Here are some popular posts I’ve written on blindness:
A Tribute to Alex VoiceOver
Gee, I Haven’t Been Suicidal for Months
Blind, But Now I Hear
Blind Man’s Bluff
Why I Like Being Blind
Blind Man on a Bench
A Blind Writer’s Path to Happiness, Which Mountain to Climb
Life Is Like a Broken Egg
The Danger of Dreams
My Thoughts on Blindness
No, when I first lost my sight, I didn’t consider my new condition to be a blessing. Rather, I fell into a deep depression, which I only escaped with the aid of loving family and friends. I needed help and was quite fortunate to eventually connect with the resources that enabled me to become functional again and resume my writing path.
If I may offer some advice, should you find yourself suddenly without sight or visually impaired, ask for help. If you get suicidal, call a suicide hotline. Losing one’s sight is tragic and traumatic, and if you find yourself or someone you care for in this situation, quickly reach out for assistance.
Ironically, I could not have picked a better time to go blind. We are in the midst of the “Golden Age” of assistive technology. One month after I was introduced to computer screen readers, I was communicating with email, researching on the internet, and writing again. Given the dark times I’d ben through, this assistive technology transformation was a miracle.
In the United States, there are many wonderful programs assisting the blind and visually impaired. Here are a few that have helped me-
Blind Services, California Department of Social Services. This program provided evaluation and training, including how to use assistive computer technologies. I think most states have similar programs. They even paid for my new computer and sent a blind guy to my home to train me in how to use it.
Lions’ Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired. This program teaches basic skills required for blind and visually impaired persons to function in daily life.
Lighthouse for the Blind, San Francisco. This is another great resource that provides access and training for assistive technologies. Similar programs are offered in many other cities.
“Be My Eyes” is a mobile app that connects blind or visually impaired people with sighted volunteers through video calls. I’ve never used this app as I’ve developed my own local support system but it seems to be quite popular.
Here’s my plug for Apple.
A screen reader application provides a voice that reads what is on a computer or cell phone screen. Although Windows computers offer various screen reader applications, Apple provides VoiceOver, its screen reader application, as a basic part of its operating system. This is great because whatever Apple device I buy includes VoiceOver, no need to add any other screen reader. An extra bonus, is that Apple has Siri, a voice activated program that allows me, for instance, to create and send an email with voice commands. My fingers never have to type a thing.
No,VoiceOver is not a perfect system, but it works well most of the time. To their credit, Apple keeps improving VoiceOver and voice activated functionality. With VoiceOver you can pick language and even voice character types, from staid English Alex to almost sexy Swedish Sonya.
One more thing, something that has turned out to be a real blessing for the writer I’m working to be. The U.S. National Library Service has a program called B.A.R.D., which means Blind and Audio Reader Download. This is a fantastic and free new application for smart phones. With this app I can download thousands of audio books in the NLS system. This has become my secret writer’s sanctuary, a place I can go and listen to the great writing works. Currently, I’m listening my way through the Pulitzer Prize winning books of the last 100 years.
You need to first register with your state blind services agency to gain access to NLS and B.A.R.D.. Once you do, a whole new world is yours to explore.
Okay, by now you’ve realized that I found my way out of depression’s grip with a lot of help, and, yes, I’ve even found that blindness has been a blessing to me.
First, losing my sight has forced me to be more humble. I can’t get through a day without asking for help. For a guy who was extremely self-reliant, this was a difficult change to make. However, I now recognize that there is a time to love and a time to let love in.
Perhaps my biggest blessing from blindness is that I’ve been forced to learn how to listen, to be acutely aware of the sounds around me and the feelings behind the words I hear. It has been said that the first rule of love is to listen. Blindness has given me a new path to love bigger.
Again, if you or a someone close to you is dealing with the challenges of blindness or visual impairment, reach out for help. If I can be of any assistance, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is Hope! Never give up!