Most often a loss of eyesight develops slowly, giving a person time to make adjustments in their daily life habits. Using magnifiers (stronger eye glasses or magnifying glasses) to read, and sitting closer to the television set and computer screen, are examples.
In my case, complete loss of eyesight due to a detached retina (in my one good eye) came within a few hours.
One afternoon I was able to drive my car to a vacation resort near Santa Fe, New Mexico, about 75 miles from my home base. The next morning I couldn’t even see the car.
I had no idea how to function as a blind person. Further, I had not the faintest idea what help might be available for people who lose their vision, or where to start looking, or who to contact.
I started from scratch.
For several weeks after my eyesight failed, I remained in the hospital for retina surgeries. At least there I had 24 hours a day nursing care.
When I needed a restroom break, a staff member had to get me to the restroom door.
When I was served a meal, a staff member had to tell me what was on the plate, and exactly where on the plate.
When I needed to make a telephone call to family or friends, a staff member had to dial the number.
It was humiliating to have to rely on someone else to do the most basic things; things that I had always taken for granted I could do for myself.
A small turn around in my circumstances started when a friend took me to a state commission for the blind, and they assigned me a trainer to teach me some basic blind skills. The first lesson was teaching me how to pour a cup of coffee. While only a baby step, it was my first step. It taught me that for the blind, there are many things that can be done, provided a person is willing to do them in a different way from how they were used to doing them. They call these different ways “alternative techniques.”
Since I was having trouble squeezing tooth paste onto my tooth brush, I changed the way I did that. My alternative technique was to squeeze the tooth paste directly into my mouth, and then use the tooth brush. Simple but effective.
In that early period just after my sight was lost, I also tried to enroll in a course on Braille. Unfortunately, at that time, the program was full in the location I was staying.
My next big break in training came several months later when I returned to Albuquerque and made contact with the local chapter of the National Federation of the Blind (nfb.org). I attended meetings with people who were legally blind, (as was I) and who would provide me with personal encouragement and advice about what training they had received, and where I could find it.
My own personal training began in earnest at that time, and has continued to this date.
In my next blog I will talk about one of the most important areas in training for the blind, which involves mobility. How do you get from one place to another; from home base to your job, to your school, to the grocery store, to the doctor’s or dentist’s office, or to meet a friend for lunch.
How I have gotten from one place to another, not only within Albuquerque but to other states, and to other countries, will be described when Blog 04 appears — so cheers. Art Schreiber.
– Art Schreiber
Some of my experiences and recommendations are contained in my recently published and award winning book, Out of Sight, Blind and Doing All Right, by Art Schreiber, as told to Hal Simmons.