Changing perceptions begins with building awareness and promoting respect for people with disabilities. While our major topics revolve around accessibility and inclusion achieving the goal of changing the way we perceive one another will be accomplished by sharing our stories, living our lives, and having a mutual respect for one another.
“Everybody, including people with disabilities, makes assumptions. Problems arise when we are not open to learning our assumption was wrong.” ~Libby Thaw, www.checkeredeye.com
My beautiful friend and dedicated advocate, Libby Thaw, has taken her awareness effort to yet another level with a tattoo. Demystifying and embracing our disabilities drives out feelings of shame and we emerge victoriously!
Image: A close-up photo of Libby waving to the camera with her right hand and wearing a black sleeveless top to display her newest tattoo. Her eye chart tattoo is on her left shoulder. The letters of the eye chart spell out S.T.A.R.G.A.R.D.T.S.E.Y.E.S.
The features I have because of albinism: my porcelain skin, my white hair, and the unique blue-grey of my eyes, these features are rare, they are beautiful, and they are MINE.
Recently I had the pleasure of featuring Nicole Schultz-Kass as a Woman on the Move in Beauty Is An Alabaster Princess. Nicole’s piece spoke to me because she is so eloquent and transparent in talking about the insecurities she had as a young woman. Once she fully embraced the very things that made her stand out she became confident through self acceptance and today she is one outstanding lady.
If you read my recent post, Dialing Down Stimulation Can Increase Contentment, you know that I’ve begun a serious purging process in almost all areas of my life. Kerry, a friend and fellow blogger of Postcards From Kerry, made a comment that has become my mantra—”Something goes in, something goes out.” I thought I had a pretty good handle on things until Tuesday.
I was in the zone sitting at my computer when all of the sudden I nearly jumped out of my chair at the unexpected sound of a very loud knock. Mollie starts barking wildly while my mind immediately gravitates to “it must be a serial killer” I mean who else would knock like this?
Fear makes me look at the live video feed to see who, or what is at the door. To my immense relief it’s a small package. Still a bit wary, because I haven’t ordered anything, I peek out the door then quickly grab the delivery.
Safely back inside, I open the FedEx package and pull out a gift from BlindNewWorld, a blind awareness social change campaign, sponsored by Perkins School for the Blind. Changing the way we look at blindness is the central message behind the campaign.
As delighted as I was to receive my new workout tank, I now had a dilemma. Getting my camis/tanks and tees down to one drawer was huge but my mantra dictates I must get rid of something. It really wasn’t very painful at all because I spied a tank that should have been included in my original throw away pile-YAY!
My new white tank top has the words “new” in braille, “change the way you see,” and “#BlindNewWorld” enclosed in a circle on the front. The tank is soft, lightweight, and comfortable enough to layer over another tank which I’ve done in the photos.
When I connected with BlindNewWorld on Twitter, I was thrilled to learn of their campaign because it seeks to break down societal barriers which exclude people who are blind. Through the sharing of real life stories, compelling videos, and engaging content, BlindNewWorld challenges outdated thinking and stereotypes on blindness while promoting inclusion.
Any significant loss in life can be painful and force us to go through a necessary transformation as we learn to adapt to our new circumstances but it can be done. When I began losing my eyesight the one feeling that stood out the most, aside from fear, was shame.
Shame was the reason I decided to describe myself as “blind” versus “visually impaired” because it was important for me to accept the word. Once I did this I was able to get a grip on my fear and move forward. “As part of its mission to demystify blindness, BlindNewWorld seeks to de-stigmatize and reclaim the word “blind,” so that a person who is blind can describe themselves as such freely and proudly.”
When People Say ‘You Don’t Look Like You’re Blind’
Whenever I am out & about since I still possess a residual amount of sight, I can sense people staring. But I just keep moving onward past the expectations of others and how they ‘think’ blindness should appear.
Bold Blind Beauty
Featured Article on The Mighty
Recently I became a contributor to The Mighty an online community of people who share their stories of serious health conditions, disability, disease, and mental illness. The article below is my latest entry on what caused my sight loss and life after the “there’s no more we can do for you” conversation.
It was a little over 48 years ago when I put on my first pair of eyeglasses, and the feeling of seeing clearly for the first time was indescribable. The transition was like leaving a dark movie theater and stepping outdoors on a bright sunny day. My eyes needed time to adjust to everything suddenly appearing clear and focused.
For 36 years, I enjoyed perfect vision provided I wore corrective lenses. That all changed 11 years ago with two words: macular hole. It began when I removed one of my contact lenses, and I looked in the mirror to see half of my face missing.
While I had never heard of a macular hole before, I learned the macula provides the sharp, central vision needed for reading, driving and seeing fine detail. A macular hole is a small break in the macula, which located in the retina, is the center of the eye’s light-sensitive tissue.
Though all the statistics pointed to a favorable prognosis, it didn’t work out that way for metounfortunately. I’m reduced to counting fingers, since I can no longer see the eye chart. Developing macular holes in both eyes has destroyed my central vision.
I’ll never forget the devastating news. “Ms. McCoy,” the doctor said, “I’m so sorry to tell you there is nothing more we can do for you.” Those simple words confirmed my worst fears — I was now legally blind.
The doctor told me I lived with high myopia (extreme nearsightedness) all my life. He went on to say that even though I did all the “right things,” due to the high myopia, macular holes, surgeries and glaucoma, my vision loss was irreparable.
Appearances Can Be Deceiving
Prior to losing my sight, I used to think that when a person used a white cane, it meant they were totally blind (no light perception). I was wrong. The range of sight loss is enormous and differs greatly from one person to the next. There really is an immense gray area.
To give you an idea of my sight loss, imagine yourself in a dense fog with visibility being only a couple of inches in front of your face. Your equilibrium is off and your steps unsure. You feel claustrophobic, as the fog is so heavy. Stumble, fall, repeat. It’s unending, and you wish it would just go away. You wake with it, you go to sleep with it and in between waking and sleeping you have to come to terms with the fog.
Once you acknowledge the fog is not going to dissipate, you find a way to navigate through it by learning new techniques. With time and patience, you gradually adapt until you become adept at working within the fog.
To the outside world you “look” as if all is well and you can clearly see. And since you use a white cane to safely navigate the world, many times people will say to you, “But you don’t look like you’re blind.
Bold Blind Beauty
People don’t understand how I can dress stylishly or put on my makeup. The expectation that all blind people have to appear or behave a certain way is a huge misconception. Quite simply, the people we were prior to the loss of our vision, and the things that brought us joy, are still intrinsic to who we are today.
Handling the Stigma on Sight Loss
What I’ve found since losing my sight is there are so many stylish women who are blind or have sight loss that I felt it was time for a fashionable icon to represent them. Abigail, the white cane icon and mascot on my blog Bold Blind Beauty, is a beautiful image that evokes power, independence, chicness, confidence and success — a woman on the move stepping forward with purpose.
Once, an eye doctor told me that it would be a tragedy for me to learn how to use the white cane when, in fact, I believe the real tragedy is the shame many people feel when losing their eyesight. Having a visual image that evokes beauty, confidence and purpose is one way to change the stigma surrounding blindness.