I remember the day and the time as if it were yesterday. It was a clear, sunny day. Life was good. I was twenty five. I had just started working at a downtown law firm and made good money.
It was a Saturday, around four thirty. We worked a half day on Saturday and hence I had some free time. I decided to go for a drive to Pearl Beach in my new car. The car was my latest toy. I asked fellow lawyer James “Would you like to join me for a drive?” He replied “No, I’ve got a date. See you Monday.” It was his fate.
I started the car and joined the ever-increasing weekend traffic. I was on Maple Road when an oncoming bus rammed into the car. (I was told later that the driver was drunk). I don’t know what happened next. All I knew is that I woke up forty eight hours later in a hospital room. My arms and legs hurt terribly and I had an awful migraine. My eyes were bandaged and I could see nothing. My whole body was wracked with pain.
I was in the hospital for three weeks. After three weeks, the eye bandages were finally removed. Then came the shattering news. The doctor said “I’m sorry, Chris. The accident damaged your optic nerves and the chances of you seeing again are almost nil.”
As this was the worst time of my life, I won’t go into too much detail. It just suffices to say that although I was terribly upset, there was a small part of me that knew I would have to adjust and be independent one day. Even without my sight.
The transition from being an independent sighted person to being an independent blind person is so insurmountable you would not understand it unless you experienced it yourself.
The first thing I did when I was well enough was to enrol into a school that would help me cope with the daily challenges of being blind. On the first day, we were all given white canes and were told that our first lesson would be mobility. Mobility for a blind person is more than just using a white cane. It involves keeping your sense of hearing, smell and touch so acute that you can gauge how far a car or person is. If you can gauge how far a car is, you can cross the road. We were told not to be afraid to ask for help.
The next lesson was an introduction to Braille. We were told from the next day onwards, there would be a lot of homework in Braille. It takes a lot of time and effort to master Braille. I am happy to say that today, after years of practice and frustration; I am an expert in Braille.
I also learnt to cook meals- one of the most difficult tasks when you’re blind. However, I had heard of a famous professional blind chef Laura Martinez (look her up in Google) who loved to try out different recipes and drew inspiration from her. She knows the difference between various spices from their smell. The trick is to be organized and label your ingredients in Braille. Also, I have an automatic stovetop and that helps me a great deal.
JAWS is the software that helps me to use the computer. This software enables the computer to read what is printed on the screen. This makes it very easy for me to ‘read’ emails and word documents. I am currently learning to use Excel with JAWS. It’s tough but I am sure that given time, I will master it.
Grocery Shopping nowadays is quite convenient as I just need to call the grocery store (I get the number right after trying five times). They deliver what I need. I have the delivery person read out the items to me and feel them to make sure they have been delivered. However, I need to take a sighted friend along when shopping for clothes.
Dining in a restaurant poses a number of challenges. I try to avoid the top-end restaurants for two reasons. Firstly, they are too expensive and secondly, I am afraid of inadvertently breaking their best cutlery. So, if I am not in the mood for cooking, I’ll just go down to McDonalads or KFC and get myself a meal. However, since I am a corporate lawyer, there are times when I need to meet clients for lunch or dinner at expensive restaurants. I choose to go to the same restaurant 99% of the time as I am familiar with the lay-out and the staff are aware of my special needs. The contents on the plate are described to me by Manny (my favourite waiter) using the positions of an analog clock. Thus, I might hear that "the chicken is from 5 to 8, the vegetables are from 9 to 12, and the salad is from 1 to 4." If something is in the center of the plate, it is described last. I always ask the waiter to tell me when he is refilling my glass.
There are so many other little things that require adjustment that it would be difficult to put them all down. However, I hope that by writing this story, you who are sighted will be able to understand a little better the world of the blind. I do not ask for sympathy and I am annoyed if people speak to me in a childlike voice or say something stupid like “I’m sorry you can’t see.” I just ask for your empathy and your assistance whenever I need it.
All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Ulrica Dias.
Published on e-Stories.org on 21.03.2012.