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Adapting to sight loss whilst being deaf

Posted 7 September 2016
Topics Independence, Lifestyle, Living with Sight Loss
Comments 0
Author Guest blogger

Deanne shares her experiences of losing her sight whilst being deaf and provides guidelines for others going through the same experience to follow.

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The moment my life changed

My Blindness was diagnosed in February 2016 at the eye clinic; I sensed something like this would be happening, considering it runs in the family. My heart sunk, my life was already going through the mill, I have already a disability that I was born with - congenital deafness, but I managed to live a considerably normal life.

Life changed from that day in February. Although I was coping with my deafness before, I had my eyes to lip read and now that was taken away too. It felt like I had been kicked in the teeth again, what else was going to be taken from me to live a normal life?

I couldn't cope with the diagnosis, I kept having anxiety attacks when I was out, and I couldn't tell if I was safe or not.  By then my certificate of blindness hadn't turned up through the post, so people didn't believe me. The arrogant people were saying ‘partially blind’, I wanted to scream, and say no, but I was still acting like I was ok on the outside, but inside I wanted to cry.

I couldn't cope any longer at this point. My independence had been stripped from me, I could no longer look after myself, I felt hopeless and just wanted to hide from the world.

The support I received

I was contacted by Action for Blind People, who were asking questions about my condition, who apparently get involved before social workers to find out how I was feeling and what help I needed. I told the truth, I needed help with everything - getting out and about, daily living, and just feeling low. My life as I knew it had taken a knock.  The gentleman recommended that I apply for the personal independence payment... well, we all know about claiming for PIP and the stigma surrounding it.

Within two weeks I met my vision support worker (who is also deaf, so she understood how I felt regarding being deaf and now blind), as I was to be cane trained too. The training started soon after the canes arrived, a long cane, that's the long one, and the simple cane, that's the short one. With the canes, if it doesn’t go by your feet, you haven't got the long one. The long cane is for when you want to go out independently (which I have done), it's scary on your own, not only do you have to concentrate on what you are doing with your cane, I.e. obstacles in your way, you have to judge if and when it's safe to cross the road. It's absolutely scary but once you have done it a few times, it's worthwhile.

When I use the bus, my anger can come to a boiling point... some people can offer their seat, and some passengers... well,  they should move from the disability seats, but won't. They would rather see me struggle over helping. Its heart wrenching sometimes and on occasion, they come across as arrogant.

Since being blind, I can't hear people properly, I miss words in conversations because before I could lip read, now I can't. People assume when you are blind that you are slow too, they speak very slow and also shout... examples such as - “ do you need help with that?”, “do you know what... is?”, or “how many fingers am I holding up” very loud and slowly.

Other things people say are, “it's over there” or “can you see that, did you see that?”  It is as if they are trying to catch you out, or simply be annoying.

Over the weeks after the diagnosis, I realised I was not coping at all, I was getting worse with anxiety and depression.  However, now I have decided that it's other people who have the problems, they need to learn more about visual impairment, instead of me being the one ashamed.

My guidelines for newly diagnosed blindness

  • Always have family or someone there to support you when you have been diagnosed. It helps with not slipping into depression.
  • If people start talking or whispering in the street about you, hold your head high, it's them with the problem. Ignore the nasty comments or chats people have about you, you don't need them knocking your confidence down when it's already been knocked.
  • If you are given a cane or two canes, a symbol cane and a long cane - when you come to use them in town, don't move for people, they should move for you. This is what they are for, for your guidance, to spot any obstacles in the way so you can guide yourself around them.
  • If you are out, walking down the street and reach a street sign that is in the pavement, make a mental note of where it was. Also, if you can and are still able to use your phone, take a picture of the obstacles that have been blocking your way, and report them to highway department at the council.
  • Some buses may have the talking bus feature, some may not. So, if you know your route is not with talking buses, please ask the driver for confirmation or set Google maps to where you are going, and use it wearing headphones, so you can hear where you are at all times.
  • Try and have fun. All visually impaired people can have the same amount of fun as sighted people. Just have the confidence to go out. It took me 6/7 months to get this far, so do what you did before but be vigilant on what you do now.

That's all for now, but I wish all new diagnosed visually impaired patients the best in the future.

Your comments

Have you had similar experiences to Deanne? Are you also deafblind? How did you cope with this? Please share your experiences in the comments below.

About the author

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Guest blogger

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Action guest bloggers are extremely precious to us and help us keeping alive our blog section with great new posts.
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