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She Gets Around

Written by ECNV Consumer, Heather McDaniel
Running has been an experience for me dating back to when I was young. I have been running since I was 11 years of age, and out of curiosity, it has turned into strength.  Living with blindness has presented challenges, but it has given me the greatest gift of all, self-confidence. It seems that every day, comes another test, however, if I passed these tests, it gives the satisfaction of victory.
I have witnessed people taking things for granted, and that has taught me to be more thankful in life, and it has given me a new outlook as well. I noticed when I lost my eyesight that I started to be more thankful of things like my overall health. Athleticism and physicality is of even greater importance to me. Memories, mental faculty, and the ability to perform arithmetic in my mind are values that I hold dear. The thing about life is that all of those things can be taken from an individual in less than a heartbeat. All of those traits became even more special to me as I tell my story to you.
Physical fitness and being passionate about health are important to me because I have to do things differently due to my disability. I have adapted my life to be as independent of an individual as possible. I do a lot of walking to get around – as driving my own vehicle is not accessible and would be dangerous to attempt otherwise. I also use public transportation to get to stores, restaurants, businesses, my local fitness facility, medical appointments, and to see friends and family.

I have had to be more independent with blindness and I also needed to change the way I interact with certain situations in my life. For example, I require individuals to be within close proximity to me and to greet me with their name. I have to use different bus routes, walk different paths, and think more about safety. I have had to learn to be friends with my disability. This is part of my life, a physiological characteristic, and had to live with it since 32 years of age.

I write this article to you because I feel as though my story deserves to be told. The idea of blindness is one of the most feared disabilities that causes much anxiety to the general public. Blindness is often synonymous with uncertainty – and because of that uncertainty, people in the public have asked me inappropriate questions like, “What is wrong with your eyes?” To contrast that question, the best introduction to greet and start a conversation with me would be to simply say, “hello”. When you meet a person with blindness, please look at them as an individual. Ask me about my bracelet, ask me about my shoes, or just say anything that does not focus on my disability. Do not speak to them as if you were speaking to a child, do not be condescending, and don't “warn” others about the individual's blindness. Speak to me like you would speak to everyone else. Give us the same respect that you would with any other person.

Please pardon my tone, as I am very passionate about this subject. I do not want pity for certain reasons. Being disabled does not mean I am lesser than others. Pity makes me feel inferior – it diminishes the ability to think about a future that I can make for myself. Blindness does not make me a stupid person, it just means I do things that are different from others. People with blindness have the same differences in opinion as with anyone else. Once you get to know us, you will either like us, or dislike us. Everyone is different. We don't all walk with guide dogs, use walking sticks, or read braille. You would be surprised to know that not every blind individual would know how to use that skill.
One important thing that I learned through this experience would be that an individual must learn to laugh at oneself. Sometimes getting lost in the most unusual places would often help me find my way along or carve a new path. Every new experience is a new adventure, and that is my wish for all of you – to embrace new opportunities and turn them into adventures. Find positivity and encouragement in the littlest things and celebrate your victories, no matter what others may think of you. If you ever feel like you have lost something due to blindness– you can most certainly find wonderful things about yourself along the way.