VIP Tag

When I first heard of the VIP (Visually Impaired People) tag, I thought it would be us blindies chitchatting about fun perks like those fancy passes we get in amusement parks that allow you to skip all the lines. You know, VIP treatment! But no, the VIP tag is a list of ten well-chosen questions that began circulating a few years back among other blind bloggers and YouTubers. They’re designed to give a brief intro into a blindy’s vision and the unique thoughts and feelings that blindy has about being blind.

I was tagged by the amazing SirenaRayleeta. If you haven’t checked out her blog and YouTube channel yet, you’re missing out and you totally should get on that!

VIP Tag Questions

  1. What medical condition caused you to be blind or visually impaired?

Uh oh, a doozy of a question straight out of the gate. Most people can say they have one of the many conditions that cause blindness, Retinitis Pigmentosa, Leber Congenital Amaurosis, retinoblastoma etc., but I can’t. My condition is so rare that there is no name for it. It popped up due to a random mutation in my mother’s genes that turned out to be hereditary. It’s caused by a lack of pigment on the back of my retina, and there is no cure. Other than this limited information, the doctors know very little about why I can’t see. Before my mother, there was no history of blindness on either side of her family. So thank her random mutation for these posts. 😛

  1. In 3 words, describe your vision.

Helpful, unreliable, and poignant.

I have light perception (which means I can see the difference between things like the sun and the shade) and shadow perception (which means I can see shadows of objects like walls, cars, and trees.) From a sighted perspective, I have to be pretty close to these things in order to see the shadow properly, like within five feet for most things except for large walls or buildings. This is still helpful though, and you’d be surprised how much blurry shadows and light differences can tell you about your surroundings.

My vision is poignant because I literally don’t know what I’ll see tomorrow. it is deteriorating and no one knows why. When I was five, I could ride a bike around the neighborhood by myself because my shadow perception was much better, and I could see where cars and people were. I could also see the color contrast between the road and the grass and could keep myself straight by monitoring that. When I was thirteen, I could see a few colors, I had taught myself how to tell the difference between relatively similar light colors like white, pink, and yellow. I had a conversation with a friend the other day where we realized I could still remember and describe these colors accurately. I’m not gonna lie, that was pretty cool. The most startling deterioration is my failing light perception. At seventeen I could see my iPhone screen across the room if the room was dark, now I see a faint glow when I hold my phone inches from my face. Because of how little is known about my family’s blindness, nobody knows why my vision has deteriorated so dramatically in recent years. None of my blind family members’ vision has. My theory is that I inherited my mom’s blindness and my dad’s majorly corrected vision (he and two of my sighted siblings wear contacts or glasses.) My vision is poignant because in ten years, I might not be able to see light at all, so I’m trying to appreciate it while I still can. I love sunny days! Just sayin’.

My vision is unreliable because my brain is determined to see. Seriously you guys, my brain pretends it knows what I’m seeing and half the time just guesses what’s supposed to be there. I work at Dark Table, a blind dining experience here in Vancouver where we serve dinner in a pitch black restaurant. But my mind forgets it’s supposed to be dark, and so I see Dark Table like the lights are on half the time. Let me give you another example. Say someone, unbeknownst to me, moves my table into the middle of my kitchen. Why? Because they’re evil. I get home, and what do I see? A blank expanse of tile, because that is what is supposed to be there. I wouldn’t see the table until I walked into it. Then it pops into view and my brain grins sheepishly. “Just kidding. It has been here all along.” I don’t see the table until I know it is there.

*Sorry that question took so long to answer, I will do better on the others, I promise!

  1. What is the hardest thing to do being blind or visually impaired?

GOING NEW PLACES ALONE! There are a select handful of blindies who have no problem with this, but the majority of us with little to no vision practice routes before attempting them without sighted assistance. Personally, I am not comfortable crossing streets and the like without knowing exactly where I’m going and how to get there. I am responsible for my guide dog as well, and she doesn’t like that much uncertainty either. She relies on me to give her directions, and without those directions, she is as lost as I am. So yeah, I love going to, and learning the routes to, new places, but it’s annoying not being able to be spontaneous and say, wake up in the morning and stroll to the new coffee shop just a few streets over. And like I say, some blind peeps can do that. They have the confidence to ask for directions, do brand new traffic checks, and Google map it out. I say kudos to them, but I’d rather learn the route in a few days. So yeah, it’s a personal choice to some slight extent, but going new places alone as a blind girl is a giant safety pain in the butt.

  1. What is the best part about being blind or visually impaired?

Hands down, 100%, always and forever, the bundle of fluffy, tail wagging joy that comes with me everywhere I go! If you read my very first blog post, you’ll know that my guide dog is the reason I survived high school. She is also the catalyst behind half my friendships, the most popular student in all my classes, and the four-legged love of my life. And I get to hang with her 24/7. Now tell me you aren’t jealous.

  1. What question do you get asked most about or because of your vision?

For some reason, everyone likes to ask me how I went blind. And somehow, a lot of people think it’s okay to ask this within the first thirty seconds of meeting me. I don’t mind telling them, it’s not like I have a painful story to share, but what if the next blind person they meet does? I can say I was born blind and leave it at that, but what about the people who have had an accident, or slowly had their vision fade away, or don’t appreciate their blindness being the first and only thing people seem to see? Like I say, I’m a really open person and this question doesn’t phase or offend me, even thirty seconds into a first conversation with someone, but seriously people, check yourselves before asking these things. You just met a total stranger and you are blurting what may very well be an extremely personal or painful question. Consider not asking it or at least having a bit more tact.

  1. Do you have a cane, a guide dog, or neither?

A guide dog named Susie. She’s crazy smart, crazy cute, and just plain crazy.

  1. What is one piece of advice you would give to someone who is losing, going to lose, or has lost their vision?

“This is going to suck. It’s the honest truth. Nobody finds out they’re going blind and throws a party. Let yourself be sad. Let yourself get angry. It’s not fair that this happened to you, and you have every right to feel this way. But underneath all that angst, know that it will get better. You have it in you to handle vision loss, and your friends and family have it in them to help you. No one knows who will choose to help you, but know that you will always be able to help yourself. Surround yourself with the right people who care about you, and know that they believe in you. And always believe in you, too. Things will be dark for a while, but there will be a dawn, whether or not you see it now…or then. :P”

  1. What is one piece of advice you would give to a sighted person about interacting with a person who is blind or visually impaired?

Treat them like everyone else. That’s all anyone who is different wants, to be included, to belong. Sure, accommodations will need to be made in some cases, but in general, interact with them like you would anyone else.

  1. Why did you join YouTube/Wordpress?

I joined WordPress to help people understand blindness and to create a safe space where people can share their questions, concerns, or stories about being different or knowing someone who is different. My dream is to create an inclusive community where everyone, blind or sighted, feels heard.

I am actually considering starting a YouTube channel for the same reasons I began this blog. Any thoughts on this would be much appreciated. I just have to figure out things like how to actually, you know, look at the camera, and how to edit my videos without accidentally, like, becoming a floating head.

  1. Name 3 people to do this tag next.

Sorry, the only other blind blogger/YouTuber I know tagged me for this, so you’re out of luck. 😛

Be kind, and be aware.

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