There is a famous proverb I learned in drama class many years ago and thought it apropos for this article. “Do not judge a man until you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins.” I offer up this advice, with a tinge of humor, for family, friends, colleagues and caregivers. Having contracted macular degeneration more than 50 years ago, I feel well qualified to share my insights.
Grandkids, or maybe even spouses, leave shoes, toys, and other obstacles in the middle of the living room floor. They know you have a visual impairment, but it’s their house too, and this is normal behavior. There are other usual and obvious hazards created by loved ones all the time, unintentionally. Cabinet doors, closet doors, and drawers left open are undetectable by my eyes until it’s too late, and a collision is the end game. The Bible tells us, not to place stumbling blocks in the path of the blind. Although this may be a metaphor for life’s travails, for me it’s a truism.
The pointing finger really gets my goat. I walk into a retail store wearing the standard blindness indicators, dark glasses and white cane. I ask a sales associate for help locating an item. The answer comes back, “It’s over there,” and I see, peripherally, the finger is pointing in a general direction. To avoid repeating this experience, I learned it’s best to immediately go to the register and state directly, “Can you help me find something? I’m blind.” This pronouncement is necessary because in many stores the training is not inclusive of the accouterments of vision loss, or how to accommodate customers who are visually impaired.
My lovely wife is always exhorting me to use the motorized cart when we shop, because I have difficulty walking. I constantly tell her, “Honey, I’m blind in my left eye, leaving me with no depth perception, and I’m afraid I’ll hit somebody.”
Neighbors, not accustomed to living with a person who has low vision, can be unaware of the pitfalls. Serving me water in a clear glass is a risky move, placing the glass on a mirrored coffee table top, totally treacherous.
Sometimes, even the youngest child can surprise you. It happened on a trip to the zoo with our 5 year old great-granddaughter. We were enjoying ice cream cones and getting a little messy. My wife asked where the ladies room was and I pointed to the restrooms behind her. My little one exclaimed, “Grandpa, you can see that?” I told her that I knew where it was because I had used the facilities before, but was charmed at her cognition of my condition.
And a child shall lead the way.