book cover of The Way We See It

This story is excerpted from The Way We See It: A Fresh Look at Vision Loss (pictured at left), available at Vision Loss Resources.

My “Get Around the Vision Problem Plan” Foiled

As I approached the counter to place my order at the juice bar, that all-too-familiar feeling came over me. The menu board hovered above, taunting me like a carrot on a stick—almost within range of my vision, yet just out of focus. I could make out key words like “strawberry” and “banana,” but as far as figuring out the price and size for my smoothie, let alone the choices for an optional booster ingredient, I was left to my own devices.

“How much is a large smoothie?” I asked, thinking I could skate by without having to reveal my struggle with my compromised vision to the total stranger waiting for my order. “The price is right there, ma’am,” he said curtly, waving his hand toward the menu board, as if I was an alien or had just emerged from a cave. I felt my head, neck, and shoulders clench. My go-to “Get around the Vision Problem” plan had been foiled, and I heard myself saying, “I know, but you see I’m a little bit vision impaired.”

Living in a Sighted and Vision-Impaired World

My counselor at Vision Loss Resources has reminded me on more than one occasion that I live in both the sighted world and the vision-impaired world. Situations like struggling to read signage and overhead menu boards are an everyday occurrence for me. At work, I need to enlarge the font for material on my computer so I can read it more comfortably.

Even though my Kindle and my iPad help me to increase the size of the print for the books and newspapers I love to read, I still make sure I carry a small magnifier with me for when I need to double-check a receipt or the price of an item on a restaurant menu. When I am among other vision-impaired and blind people, however, I admit to having a mixed bag of feelings: guilt mixed with gratitude about my compromised vision.

Ophthalmologist Couldn’t Treat Anxiety

My ophthalmologist could diagnose the retina problem in my left eye and manage the glaucoma in my right eye, but he couldn’t treat the panic and anxiety attacks that happened after he said I would need surgery to remove a cataract in my right eye. Unfortunately, most doctors (ophthalmologists included) don’t have the toolkit to treat the emotional aspects of vision loss. All I could think of was losing my remaining usable vision, even though I was reassured that cataract surgery was a “slam dunk” and that eye doctors practically did them in their sleep.

Help Through Vision Loss Resources

Vision Loss Resources has helped me to reconcile and merge those feelings so that I can understand, accept, and embrace my unique vision story. Fortunately for me, I had heard of that building at the corner of Lyndale and Franklin in Minneapolis that has for almost one hundred years now been assisting blind and vision-impaired clients like myself on their own personal journey of vision loss and vision found.