WBU-AP(Senior group) Fine Work
The Challenges Of Living With Blindness
Yufeng Zhang (31, Male)
Being blind is very challenging; nevertheless, the life of a blind person can still be wonderful. I myself have a rare degenerative eye condition called Bietti Crystalline Dystrophy and I became legally blind in early 2013. However, it took six years after diagnosis for me to be assessed as being legally blind.
In spite of my blindness, I always think of myself as being a lucky person and that I have been blessed with the support from everyone around me. I am able to work full-time, study for my Master's Degree on a part-time basis, and participate in many activities such as shopping, sports and games, and travelling.
In 2011, my vision quickly degenerated from 6/12 to hand movement only. Every week I noticed my vision dropping in comparison with the previous week. Prior to this, I was a normal person who drove cars, played video games, read books, operated electronic devices and instruments, and manufactured electronic tools.
This dramatic change in my vision made me very depressed. I started worrying about my future life, my work and my family. I knew that the inevitable moment would come but I did not expect it to happen so quickly.
Hiding my blindness was uppermost in my mind. I tried to continue driving to work but I found it to be very stressful mentally and physically. I soon realised that the responsible thing for me to do was to stop driving. So the bus became my main transport to work and back home, which took me three times longer to travel. It was quite common for me to get on to the wrong bus or get off at the wrong bus-stop.
One morning, I was waiting for Bus 560 when a bus stopped right in front of me. I looked at the number display for a while and then decided to get on to the bus as the number looked like 560to me. (Actually, it was 361). Fifteen minutes later, I realised that the bus was on the wrong route. I waited and waited until the bus finally got to its destination.
I had no idea where I was and, therefore, had no alternative but to ask the driver for assistance. He kindly took me to the nearest train station and put me on the train to my work-place. It had taken twice as long for me to get to work. I was facing all these problems just simply because I had refused to use any mobility aids as I felt it was shameful for people to know that I am blind. I kept worrying about what people would thing of me.
On another day, I was having dinner with some friends. I used a spoon to get food from a plate. After several attempts, I realised that there was nothing on the plate except sauce.
Another time, I bought a whole bag of peaches, thinking that they were only $1.99 per kilo. Later, I discovered that they were actually $7.99 per kilo.
Thus, I began to reduce my activities and I became very dependent on my wife. Fortunately, my lovely wife soon became aware of my abnormal behaviour. She gave me a lot of moral support and encouragement.
She would always say to me, "Your difficulty is temporary. We can overcome this hurdle together. You need to be strong. I will always be with you to support you."
My mind started to unfreeze a bit, thanks to my wife's on-going encouragement. She contacted the Royal Society for the Blind RSB) and I agreed to meet the counsellor. From this moment on, I felt that dawn had appeared in my life.
The counsellor came to visit us in 2012. She was a kind lady and she had a deep understanding of the issues affecting blind people. She helped me to identify my worries and concerns and to solve them.
After a few long sessions, I felt much more confident to tackle the issues brought on by blindness. Moreover, she introduced me to other RSB services such as mobility training, technical support and job placement. They were indeed very helpful in building up my confidence in myself, in my job and in my day-to-day life.
In early 2012, I experienced the first restructuring in my work-place. It was very lucky for me that my new supervisor was a very positive and supportive person. He inspired me to think about my future job development which had never occurred to me ever since I became blind. He encouraged me to participate in the further education programme in order to fulfil and advance my career. Eventually, I committed myself to pursuing a Master's Degree in 2013. My line managers also had discussions with me concerning future career planning and all the equipment that I required in order to maintain my job.
Life at the university was very exciting. Soon I realised that academic life was very differen from what I had experienced six years ago when my vision was normal. As engineering subjects involved a lot of Mathematics, even the adaptive software was of no use to me. I tried my best but it was a tough struggle.
I approached RSB once again in order to learn Braille. However, my Braille skills were not sufficient to help me overcome the difficulties related to scientific calculus in Mathematics. I talked over this problem with the university disability advisor. She kindly offered to help hire a participation assistant to help me with the issue. It worked very well and I obtained a high distinction for the semester.
The more things I did, the more confidence I gained, and I began to realise that I had nothing to hide. Now I feel so comfortable with my Long Cane for travel. I can shop, attend class, and carry out other activities by myself.
In February this year, a new family member came aboard. His name is Harry, my guide-dog. He truly brings more happiness to me and my family. He is such a loyal companion who is ever ready to take me to any and every destination with safety. I feel that my life has been greatly enriched with Harry's arrival.
Now my wife and I are looking forward to the birth of our first new baby. She will be a girl and the baby is due in July. No doubt, there will be many difficulties ahead but I am certain that I can fight back. Indeed, there is nothing that a blind person cannot do - we only need to remain strong.