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Friday, 15 November 2013

But What Can You Actually See?

What I see on a sunny day

Sighted people are often curious about what I can and cannot see. I am not completely blind but I am not completely sighted either. With my reading glasses I can read very small print but I cannot tell the difference between buses and lorries after dark. What I see varies constantly: it depends on whether I am somewhere familiar or foreign, on levels of light and dark, on the weather, on how tired I am, on how much reading I've been doing. This is unsettling for those who like to put people into categories. One day I am pretty much blind; the next day I am mostly sighted. This is confusing, but it also makes my life exciting. I never quite know what I'll be seeing from one day to the next.

Today is the kind of crisp, clear, cold November day that I used to love. The kind of day when colours seem extra vibrant and leaves crunch underfoot. I used to love days like this because the extra light in the air seemed to make my vision sharper. It was on days like this that I felt most sighted. But in the last two years, my attitude to crisp autumn days has changed. At the moment my underlying eye condition, coloboma, which has been relatively stable all my life, is being complicated by cataracts in both my eyes. With eyes of standard shape and size, the removal of cataracts is a routine operation. But this operation becomes highly complicated and risky with eyes like mine. So I am waiting until the cataracts have taken away all my sight before I have the operation. That way, if things don't go as planned, I won't have any vision left to risk.

Having cataracts does very odd things to my vision. Everything now has a slightly yellow tinge and I can't tell the difference between black, blue, purple and grey as well as I used to. Instead of entering my eyes, light bounces back off them as if they were made of shiny metal. The resulting dazzle and glare fills my eyes with whiteness and hides everything else from view. Cars, trees, pavements and people vanish into a bright white mist. But as soon as I step into shadow everything reappears, paler and more misty than it used to be but still mostly recognisable.

Dark winter nights are just as much of a challenge as bright winter days. I am at my blindest after dark. My eyes might look like cat's eyes, but they have none of a cat's night vision. After dark my problems with dazzle and glare are compounded by the halos and starbursts which surround any light source. These effects, illustrated here, convert my nighttime world into a kind of other-worldly psychedelic wonderland.  On balance I rather like the disorientating effects of cataract vision. Now that I have lots of practical solutions for doing what I want to do I like being living proof of the subjectivity of vision.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Hannah,
    I am totally blind and have been much of my life. Like you though I enjoy blogging or assume that to be so for you.
    I am wondering if you can tell me where I can find some tutorials on posting to blogspot, as it has been troublesome for me ever since things were modified a couple years ago.
    I cannot seem to make my paragraph divisions stay intact once the post is published.
    Do you use screen reading software at all or rely on what vision you have?
    My name is David Russell, from the USA
    mellow roc is my blog name.
    Blog title
    grafted in and on the journey.
    I am sorry for any inconvenience this may pose but am trying to find means to resolve this dillemma.