10 Things I can’t Do That You Probably Could

I am visually impaired. I have vision loss. I am disabled… I think those are all the euphemisms I can think of to use in place of “I don’t see like everyone else.”

Now, I can go into a long explanation of why I don’t see well, but let’s save that for a rainy day. And if you are thinking, “Leen, why don’t you just wear glasses,’ I will have to save the answer to that for another time. But for now, I don’t think the “why” is what matters. All that really matters are the facts on the ground. I wanted to give you all a little insight (pun very much intended) into my daily struggles.

So, here it goes. 10 things that you probably do everyday, that I can’t.

PREFACE: This isn’t designed to make you feel bad or guilty. And I am super thankful for the blessings that I do have everyday that outweigh all the trivial stuff you are about to read.

Here we go.

1) Eating at a Fast Food Restaurant I’ve Never Been to Before
“Uhm, excuse me…uhm do you have a handheld menu by any chance?” If I had a
dime for every time I had to ask that question, I’d be able to afford eating
somewhere way better than a fast food restaurant… So if it’s McDonald’s or subway
then it’s all good, but going to a fast food place I’ve never been to before can
be a challenge. The menu on the wall behind the counter is too far away to read,
and most “associates” working the register get fed up with all the menu questions.
I tend to get a lot of exasperated looks from these people and a response like,
“ma’am, it’s all up there behind me,” and I have to say, “I’m sorry I don’t see very well.”  I almost always end up with some kind of chicken sandwich.

2) Using a Laptop on My Actual Lap
Aaah the laptop. Man’s modern-day invention. Making the world of email, word processing and social media a whole lot more accessible… Yeah not for me. Although I use laptops on a daily basis, I can’t put it on my lap while resting my back against my headboard all comfy in my bed. Usually that type of “comfort” requires several pillows on my lap and a whole lot of neck craning.

3) Watching A Movie With Subtitles
The world seems obsessed with Bollywood movies. Sadly, this is not a joy I can partake in. Subtitles are a no-no for me. Unless I want to stay glued 2 inches from the screen the whole time, it’s just not happening. This goes for ALL foreign films. It’s pretty disappointing to because watching foreign films is the one thing missing from my hipster repertoire.

4) Placing My TV Anywhere I want
You move into a place, you look around the living room and think, “I’ll put the TV over there.” Oh the freedom you must have when arranging your living room, knowing that you will be able to see the TV no matter where you put it. Knowing you can come home from work, lay down on the couch and watch your DVRed programming all the way across the room. In my world, the TV MUST be close enough to a couch where I can sit AND watch TV at the same time. Most of the time this is impossible, and I have to end up sitting on the floor in front of the TV. And laying down on the couch and watching TV??? Forget it; that’s just a pipe dream.

5) Crossing a Busy Street on a Sunny Day
I do this all the time, but usually when I do, I am relying on my other senses and common sense. A part of my vision impairment involves high sensitivity to bright sunlight or fluorescent lights. Sometimes a stoplight can turn red or green, and I just have no idea. Thank God I haven’t been hit by a car or anything. And luckily my other senses are pretty sharp, so there you go.

6) Following a Power Point Presentation
Don’t get me started on my college career. If it wasn’t Power Point, then it was that damn overhead projector. Lucky for me I am a beast at dictation, listening and note taking (wow I could be a Girl Friday).

7) Getting Picked Up By A Strange Car
Man does this cause a hell of a lot of anxiety. At times, friends or family pick me up from places driving a car I’ve never seen before or I am not too familiar with. I can’t see the person driving the car, so I rely heavily on recognizing the car. Well this goes out the window if I don’t already KNOW the car. I usually need a lot of description of where the car is parked.

Me: Is that you? Driving up now?… Wait, that’s NOT YOU? Oh crap, ok. … You’re next to that white van? Oh ok….. Oh not that van? oops….. Oh oh okay I see you now.

It all works out fine in the end.

8) Picking Out Clothes and Knowing What Color They Are
For all intents and purposes, I am color blind. I see shades of colors but not tones. Therefore, when buying clothes, I am at a loss when it comes to the colors. You probably don’t realize this, but A LOT of stores have the colors written on the tags. This is very useful to me, especially because I prefer to wear certain colors (hey just because I can’t see them all, doesn’t mean I can’t favor a few over others). Sometimes I take a shirt home and find out it’s neon yellow. I usually return those (but that rarely happens). I’d like to make it clear that I do put all my own outfits together, and think I have a pretty good sense of fashion. You’d be amazed at what you can do even when you are color blind.

9) Playing Laser Tag
Ok so I am assuming this isn’t an everyday occurrence for you. You probably haven’t played laser tag since like the 8th grade, but I’ve never played it EVER. If I can’t see colors on a piece of fabric, forget about seeing different colored lights in the dark that I am supposed to zap with my laser gun (that’s how you play, right?)
When I was in the 9th grade, we took a field trip to a laser tag place. I hung out at the restaurant, playing Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know” on the juke box over and over again, and eating fries.

10) Sitting Anywhere in the Movie Theatre
So I guess this is sorta similar to putting the TV anywhere I want in my living room. But having this challenge in the theatre takes it to a whole new level. I Just paid like 15 bucks to watch the second Hunger Games movie, I sure as hell better
be able to see the freaking movie. And going with people who “have to sit in the back row” is a special kind of personal hell for me. I do have to say though that my friends are pretty chill about where we sit, and I try my best to accommodate then as they try to accommodate me. We usually end up seated in the middle of the theatre. That works.

~~Leen J.

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