I have been a patient at Gordon Eye Surgery for approximately 3 years.
I was born with Peters Anomaly (also known as Anterior Segment Dysgenesis). Basically, it has left me with impaired vision in both eyes. Thanks to Cornea Transplants and a few other surgeries I have some sight in both eyes, enough to recognise things if I hold them relatively closely and to identify colours.
I’m studying by correspondence so don’t really know much about ‘uni’ life but… One of the biggest helps to me is the ability to have my text books made into Audio Files by Vision Australia so that I can listen to them instead of having to try and read them. This allows me to complete the required readings faster and reduces the amount of eye strain.
I also use a Video Magnifier – it’s a machine with a camera pointing down onto a moveable tray and a large computer screen attached to the camera on which images appear. Anything placed under the camera can be magnified a number of times so that I am able to read small print and view fine details. I used the Video Magnifier to look at graphics in text books and to write if I need to print something.
To make my computer accessible I used a program called Zoom Text. It’s a software program that allows me to magnify items on the screen and invert the colours to white writing on a black back ground to make reading easier. I can also use a number of key board commands to navigate around the computer screen to save me having to use the mouse.
Thanks to developments in technology and the work of Vision Australia, accessing resources has become much much easier.
Unfortunately, acceptance can still be an issue. Generally, people are fantastic and really helpful however there are still times in life when I feel I have been treated unfairly because of my vision, there aren’t many occasions I can think of but it does happen. Taxi Drivers over charging a fair because you can’t read the meter is one that is sadly becoming more common and finding Employment is still difficult, even with relevant training and experience.
I have a Guide dog that also assists me. Gina was cared for by a Puppy Raiser for 12 months where she was taught basic obedience like ‘sit’ and ‘stay’. She then completed six months of training to become an accredited Guide Dog. Gina and I then trained together for 3 weeks with the help of Instructors from Guide Dogs NSW/ACT. Our training involved learning the basic commands to get Gina to do the things I needed her to do (left, right, find the stairs etc.) and then practicing these commands in different settings (getting on/off public transport and finding a seat, moving through shopping centres and busy areas and crossing roads safely). Training was tiring but it was definitely worth it. Gina accompanies me everywhere I go and is a great help to me.
Unlike using a white cane, Gina will guide me around potential obstacles instead of me having to walk into them and then find my way around them. Although there is a lot of work in caring for a Guide Dog for me, the benefits far out weight the costs.
One of the activities I enjoy is Snow Skiing. There is a fantastic organisation called Disabled Wintersports Australia. Throughout the snow season they run a series of ‘camps’ at Jindabyne. Throughout these camps they provide you with a volunteer guide who is able to assist you with getting on and off lifts, learning new techniques and in my case, is someone I can follow down the mountain.
In the past I have also used an ear piece so my guide can speak instructions to me (‘rock on your left, turn to the right’.)
I also wear a rather bright orange vest with ‘Blind Skier” printed on it. It’s not the most attractive thing in the world but it alerts other on the mountain to my vision impairment as obviously using a cane or guide dog isn’t an option. It can be a little scary, especially in blizzard type weather but it’s also a lot of fun.
I really appreciate that people are more than willing to help however it can be quite intimidating if someone comes up without you noticing and grabs hold of your arm. I know that people only want to help however it’s not a nice feeling when you aren’t expecting it. It would be fantastic if people spoke to you first, offered assistance and waited to see if you needed it first.
Also, it would be fantastic if more people recognised that distracting a working dog is actually really dangerous. I know that the dogs are cute and well behaved but if people could refrain from patting and feeding them it would make a huge difference. Whenever a dog is in it’s harness it’s working, even if it’s just laying at some ones feet. Patting or feeding it can distract it from what it should be doing (waiting for a train to arrive or it’s handler to give it a command etc).