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Issue #20 | Blindness An Invisible Disability

Image description and quote are in the body of the post.

Abby’s Insights on Beauty & Blindness

“Blindness is not always obvious. There are many people who for numerous reasons, do not want to identify themselves as sight impaired. This is their right and we must respect it. However, before judging, remember there may be more to the story.”

"A Common & Incorrect Assumption That Legally Blind - No Sight" ~Neil Milliken Quote is white text on a chalkboard background.
Quote by Neil Milliken AXSChat

Adjusting to living with sight loss isn’t easy and one of the most difficult challenges are the misconceptions. Since the prevailing societal notion is blindness means total darkness, sighted people can understandably be confused about what it means to be blind.

Truth is, the range of blindness or sight loss is enormous and it differs from person to person. Many people who are blind or visually impaired rely on a white cane or guide dog to navigate the world safely. There are also many blind people who do not use a cane or a guide dog.

Since I was born with sight and later lost it, I can look directly at you, however, I am not ‘seeing’ you. Depending on factors like lighting what I can ‘see’ is a shape of a person and some clothing color. I cannot see your face or facial expressions. If you’re across a room I don’t know who you are unless you tell me. For another person, what they ‘see’ or cannot ‘see’ even if we have the same condition will be different.

Abby’s Reflections Description: 

A gray, teal and white template uses the ‘Abby’s Corner’ image. Abby is sitting cross-legged in her PJs (gray bottoms & white top with a gray collar). She is using her teal Abby logoed laptop with a headset with microphone. Sporting her signature explosive hairstyle, her white cane is propped up next to her.

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Reflecting Back Can Help Forge The Path Ahead

Golden hour glass. sitting atop sand with a with background. The sand is filtering through.

Back Down Memory Lane

Reflecting back really helps to put life in perspective. Like many people in my age group, my memory is fading and I struggle daily. Because Alzheimer’s runs in my family, it’s important to me to get as much done as possible. Looking back helps me to see how far I’ve come and confirms the path I’ve chosen.

The following lightly edited article was originally published to VisionAware a few years back when I became a Peer Advisor. If memory serves it was probably around the time I began Bold Blind Beauty. While many things have changed since this article was published, overall I’m pleased with the progress to date.

Stephanae (Steph) McCoy

A Look Back Selfie description is in the body of the post

Eight years ago, going blind was not on Stephanae (Steph) McCoy’s bucket list. Since life threw her this curveball, however, how was she to continue her plan to change the world? Life produced the formula: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) + Life-Altering Event = World Changed!

Steph, always a little quirky, began with picky eating and excessive hand washing. Her behaviors progressed to extreme cleaning and a driven purposefulness that would make the TV character, Monk, weep. After losing most of her eyesight, Steph credits OCD for making the situation bearable thanks to many regimented routines. After developing macular holes, cataractsglaucoma, and becoming legally blind, Steph is still striving to change the world by:

  • Serving on the Board of Directors of Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh
  • Serving as a Low Vision Committee Member and Chair of the Publicity Committee of the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind
  • Member of the Committee for Accessible Transportation (paratransit service)
  • Fundraising Committee Member of the Golden Triangle Council of the Blind (GTCB)
  • Led a team in raising over $10,000 in donations to finance research for Foundation Fighting Blindness
  • Campaigning for an international low vision awareness effort
  • Publicly speaking at various organizations on a range of vision loss issues

Because Steph is a single-minded, determined, advocate, and conqueror, it made sense that she would find a way to face losing her vision head-on by promoting low vision awareness and creating an open dialog to dispel societal myths on blindness and visual impairment. Helen Keller once said, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” Steph’s vision is to educate and alter the mindset of how people view others with disabilities, and to that end, she is changing the world, one conversation at a time.

A Look Back Image Description: 

A selfie of me wearing a long-sleeve white tee with a gray vest and a Low Vision pin. I’m also sporting one of my favorite black asymmetrical wigs, the hair slightly covers my left eye. My makeup in this photo is mainly eyeliner and lip balm. A small section of my red couch is behind me as is a standing floor lamp.

For additional information:

 Visit Steph’s LinkedIn profile.

Read blog posts by Steph McCoy on the Visually Impaired: Now What? blog.

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Issue #14 | Sight Loss

Abby's Reflections #14 | Vision complete image description is in the body of the post.

Abigale’s Insights on Beauty & Sight Loss

“Since I lost my eyesight I now understand that vision is not always about seeing. Sight loss, while viewed by many as a detriment, is not the be-all and end-all of who we are.” 

Did you know Americans fear blindness more than heart disease? There’s been a number of surveys over the years on the general public’s view on sight loss. Here are a few snippets:

  • “We fear blindness as much as cancer”
  • “Having good vision is key to one’s overall sense of well-being,”
  • “A majority of Americans (47.4 percent) said loss of sight was the “worst possible” health problem someone could go through.”
  • “Americans fear blindness as much as they fear Alzheimer’s, cancer, and HIV/AIDS”

I don’t want to get into an in-depth discussion on the reasons why people fear blindness. However, as someone who’s lost the majority of my eyesight blindness is not how we envision it as sighted people.

  • First It is not black and white, seeing or not seeing; for many, it is not total darkness.
  • The majority of blind people have some functional vision i.e. light perception, shapes/shadows, lack of peripheral or central vision, cloudy, obstructed vision, etc.
  • The loss of sight impacts our way of life, however, there is help in the form of adjustment to blindness, accessibility, orientation & mobility (O&M) training.

Description: A gray, teal, and white template utilizing the ‘Abby’s Corner’ image of Abby sitting cross-legged in her PJs (gray bottoms & white top with a gray collar) with a teal Abby logo laptop on her lap. Sporting her signature explosive hairstyle, she is wearing a headset with microphone and her white cane is propped up next to her.



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How Losing My Sight Transformed My Vision

Real Beauty Transcends Barriers

A little something I found in my archives but never posted. ~Steph

  • Abby is directly above the slogan “Relax! It’s Only A Cane.”Prior to losing my sight, I used to think blindness was an all-consuming, suffocating darkness.
  • Prior to losing my sight, I used to think blindness meant using a white cane.
  • Prior to losing my sight, I used to think blindness was the worst thing that could happen to a person.
  • Prior to losing my sight, I used to think blindness would prevent me from working or participating in community service.
  • Prior to losing my sight, I used to think blindness meant life as I knew it would cease to exist.
  • Prior to losing my sight, I used to think blindness meant I couldn’t enjoy entertainment like books, tv or movies.  
  • Prior to losing my sight, I used to think blindness would change how I interact with friends and family.
  • Prior to losing my sight, I used to think blindness meant living a solitary life.
  • Prior to losing my sight, I used to think blindness meant I wouldn’t be able to cook, clean or care for myself.
  • Prior to losing my sight, I used to think blindness would mean the end of laughter, beauty, and the things that bring me joy.

All the things I thought I knew about blindness were wrong.

Selfie of me wearing a black off the shoulder top/choker with a long silver necklace.Since the loss of my sight, I’ve learned so much about myself, others, and life in general. For several years I’ve maintained that I am the same person today as I was when I began my journey into blindness but this really isn’t true.

I have changed because to remain the same means I’ve not grown. Life is bigger than me and you, life is bigger than blindness. If I could extend my arms from one end of the galaxy to the other I still would not be able to contain life.

Life is beautiful. With each new day, we have an opportunity to live our life to the best of our ability. Beauty is all around us and we can experience it in a myriad of ways.

Blindness is not the barrier; there is always a way. The barriers each of us have to overcome are our biases; we all have them. Sometimes we have to go through some stuff in order to come face to face with our own biases.

If I had to choose one thing blindness has taught me it would be I have a greater appreciation for life. Life doesn’t change but it can change us if we let it.