Thanks, I guess!
One of the most common misconceptions about blind people is that they all see darkness. The reality is that one in ten blind people sees darkness while the other nine have vision that ranges on a spectrum of varying degrees of peripheral / central vision, neurological and degenerative disorders and more. I’ve been told by my specialist that my corrected vision with congenital nystagmus and myopia is 10% of normative vision; but that figure doesn’t mean anything to me because I’ve never known normative vision for comparison’s sake.
When it comes to recognizing people, places and things, I rely heavily upon size, height, shapes, colours, lines, motion in space, gait and other descriptive identifiers. Because I’m not very good at facial recognition from distances greater than maybe 5 feet, all of the people I know are pretty much logged in my memory according to these descriptors. But if you were to suddenly change your hairstyle or grow a beard, be prepared for me not recognizing who you are. My former roommate had a bearded friend who would come over to the house from time to time. One day, this friend showed up at the door clean shaven. I answered with “Hi, can I help you?” The one thing I relied upon for recognizing him was gone. Most blind people would be able to resolve this problem by resorting to their sense of hearing; but I can’t always rely on my hearing because I’m also deaf in one ear.
Navigating spaces is typically a practice in geometry and memory. Colours, shapes, textures, lights, they’re all things I use to locate myself in space. One thing I love about where I train right now is that its equipment is brightly coloured, including the plates. With that, I’m able to locate things even from far away. But god help you, if you move something in the gym without telling me, I may be overly upset about it because you’ve disrupted my routine, the cartography of my memory, and my day! Haha!
I function on enlarged print. Adaptive technologies have developed well over the years, making things more accessible for the blind. I fell in love with Apple because of its screen magnifier. It makes computer use more seamless and intuitive than any other adaptive technology I’ve used. There are some other technologies that I own but tend not to use, mostly because it’s been ingrained in me from birth that it’s important to see or at least pretend that I can in order to avoid being an inconvenience or perceived as weak. “Outing” myself by being seen using adaptive technology is something I’ve anxiously avoided my whole life. It’s taken a toll on my mental health but I’ve come to learn recently that my experience mirrors that of nearly every visually impaired person. Learning to accept my limitations is a process that really only just began for me.
My parents never had me learn braille which can be attributed to the fact that in the 80s most people didn’t know what to do with someone who fell within the spectrum of visually impaired. They probably didn’t want to have me associated with disability via braille because I did have some vision (albeit extremely low) and a sharp enough mind at an early age to take inventory of descriptive identifiers in my surroundings and “pass” as sighted. Not learning braille is something I regret because I would have been able to read many times faster than with print without eyestrain. Very few people successfully learn to read braille as adults because an adult’s sense of touch is not as electrically sensitive as a child’s.
A lot of people operate under the misconception that blindness is complete darkness. Since I do not see darkness, I’m forced to conform to the sighted world. My ability to “pass” with acquired mobility skills has resulted in me being put in some difficult situations of not being taken seriously for my needs or being accused of pretending to be visually impaired (dumb, I know). The white ID cane helps a lot in situations like that. Before associating me with blindness, most people who know me would instead describe me as “a little clumsy,” “aloof,” “eccentric” and “meditatively focused” when the situation is, “no I didn’t see you waving at me from 10 feet away that other night at the bar.”
Ok. Life story over. I hope that in some roundabout way, I’ve answered your question.