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Amy Kavanagh | Blind Beauty 65

Blind Beauty 65 Featured Image description is in the body of the post.

Part of my problem was that I just didn’t identify as “blind.” Even though I was born with a visual impairment, I didn’t think of myself as disabled. Everyone always went on about sight loss, but I’d never had it in the first place! It was my normal.

~Amy Kavanagh

Amy Kavanagh | Blind Beauty 65

Selfie description is in the body of the post.
#1 Amy Selfie

This part of Amy’s quote “I just didn’t identify as blind” speaks volumes to me. Her words take me back to a time before I received my first pair of eyeglasses. Granted, even though I was myopic (severely nearsighted), the difference between me and Amy was my eyesight back then was correctable to 20/20.

The situation of seeing versus not seeing is one of the most baffling aspects of blindness. Back in the day, when a person was defined as blind we generally understood it to mean they couldn’t see anything. Today, we know that greatly diminished, uncorrectable eyesight can severely impact a person’s day to day life. For those of you who wear corrective lenses when you aren’t wearing them do you notice a difference in your sight?

I can relate to Amy only from the perspective of ‘my normal’ (nearsightedness) wasn’t a problem until my sight was corrected. In other words, ‘normal’ was blurry vision because ‘I didn’t know what I didn’t know.’ Before my eyes were corrected I didn’t know I couldn’t see.

As I read and reread Amy’s words I wonder how many people don’t identify as blind because it’s their normal. When we add in the stigma associated with blindness it takes this thinking to another level. For years, because Amy was living her ‘normal’ she didn’t take advantage of tools and training that could have made her life easier. I’ll tell you what though, I’m happy she came around because today she’s a fearless activist. Her #JustAskDontGrab campaign speaks to respecting the personal space of people with disabilities.

Blindness is complex. People are complex. If there were one lesson to come out of this post it would be we all ‘see’ differently (literally and figuratively). I think we run into problems when we measure our circumstances against others.

Blind Beauty 65 Featured Image Description:

Featured image is a faux fashion magazine cover titled Blind Beauty. Amy Kavanagh’s image on the cover is black & white. This photo is a head and shoulder shot. Amy is sat in front of a wall with the BBC logo on. She is wearing big headphones over her bright pink hair and she’s smiling and looking at the camera.

Blocks of text superimposed on Charise’s photo are: “Bold–She Keeps Pressing Onward, Blind–She Has Deeper Insight, Beautiful–She Sees To The Heart Of Others.” “Real Beauty Transcends Barriers.” “Makeup Trends for 2019–How To Maintain A Flawless Look”

Additional Image:

  1. This photo is a selfie. It’s a sunny day, with trees and blue sky in the background. Amy is smiling looking at the camera in large round sunglasses. Her hair is blond with bright pink hair fading from the top. She is wearing a black t-shirt and badge, the badge shows a pair of sunglasses and reads, medical necessity not fashion accessory.

Connecting With Amy:

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Visual Impairment Leads To Advocacy Campaign

Visual Impairment Featured image description is in the body of the post.

My vision changes every hour, sometimes I can read a street sign, recognize a friend, or read a newspaper headline. Some days I can’t see an inch past my nose.

~Dr. Amy Kavanagh
Women On The Move 60

Visual Impairment Leads To Advocacy Campaign

Amy at BBC image description is in the body of the post.
#1 Amy at BBC

It’s taken 27 years for me to accept my visual impairment. I was born with nystagmus, limited depth perception, and almost no peripheral vision. Alongside light sensitivity and myopia, it’s a mixed bag of sight issues that my doctors continue to puzzle out. My vision changes every hour, sometimes I can read a street sign, recognize a friend or read a newspaper headline. Some days I can’t see an inch past my nose.

In a typically British approach, my parents didn’t want to make a fuss about my disability. They encouraged me to be as normal as possible and it was the best solution when no other help was offered. To this day, my mum says how much she wishes the internet had been around when I was growing up. Although I knew I was different, I didn’t really feel the impact of my visual impairment until I went to university.

I’ve always loved history and I pursued my passion all the way to a PhD! I spent nearly a decade in higher education, and over the years had some of the happiest and lowest times in my life. Working towards my PhD was exhausting and being in denial about my visual impairment added to the strain. Eventually, the work took its toll on my mental and physical health. I’m immensely proud of my accomplishment, as acquiring my PhD was a huge achievement. However, in the end, I knew I needed a change.

Actively Seeking Help Opens The Floodgates

#2 London Underground

It was only through starting a new career at a disability charity that I realised how much help I denied myself. So I started to reach out for some support. First I turned to my twitter community, I had used the social media platform for a few years, mostly for academic networking, but I soon discovered an entire online family of visually impaired people. These new friends had so much advice and guidance. They had been there; they had struggled, they had denied the difficulties, and also finally they had asked for help. It was so refreshing and such a revelation to hear so many similar stories and read about so many people living confident lives after sight loss.

I was encouraged to contact Guide Dogs UK, but I was skeptical. Part of my problem was that I just didn’t identify as “blind.” Even though I was born with a visual impairment, I didn’t think of myself as disabled. Everyone always went on about sight loss, but I’d never had it in the first place! It was my normal, but I was fast realizing I didn’t just have to put on my stiff upper lip and accept it.

Contacting Guide Dogs UK changed my life. The support, skills, and encouragement they have given me, has been incredible. Just one year later I’ve gone from suffering in silence to being a visually impaired activist! I’m now a confident long cane user and I’m waiting for a guide dog. Instead of being in denial about my disability I now advocate for the rights and equal opportunities for visually impaired people.

Advocacy Born Through Acceptance

Selfie description is in the body of the post.
#3 Selfie

I’ve even started a campaign to encourage the public to offer help to disabled people. My #JustAskDontGrab message uses my experiences of positive help, and unwanted grabbing, pushing or pulling, to educate people about how to offer assistance politely and respectfully. Over the last few months it’s gone viral, and I’ve been on the radio, tv and in newspapers! It’s been a whirlwind, but such an empowering experience. Also, I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of visually impaired people who’ve contacted me to say they’ve experienced the same journey. They’ve told me, my story of accepting my visual impairment and the cane has encouraged them to do the same.

I will keep sharing my story because it’s the message I needed growing up. I want young people struggling with their disability to know that they don’t just have to cope. They don’t have to manage alone, there is help out there, and that asking for support is the first step to being themselves, rather than hiding who they really are.

Since embracing my visual impairment as part of my identity I’ve been a happier and more confident person. Using a long white cane has given me freedom and I can travel independently and safely. Most of all, I finally feel like the real me. Of course, there are still difficult days, but I’ve stopped denying my real self and now I openly love my disability.

Visual Impairment Featured Image:

Profile photo of Amy walking through a park. She is using her long cane and wearing a summer dress.

Additional Images:

  1. Head and shoulder shot. Amy is sat in front of a wall with the BBC logo on. She is wearing big headphones over her bright pink hair. She is smiling and looking at the camera.
  2. Amy is standing at a London underground station, with the classic red, blue and white sign behind her. It’s a sunny day, Amy is wearing sunglasses and holding her long cane across her body. She has a light turquoise 50s style print dress on.
  3. A selfie, it’s a sunny day, trees and blue sky in the background. Amy is smiling looking at the camera in large round sunglasses. Her hair is blond with bright pink hair fading from the top. She is wearing a black t-shirt and badge, the badge shows a pair of sunglasses and reads, medical necessity not fashion accessory.

Connecting With Amy: