In the United States, 14 million people suffer from visual impairment. Visual impairment can be daunting for any individual. Individuals who are born blind have one type of difficulty because they have never experienced sight in the first place. For others, becoming blind over time can be extremely frightening because of the prospect of adapting to an entirely new way to live. The thought of becoming visually impaired can lead to isolation, loneliness, depression, and anxiety. There are ways and means to cope with this struggle. The following are some suggestions.
1. Learn as much as you can about your condition
Many believe knowledge is power. When first becoming visually impaired it might be easy to ask yourself “why?” or “how?”. Curiosity can feel overwhelming at times. Learn about the particular condition you have, how it affects you, and the anticipated rate of progression. Look into genetics to see how you may have gotten this condition or disease. Talk to doctors in the field to learn as much as you can. Learn about different treatments that may or may not be available. Learn if there are possible ways of slowing any progression. Learning every detail about your condition can make you feel more comfortable with your situation and help you take the first steps to move forward.
2. Find resources
Start looking for resources that can help you through this journey. Certain organizations can help you feel more comfortable as you navigate through society. When first losing your sight, simple pleasures (such as walking, watching movies, reading, writing, or even driving a car) could all seem more difficult to do. Nonprofit organizations (at no cost to you) can help you overcome everyday obstacles. Examples are Foundation Fighting Blindness, Lighthouse Guild, and Helen Keller services.
3. Talk to peers
Talking to others with a similar problem can make you feel less alone. It is important to connect with individuals who understand, who have gone through similar experiences, and who feel what you feel. If you attend support group meetings, you will meet many people who are faced with the same challenges as you are. Talking with peers can make you feel you are part of something. They can support you in your efforts to achieve your dreams and aspirations. You may meet a variety of people with many different careers who have been able to accomplish a lot of different things. You may learn of different hobbies or routines that work for different individuals. And, of course, you may make new friends!
4. Use technology
Technology can make everyday obstacles that much easier to overcome. When losing your eyesight, simple tasks such as reading, writing, daily chores, or even just watching a movie can be stressful. Thanks to today’s technology, we have audio devices, voice-over devices, reading devices, magnifying devices, and more that make all of these situations much more comfortable. There is technology for practically anything you would like to do today. It is a tool and support all in one.
5. Use devices
Navigating through today’s society with or without sight can be extremely stressful. After losing your sight navigating can be that much more difficult. Luckily, certain devices can make it more comfortable to get through life on a daily basis. Such devices would be canes, signals at a railroad crossing, audiobooks, pedestrian walkways, guide dogs, and many more. These devices can give you that sense of independence. You are able to navigate through society safely on your own. A fear that many people have when first becoming blind is always having to rely on someone else. These devices show you that this need not be true.
6. Find interests and hobbies
Everyone needs to have interests and hobbies. They make life enjoyable. When losing your sight you may believe you are unable to do many things but the fact is there are always things that you can do. Many of the hobbies you had you can still do, but possibly in a different way. There are activities like a variety of sports, dancing, cooking, and many others that you can still enjoy. You may just need to adapt the activity. Gardening, exercising, books, cards, chess, crafts, and playing an instrument can all be enjoyed by the visually impaired. Interests and hobbies can enhance the excitement you have in everyday life.
7. Search for inner peace and comfort
Today’s environment can cause stress and anxiety for anyone. But navigating through society with low vision or no vision can be even more stressful. Someone with visual impairments may experience fear of the unknown, be depressed, be anxious, or feel lonely. You need to find things that give you inner peace and comfort, such as listening to music, walking on the beach, meditating, getting a massage, and talking with friends, family, or a therapist. Most people experience a variety of life stresses. This is why it is so important to take care of yourself and be comfortable in your own skin.
8. Work through negative thoughts
For anyone with a visual impairment, negative feelings and emotions may occasionally be very difficult to deal with. It is important to release these emotions in any way that you can. Writing or recording your thoughts can be a great tool to use to express your emotions. Clear your mind and relax, then release your thoughts, either through writing or recording, for as long as you want, and stop when you’re satisfied. This “release” is for you, no one needs to be aware of what you’re thinking.
9. Organize your life
Being visually impaired, it becomes more difficult to find things, such as items in the kitchen, articles of clothing, or everyday items in your home. It is very important to stay organized, have a place for everything, and put them in the same place all the time. You want to know where you place items such as keys, important papers, tools, kitchen gadgets, and more. By knowing where all of these items are, you will find that your everyday routines have been made easier and more comfortable.
10. Go to work
For many, working can give a sense of fulfillment. If you are visually impaired and choose to work, look for a career that you will enjoy and be successful at, and that you’re capable of doing. Many jobs will accommodate the needs of a visually impaired person. The sooner you decide what road you wish to take the better it is for you. You’ll find that you can get the necessary training for virtually any job you realistically might be interested in.
It is not easy to live with a visual handicap. It is challenging. Life with a visual impairment can be a dark and lonely place. Thankfully, due to technology, research, support, and more you can see the world in a whole new light.
For further reading:
Chapman, B., Coping with Vision Loss: Maximizing What You can See and Do. Hunter House, 2001.
Rumelt, S., Causes and Coping with Visual Impairment and Blindness. IntechOpen, 2018
Fairbairn, H., When You Can’t Believe Your Eyes: Vision Loss and Personal Recovery. Charles C. Thomas Publisher, Ltd, 2019
Harmer, M., How To Go Blind And Not Lose Your Mind: Dealing with the Physical and Emotional Challenges of Sight Loss. Publication Consultants, 2005