Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Eye Sight

I am no rookie when it comes to understanding vision issues. For one thing, my Mother had eyesight problems for as long as I can remember and was nearly blind when she died. For another I have interviewed people on my radio shows who were experts on limited vision, including executives with Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind and an organization that provides reading services for those with vision impairments. My current experience with cataract surgery, however, has sharpened my view on the subject and given me a deeper perspective on how important sight is to our lives.

My surgery yesterday was successful. I now have 20/20 vision in the affected eye for anything further than three feet away. For the first time in more than ten years, colors are bright and crisp when viewed through that eye. The photographs on my photo blog look completely different to me now. The page I'm writing the first draft of this post on looks bright white on my computer monitor through one eye, muddy off-white through the other.

All of that is encouraging but also temporarily complicates my life because none of my current prescriptions for glasses are correct. I will need different glasses for reading books that for reading a computer monitor and can read neither in the good eye without glasses. In the bad eye, nothing is sharp beyond one foot and I can’t read anything with or without glasses unless it is six inches away. The current plan is to get the surgery in that eye too, but not for a month or two or until I am certain the first one healed correctly. Meanwhile everything relating to glasses is temporary. Tonight I will buy drug store readers that correct my good eye for reading at computer monitor distance because I can’t do my job without being able to use a computer.

The funny part is that I can now drive without glasses, relying on the new good eye for most visual cues. Tonight I’ll learn if my previous glare problem is gone or not.

Have you ever through this through for yourself? Have you imagined what life is like with vision problems? If you are reading this, you have some sight, but are you reading it with glasses? Close to the monitor? On a smart phone? What about the impact of vision daily life? A small sample of items you regularly encounter that require some level of vision: your job, a map, a smart phone, a recipe, warning labels on drugs, job applications, a speeding ticket, health insurance forms, vending machines, bus or rail system fare card kiosks, a watch, a TV remote, a rental agreement, your kid’s homework, walk/don’t walk signs at intersections, oncoming traffic, elevator buttons, currency. There are many adaptive systems for vision-impaired people but sighted people are still the majority and often we don’t realize the difficulties related to loss of vision till we lose some of our vision.

Fortunately for me at this moment, most of my vision issues are related to convenience and are all correctable in the short run. By this summer I will not need glasses at all for seeing anything beyond three feet and I’ll have the correct glasses to assist with reading monitors and books. But all that is temporary. Nobody can predict whether it is three decades or one or sooner, but is likely that at some point in my life my vision will be as bad as my Mother’s was. I can only hope that I’ll be very old by then and it won’t matter as much as it does now.

And I hope this experience helps me have better sensitivity to those who live with visual impairment that is far worse than this. Maybe reading about my experience will help you do the same.

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