In case you haven’t heard, October is “Meet the Blind” Month. Although I’m not crazy about the name, I like the idea. So, here goes!
My name is Mollie, and I am blind. Many people are not aware that blindness exists on a spectrum. This means that people who are blind can have some functional vision and still be considered blind. I fall into this category, which is often referred to as having low vision. I am able to see glimpses of shapes, movement, and shadows out of a very restricted visual field. There isn’t really a good way to describe what I do and do not see. I have not always been blind. My vision loss has been progressive due to retinal degeneration. Because my brain, at one time, received much more visual information than it now does, it tries to compensate for what it thinks I should be seeing. So, instead of seeing large areas of black, as one might think, I see sparkles, pinwheels of light, and flashes in a kaleidoscope of movement all of the time. It’s not something I really think about. It’s just there.
I don’t see color, but I remember colors vividly. My favorite color is blue. I love all shades of blue. If I had to choose, royal blue is at the top of my list.
Sometimes I am blind in my dreams and sometimes I have perfect vision. I very often dream about beautiful starlit night skies. I suppose this is something I miss, but it is never something I think about until I have one of these dreams. I also dream about driving. I was once able to drive. Usually, in my dreams, I am driving my first car, a 1992 Pontiac Firebird. Usually, I realize I’m blind and shouldn’t be driving and then it becomes a nightmare of trying to blindly stop the car without incident!
I love, love, love to read! I am not a proficient Braille reader, but I will be someday. I enjoy audio books. I miss holding and reading physical books, but if my vision was restored tomorrow, I would listen to audio books. The narrators add such a wonderful element to the reading experience. Also, how else can you enjoy a great book while folding laundry or washing dishes?
I love clothes, accessories, and makeup. I rely on family, friends, and great sales associates along with internet research to stay on point with fashion and assist with shopping. My eyeliner is tattooed, which is the greatest beauty hack of all time. Some of my favorite days are at the salon with stylists who are wonderful about styling tips and always welcome me, along with my guide dog, into their hair and nail chairs.
Did I forget to mention that I use a guide dog? I have a gorgeous German Shepherd, a Seeing Eye dog named Boomer. It is a common misconception that all dogs who guide the blind are Seeing Eye dogs. Only dogs who are trained at The Seeing Eye in Morristown, NJ can really be called Seeing Eye dogs. It is the oldest dog guide school in the world. The partnerships they make, such as the one I have with Boomer, empower people who are blind to live more independent lives.
I am able to send and receive text messages. This is something I get asked a lot. Technology is amazing! My smart phone has built in accessibility features that allow me to use my phone for the same purposes you use one. Don’t be surprised to see me using Google maps, scrolling through social media, or placing an order on Amazon with my phone.
Finally, don’t feel nervous when talking to me! You don’t have to avoid certain phrases like, “Nice to see you”. I use these phrases too! So much of our vernacular is visual, it would be ridiculous to expect people to remove every phrase, metaphor, or idiom that references vision, sight, or eyes from their language. I promise I “won’t bat an eye” if you feel like you have slipped and used visual language!
Do you have questions about my life as a person who is blind? Here’s your chance! Ask away in the comments, or on DRA’s Facebook and Twitter accounts (be sure to use the hashtag #askMollie).
Mollie Hernandez is an advocate with Disability Rights Arkansas. Email Mollie (and say hi to Boomer) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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