About This Site
Since early 2002, I have been communicating with Dr. Ken Tittle, who founded Mariposa, a Christian ministry to train people with disabilities to work as peer counselors and to facilitate full inclusion in the church community. Mariposa's work was solely with people with mobility impairments until he contacted me and asked if I would be willing to participate and provide some information about blindness and my experiences as a person who is blind.
Dr. Tittle's questions about the impact of blindness are very deep and illustrate my reason for developing this site. Assessing a person's visual functioning is often not at all like assessing a person's muscle function. Many factors affect visual functioning. But the impact of blindness is also about much more than visual functioning. The physical impact of blindness can pose a number of challenges socially, and often people who are blind or visually impaired feel the impact of these problems more deeply than they feel the physical impact of their limitations.
I suspect that a comprehensive analysis of the impact of blindness would take volumes. I know that all of the 50 or 60 books I have read barely scratch the surface--and most leave out some very important elements. Visual impairment affects a person in many ways. It affects the way a person learns about, understands, and moves about in the environment (orientation and mobility); the way he accesses information and communicates his ideas; social relationships; accomplishment of daily tasks; perceptions of others about the blind person; and even the blind person's perceptions of himself. My work on this site is an attempt to dig a bit deeper than that surface that has been scratched. Of course, before digging deeper, we must also scratch the surface; and for that purpose I have also provided some basic information about blindness and common adaptations.
Dr. Tittle posed some questions about blindness to me in early 2004 which serve as an excellent illustration of the importance of discussing the various impacts of blindness. My response provides some very basic information and discussion about blindness and grief, including a discussion of the importance of grieving, situations that may cause people to grieve, and reasons why some people do not grieve openly.
One of the first encounters with blindness is most often the presentation of a diagnosis of an eye condition which causes visual impairment. Consequently, getting information about the condition and its treatment is often the first order of business. The eye care page serves as a starting point for people who want to learn about the eye and eye conditions. The page also includes links to articles about treatments and an article for eye care professionals about the importance of providing referral to appropriate sources of support and information after diagnosis.
Many eye conditions are diagnosed during infancy and childhood. The pages for parents of blind and visually impaired children provides information about coping with a new diagnosis, common issues facing blind and visually impaired children and their families, and links to additional sources of information and support.
Often doctors tell parents that their child will have enough vision that he/she will not need to learn braille. It is very sad to know that this still happens today. Braille is not an inferior method of reading; it is different. It can be quite helpful for people with low vision who struggle with long reading assignments or who need to present a discussion without hiding behind a book or piece of paper. Measurement of visual acuity in an eye doctor's office does not necessarily simulate a real reading assignment. For more information about braille, including links for teachers, please visit the braille literacy page.
When a person has a visual impairment, learning and retaining information about and moving braille can be difficult. There can be medicines which can help blind people be able to facilitate their attention and memory.
I am often asked how blind people use the computer. To learn more about technology for people who are visually impaired, including computer products and reading machines, please read the article, An Overview of Technology for People Who Are Visually Impaired.
Blindness and Spirituality
Many people approach me and tell me that my blindness makes me closer to God than the average person. As best as I can understand it, the premise behind this assumption is that I am not distracted by what I can see. Most of these people do not stay around long enough for me to explain my views on this topic. It is as if the statement is supposed to somehow serve as casual conversation or perhaps as some kind of compliment. As a form of casual conversation, it is awkward and inappropriate. As a compliment? Well, to be blunt but kind, I find it offensive. I still live within the limitations of my physical body and all of its needs. There are many aspects to material things, and I am as bound to them as the next person. I long for stability, for something that I can hold in my hand, just as others long for something which can be seen. For me, it is real if it can be touched. At times I have a very difficult time trusting that God is real.
Blindness and Academia
Academia within analytical chemistry is a personal choice which I have made to keep busy. Many people do not make this choice for themselves. There are many reasons for this which I fully intend to explore in this area of my professional life. Of course, the reasons for my own personal choice are much easier to explore, but exploring my struggles in maintaining a strong knowledge of novel compounds does help me to understand why others have difficulty in choosing to stay knowledgeable.
Music has become a primary outlet for the expression of my faith. If you'd like to know a bit more about my activities with writing music and my musical preferences, please visit my music page.
It is not uncommon for people to assume that I need or desire to be healed of my blindness. There was a period of time in my life when this was my desire. This period was not at the beginning of my life, and healing is much less important to me now. As I've stated above, I could live fairly happily in the state I am living in if society would allow it. For more musings about blindness and healing, please read my ebook, Past the Gray Curtain. I have also discussed the relationship of blindness and my faith in my article, Healing and Community.