this is a cultural matter. But I do wish that whoever fed the bloggers my bio wouldn’t have added that bit. Or, I wish at least, that the bloggers would have the presence of mind not to include it in the brief. But I blame whoever wrote the brief. It was nasty and hurtful and a stinging insult. It forces me to speak up about blindness and how positive I am, when instead, I would have liked to let my personality and character speak for itself on those matters.

And I believe that the pending interviews and promoting I’ll be doing in the months to come will show people that there is no imperfection and no despite of. And the brief writer’s words will be an empty patronizing echo from the past.

But, I am happy. I am grateful for having the opportunity to work with my music and release it, despite the imperfection of the press brief. (See what I did there?)

In case your sight is as bad as mine, I can tell you that the video is a dance video shot on a boat in Lekki which is a very beachy area of Lagos. In one scene, I’m on a bed, but in the others I’m dancing at a party. I’m mostly sitting down. There are lots of people around. Men and some video chicks. The latter are all over my singing partner Lace. I don’t have that much male attention, but that will change in my next video. I have been assured though that I look very elegant in a black and white short dress and big straw hat.

You can listen and watch here:

Coping and curing – ultimately the same thing

One thing I find quite upsetting, are those news and feature stories where someone has been cured of blindness, or that scientists are now finding more and more ways to cure blindness.

I am blind due to a detached optic nerve as well as cataract. There is no point in removing the cataract as my optic nerve will still be detached. My blindness is incurable. And I’d be extremely surprised if there was ever a way to attach my optic nerve. To cure me.

It may sound as if I’m bitter because of all these curing blindness stories, but that’s not the case at all.

What upsets me about them is the word cure. A cure is essentially a good thing. Cured of cancer, cured of alcoholism. But both cancer and alcoholism are things that are not good. And by using the word cure in relation to blindness, arguably puts blindness in the category with all the bad stuff.

I have said many times both in this blog and in real life, that blindness is extremely impractical and that I don’t wish it on my worst enemy. I mean that. But I think it is very important to recognize that blindness only is a bad thing because the society as a whole isn’t made for blind people. A blind person can work, raise a family, cook, do DIY, and pretty much everything a sighted person can do, except those things that involves seeing. As long as they get the right support of course.

An alcoholic or a cancer patient often does not have the abilities to live a very fast paced and high demanding life. And let’s face it. Apart from the life insights one might gain from cancer and alcoholism, there really isn’t anything positive about either of them.

But back to the curing of the blind. If YOU or someone you know has been cured of blindness, or if YOU have donated a hundred dollars to support cataract operations in developing countries, great. Congratulations.

But much as resources should be put into curing blindness, equally many resources should be put into coping with blindness and living a full and good life as a blind person. Many of us will never be cured. And blind people in developed countries who can’t be cured, will be eternally grateful if an equal amount of money, the cost of a cataract operation, and could be spent towards educating them to be fully contributing towards the society.

Finally, I will argue that curing blindness isn’t just making a person sighted. But it is to give blind people equal abilities to the sighted. According to this argument therefore, keep the cure stories coming. I certainly am as good as cured.

From a blind person’s perspective

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, but for many reasons, I’ve not felt very motivated to do anything lately.

But today I’d like to share a hilarious e-mail I received a while back. I don’t know who wrote the original text, but it certainly was a genious in my oppinion. And it’s great to see something written from the perspective of a blind person towards the sighted majority.

This text is not meant to offend anyone, but is just a humorus perspective on sighted people through blind eyes. Pardon the pun.

People who use their eyes to acquire information about the world are called sighted people or “people who are sighted”. Legal sight means any visual acuity greater than 20/200 in the better eye without correction or an angle of vision wider than 20 degrees.

Sighted people enjoy rich, full lives working, playing and raising families. They run businesses, hold public offices, get arrested and teach your children!

How do Sighted People get Around?

People who are sighted may walk or ride public transportation but most choose to travel long distances by operating their own motor vehicles, usually one passenger to a car. They have gone through many hours of extensive training to learn the rules of the road in order to further their independence. Once that road to freedom has been mastered, sighted people earn a legal classification and a drivers license which allows them to operate a private vehicle relatively safely and independently.

How do you assist a sighted person?

Sighted people are accustomed to viewing the world in visual terms. This means that in many situations they will not be able to communicate orally and may resort to stammering, pointing, hand waving or other gesturing. Subtle facial expressions may also be used to convey feelings in social situations. Calmly alert the sighted person to his or her surroundings by speaking slowly in a normal tone of voice. Questions directed at the sighted person help focus attention back on the verbal rather than the merely visual.

How do sighted people remember things?

Often they don’t remember things. In fact this is one of the most painful aspects of the visual affliction, the degree to which sight inhibits detailed memory. Often, the sighted person must reacquire the same information each time it is needed. You can help by being sensitive to their struggle by learning to anticipate their need and providing them with the information they need when it is necessary. Don’t tell them too much too quickly. Be sensitive to the capacities of the individual with whom you are dealing. These limitations vary from person to person and it is deeply upsetting to a sighted person to realize that you recognize their mental short comings.

At times sighted people may need help finding things, especially when operating a motor vehicle. Your advance knowledge of routs and landmarks, bumps in the road, and traffic lights will assist the sighted person in finding their way quickly and easily. Your knowledge of building layouts can also assist the sighted person in navigating complex shopping malls and office buildings. Sighted people tend to be very proud and are reluctant to ask for assistance. Be gentle yet firm.

How do sighted people use computers?

The sighted person relies exclusively on visual information. His or her attention span fades quickly when reading long texts so it is best to write in bulleted lists of very brief items. The use of bright colours will help the sighted person stay focused. Computer information is presented to the sighted in a graphical manner to assist them in comprehending their world. Coordination of hands and eyes is often a preoccupation with sighted people so the computer mouse, a handy device that slides along the desk top, saves confusing keystrokes. With one button the sighted person can move around his or her computer screen quickly and easily, if not necessarily efficiently. People who are sighted are not accustomed to synthetic speech and may have great difficulty understanding even the clearest synthesizer, falling asleep between syllables or becoming distracted by a spot on the carpet. Be patient and prepared to explain many times how your computer works.

How do sighted people read?

Reading is accomplished by the sighted person through a system called “print,” which is a series of images drawn in a two dimensional plain.
People who are sighted generally have a poorly developed sense of touch.
Braille is completely foreign to them and severe bouts of disorientation can sometimes result from over exposure to the use of the higher senses.

Sighted people cannot function well in dimly lit conditions and are generally completely helpless and often devastatingly frightened in total darkness. Their homes are usually very brightly lit at great expense as are businesses that cater to the sighted. Naturally these costs are passed on to the consumer.

How can I support the sighted person?

People who are sighted do not want your charity. They want to live, work, and play alongside you on as equal a basis as possible. You must ignore their tendency to display feelings that they are superior to you.
Failing to allow them this delusion may promote aberrant and antisocial behaviour. The best thing you can do to support sighted people in your community is to simply open yourself to their world and help open their limited world to the bounty of your experience. These citizens are vital contributing members of the community, real people with thoughts and feelings, hopes and dreams and a story to tell. Take a sighted person to lunch today and make them feel like you truly care.

Author Unknown

Blindness = stupid, naive and needy

I’ve already devoted more space to blindness than first was intended for this blog. But it’s a part of me as much as the fact that I’ve got curly hair, or that I like reggae. It has defined and shaped my character, my life choices and opportunities to a certain extent. People usually ask me whether I wish I could see and the answer is yes, but not because I’m bitter about the fact I can’t see, or because I want to see the beautiful red/orange of the sunset, or the twinkling stars in the sky. No, I want to see because the society was never made for a blind person. Electronic or braille books was never the norm, and neither was audiodescription in cinemas, brailling in shops and blindness in general really. My biggest reason for wanting to see is that I’m always having to prove to people that I’m capable of living and breathing and that I sometimes have to fight for things sighted people take for granted. And there are people who won’t leave me alone because I carry a white cane. There are old ladies who always think I’m up for a chat, or people from certain countries who ask me who cooks my food or what I’m doing outside after dark. And last, but definitely not least, are the men who think they can get easy access to my body and money just because I’m blind. Afterall, I’m blind, so I must be a bit naive and desperate right?

Luckily this has only happened to me twice, but both times got my blood boiling with anger. I am no fool.

In the first case, it was a rather bad relationship with someone I thought was exciting, but someone I knew was bad for me. To cut a long story short, it ended when he understood I was too smart to let him have full access to my life, be it keys to my flat or bank account.

3 years later, I was friends with someone whom I genuinely had only platonic feelings towards. Sweet guy, but I was taken and he wasn’t my type. This friendship also ended because he realised I was never interested in being more than friends.

Surely, that happens to a lot of girls and it has happened to me in the past, but I can tell the difference between someone who plays on my supposed vulnarability to try and win me over so they can make some extra cash by making me trust and love them and and someone who got disappointed who genuinely thought me a suitable girlfriend and it really makes me sad to think that some people, be it women or men, befriends blind people and try to get with them to fulfill their own needs whatever they might be.

I realise it doesn’t just happened to blind people, but I know of other disabled people this has happened to.

The question I ask those sneaky “do gooders” is Where is your dignity? You certainly wouldn’t like the same thing done to you?

At the same time they make me laugh, because thinking that anyone would be stupid enough to fall for their game, means that they would be stupid enough to fall for someone elses game should the situation have been reversed!

The shame of being unemployed. Part 2

Here’s the second article I wrote on being unemployed.

Being unemployed really isn’t fun and the days can easily get long and very boring. It doesn’t have to be like that. I personally started off my days as newly unemployed after losing my job due to its relocation by sleeping in, watching TV and generally being quite lazy. It was absolutely wonderful for the first couple of weeks. I did have a social life to, so it wasn’t too bad, but suddenly I found myself moody, restless and getting more and more depressed every day and I figured that something had to change.

First of all, I sat down to identify what I missed about my working life and my main points were:
-social interaction.
-the feeling of having achieved something and being counted on to achieve it.
-Relax after a long day of work.

So, I came to the conclusion that I somehow needed to recreate this in this temporary stage of my life. And I highly recommend these tips if you are currently looking for work and need some purpose to your day in the meantime.

In my previous article I praised volunteering because it gives you a sense of having a job even though you don’t get paid. To get some ideas on what you can do, please read it:

Get a morning ritual. Yeah, it may sound funky and a bit new age, but it really works. I am a Christian, but realised I don’t know the bible that well. So I set myself a challenge to get up no later than 07:30 every morning to do some reading, reflection and praying. And I had a deal with one of my working friends to text and see if I was up. That way I was accountable to someone and this morning ritual has given me lots of positivity plus more time to do job hunting, writing, record my music etc. Also, I know a lot more about my faith which is very helpful in my position as a Christian youth leader.

Your morning ritual can be whatever you want. It can be writing a diary, do some exercise, anything as long as you feel like it gives you a boost. And if it includes some kind of self reflection, it’s even better. Reflect on things like your goals, your dreams, how to reach them, how far you have come in reaching them, anything, but keep it positive. Otherwise this is counterproductive. Having someone in the beginning to be accountable to is also good because it will motivate you to see it through.

Take up a new hobby. I like the feeling of accomplishing something new and therefore I decided to learn a foreign language. Audible have many good ones if you find classess inaccessible, or there are plenty of other things you can do out there. A Thai cooking course, singing lessons, or learning to play an instrument. You might be unemployed, but the good thing is that now you have the time to get good at something you’ve always wanted to learn, maybe even something you can add to your CV? And it inevitably makes the day more fun.

Socialise. You are not the only one who is unemployed and chances are you have a friend in the same situation. Why not meet at each others house and do applications together? You can help each other along the way and two is always better than one.

Finally, get organised. Sure, you’ve got the whole day, but taking breaks in the activities you are doing or not planning them will result in you only doing half the things you planned to do. So write a timetable or a to do list including how much time to spend on each thing that needs doing.

These are all simple little tips that will make a massive difference to your day and your purpose, confidence and security.

Life as an unemployed is not something you should seek, but do all these little things and your days may not be so bad after all.

The shame of being unemployed. Part 1

The follwoing piece is one I originally wrote intended for a website ained at blind people from the time before I decided that freelance writing was the way to go for me. However, I don’t think it ever got published and because it does contain some sound advice, I’ll put it up here. And although it’s written with a blind audience in mind, any sighted person can also find some advice here.

There’s hardly anything in life that’s more humiliating than becoming unemployed. And for a young professional woman like me, who is born blind, losing my job to a great extent also meant losing my pride, since it meant joining UK’s 80% of working aged blind people who don’t have a job for one reason or another.

Sadly, the average sighted John and Jane Doe’s perspective of a blind person is of somebody with a guide dog who has the supernatural ability to do everything a human can do including helping the poor blind person to get dressed in the morning. And we of course have carers cook, clean and feed our dogs. Or do the dogs to that too? Blind people are not able to hold down a job and now basket weaving and piano tuning and working on switchboards are out of fashion, what is there to do for them?

I could write a book about the questions I get both with regards to why I don’t have a dog, and who does my hair every morning, (I do that myself by the way, sssssshhhhhh) and about my employment. I won’t bore you with all of them, but I will include one story I found utterly hilarious. Old woman: “So do you stay at home with your parents then?” Me: “no madam, (I hate the word madam and reserve it for women I can’t stand) I am a journalist. “Old woman/madam: Oh, so you sit in the office and type and then somebody comes in to tell you a story?” It may be rude, but I burst out laughing because I got this video in my head of people queuing up at my desk to feed me readily researched stories for me to write down.

The point of this little anecdote was to illustrate just how embarrassing it would have been to say “No madam, I don’t live with my folks, but I am unemployed.” It would fit her expectations too well. She would have said something sympathetic and started talking about her friend’s sister’s husband’s cousin who died in 1864 who was blind too. And I would have nodded and smiled while doing my best to block her out and wondering if I had to stand her on the bus as well.

So how then, do you re-establish your sense of pride and belonging to something in the time you have to wait for a new job?

Live your dream: I know. Applying for work is BORING! So in between the countless cover letters and application forms, do something you’ve always wanted to do. The fact that you have chosen one career field, doesn’t mean that’s the only thing you’ve wanted to do? Maybe you are an accountant, but always wanted to work with children. Or maybe you are a television producer with a secret passion for counselling.

Stop dreaming and start working voluntarily with children by for example becoming a scout or girl guide, write for a magazine. It doesn’t matter if it’s your local church magazine or your friend Joe’s blog. What matters are exposure and that you enjoy doing it. Become a counsellor with the Samaritans, a volunteer who visits disadvantaged people with the Red Cross, only your own imagination can stop you.

If you’d asked me to do any volunteering as a fresh graduate I would dismiss it immediately. I don’t get paid, so what’s the point? Plus, it’s probably boring. But volunteering can be quite fun, I have learned from experience. If you work for the right organizations, you can be involved in exciting travel, working abroad, making a change in someone’s life and last but not least, when that curious old madam prods into your life, you can honestly say “I’m working with children, elderly people, I’m a counsellor” etc. Only you know that your (salary is paid by the welfare system.

What are you waiting for? Start finding out how you can contribute to something you enjoy today and get that pride and sense of having a job that matters back.

In the next article I will give you tips on how to structure your day to give you some sense of purpose.