Let's focus on what we can do!

By Disabled People for Disabled People

Sunday, 28 July, 2019

Coming Out Blind – the importance of facing up to sight loss at work

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Daniel Williams of Visualise Training and Consultancy highlights the importance of facing up to sight loss at work

You’re at work in a job you enjoy, except for one thing – you keep bumbling about the place in an odd manner, feeling a bit of a fool. You might even chuckle occasionally, trying to laugh at yourself and hopefully colleagues will laugh a bit with you. This isn’t going to help you. Laughing at yourself is fine…up to a point.

Underneath the humour is probably a smouldering annoyance at not being able to do what you once achieved without thinking. You are irritated with yourself and with a rising sense of frustration. Becoming the office clown is not what you want.

On you go, stumbling into desks and cabinets, tripping over stools, chairs, and waste-paper baskets. When you bump apologetically into the water-cooler it’s probably a good time to stop and think about where you are really going.

Walk on the wild side

If that doesn’t convince you that it’s time to take action, when you’ve started a conversation with the caretaker, mistakenly thinking it was your manager, you might change your mind. Of course, taking a walk down the High street on your lunchbreak, when you drop into Top Man or Top Shop to look at the jackets and crash headlong into the mirror might persuade you to accept you need some help…but talking to a mannequin on a display stand in the centre of the shop takes some beating!

Carry on squinting

As soon as you return to the office, without your smart new jacket, you probably feel depressed; or you might just accept things the way they are.

Even without sunlight shining directly in your eyes, you’ve become a master at screwing up your eyes, convinced you’ll see the way ahead. This doesn’t work. Someone might come along and say, “Hey, what’s the matter, you high on the hard stuff or something?”

Shame and embarrassment pour over you.

Then there is that feeling of dependency. This is the worst thing. You lose control. You are vulnerable. You’re reliant on that nice colleague who offers to drive you around the place. You can no longer make active decisions for yourself or voice an opinion about anything because you’re frightened. You know it’s best to wait until that person who always offers help has performed a requested task before you speak out. Otherwise, they will see your vulnerability a mile away and disappear. But at all costs, you must keep quiet. You become a non-person. You’re buttoned up, afraid to go out, afraid to go to work and afraid to speak to your manager about what is happening.

Climb out of the closet

A colleague at work may tell you about a support group for people who are blind. No, no, no! You tell yourself you can’t do that. You’re different, you’re not really like other blind people. And on you go. You hide your cane, carry on being dependent and ask for everything to be verbalised. On top of that you are now defining everything, including yourself, by what you can’t do, not how independent you can be.

There is another, better, solution…be proud of who you are! Open up. Talk about your low vision to your manager in a positive, transparent way. Crucially, ask your employer about getting a workplace assessment and some training to enable you to be independent. Start feeling empowered. Show your boss and your work colleagues who you really are. Stop hiding.

Stop deluding yourself!

Forget bumping around and making a fool of yourself.

Come out blind. Begin to live again: with freedom, independence and laughing at real humour, not just at yourself.

To find out more about how a workplace assessment can help you, please click the link below

Daniel Williams was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at the age of 8 and is now improving the lives of others living with sight loss through his business, Visualise Training and Consultancy https://www.visualisetrainingandconsultancy.com/

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