By ONEder Intern, Nimisha Rana
At 19, I lost my eyesight. Before losing my sight, I would have found it impossible to imagine life with a disability. I had to adjust to countless, seemingly small things which had once been a routine part of day-to-day life: from dressing, to eating, to staying alert when surrounded by strangers. First and foremost, I needed to be conscious of safety, even at home. Avoiding bumping and dashing into both things and people required skill, proficiency, and patience.
Sensitivity on Both Sides
My blindness made me impatient. I also experienced feelings of anger and anxiety, due to a lack of control over my surroundings. Eventually, I came to accept that no magic wand existed that could change my circumstances. Family and friends wanted to help, but lacked the knowledge necessary for dealing with a blind person. When people at both ends are ignorant of each other’s needs and requirements, chaos ensues. I came to learn that disabilities of any kind require sensitivity on both sides.
Finding ways to adjust to my new life became a challenge, that I embraced. I felt like a baby eager to learn new things – I could learn some things on my own, but others needed to be taught. Once patience kicked in, acceptance of my situation was easier. When I say patience, I mean remaining calm, and understanding yourself from another’s perspective, as well as giving others a chance to understand you. I grew to a point where I no longer considered myself incapable.
Learning from Experience
Dedication, for me, is accepting yourself in every situation, and committing to whatever goal you set. When I accepted my blindness wholeheartedly, I started loving myself again. How many people get to live two different lives? I am glad that I have had the opportunity to experience both the sighted and non-sighted worlds, and can now see from both perspectives.
It took time for me to understand this new way of seeing life, but a commitment to jumping over a rock is necessary if you wish to reach the far side of the river. When it occurred to me that I needed to use a cane for the remainder of my life, I assumed my cane would become a barrier on the path to success. It is childish to try and anticipate the future before experiencing it. After my first year without sight, I re-evaluated my way of looking at life, and decided to take chances — chances that would push me towards independence. The biggest mistake made by people with disabilities is their choice to view themselves as a burden to others; they do not realize such thoughts only make them a burden to themselves.
Braille, and the Power of Education
When I learned Braille, I felt a door had opened, and the path forward had been cleared. The power of six dots was mind boggling. On my first day using Braille, I felt I would never be able to learn. However, my dedication to self-improvement would not let me quit. Amazingly, I found that I had learned Braille in as little as six weeks — contracted and uncontracted — which some can take a year to learn. This success inspired me to take on further challenges, like learning JAWS — Job Access With Speech — a computer screen reader program that enables blind and visually impaired individuals to operate computers. Once I had mastered JAWS, the sky was the limit!
The idea of admission into college was daunting, as the American system is so radically different from anything in my native India. I took a deep breath and took the plunge. Once in college, navigating campus was tough, but I preferred asking for help to getting lost, which some blind and visually impaired friends avoid doing. They feel asking signifies powerlessness. However, I believe that asking for help is a way to give others a chance to learn about my disability; a disability they may know nothing about.
Close your Eyes
As an experiment, close your eyes and walk through your house with a cane. Ah and … no bumping into barriers, or hitting yourself against the wall. While difficult, believe me, it is doable; it just takes patience and the will to succeed. The milestones I have attained are the result of strong resolution. However, my resolution isn’t unique; it is within everyone’s grasp! My journey also wouldn’t have been possible without the trust of others. I appreciate and thank all who played a major role in my achievements. Believe in your dreams!