No, when I first lost my sight, I didn’t consider this surprise situation a blessing. Instead, I fell into a deep depression, which I escaped only 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 and independent again.
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.
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.
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.
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.
and 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, iPhone, iPad, iPod, MacBook, includes VoiceOver. No need to add any other screen reader. All your apple devices will talk to you with VoiceOver.
An extra bonus-Apple has Siri, a voice activated program that which uses voice commands to activate actions, i.e. search the internet, send email, make a phone call, create a note. Your fingers don’t have to type anything.
My blind world requires simplification and order to stay sane and I use my apple devices for writing, music, research, life business, blogging, and staying connected with family and friends.
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.
I’ve even been inspired to write and laugh about blindness-
Gee, I Haven’t Been Suicidal for Months
A Blind Man’s Path to Happiness, Which Mountain to Climb
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 email@example.com.
There is Hope! Never give up!
Good for you – on so many fronts. And I love your audio diet. Pulitzers are a purposeful addition to my own fare; I want to hone my craft.
Love and light,
Enjoying your writing and you are a distant connect for me. My independence is in question, and you remind me it is ok to reach out. Thank you, kind sir.
Thank you for reaching out to me, always a blessing when I connect with another like minded soul. Namaste’
I am glad I found this article tonight. I surely do understand this. I suddenly lost my sight 11 years ago. Like you and I am grateful for the help I received over the years to enable me to resume my life again and to continue my lifelong path of fine art and writing. The most difficult part for me, was to find that there ARE resources, services, and people to help me return to my passions in life again.
After thinking my life was over for the first 5 months after sight loss, I was able to get into a rehab. residency program in Pittsburgh, PA – and was there for 3 months of intensive training and rehab for personal adjustment to blindness. I left there knowing that I could do anything I wanted to do – again – I just had to learn how to do it in a new way. We are so blessed.
Thank you for sharing your journey. I wish you all the best!