When a Doctor Said 'You Poor Thing' About My Blindness


I used to go to an eye doctor whose words showed that he looked down on me and my disability. He said, “You poor thing,” when I could not pass the eye exam. He was trained to be an expert on vision, but he was not an expert on my life. He looked at the results of my tests and only saw the impairments in my eyes. He did not know the things I could do.

What I would tell him now is that he might think he knows my challenges on paper, but he does not know how I handle them. I am legally blind, but I never let it hold me back. It is a part of me, but it does not define me. When I look at the world  in front of me, I do not see blurry vision or strained pictures. I look at what I know and appreciate what is there. I look at what is in front of me, not in the far distance or past. I love to take photos of the beauty in this world, but he would not know that by looking at my test results. I love to play cards, but he would not know that by his perception of my abilities.

braille tattoo on woman's leg
Braille tattoo meaning “strength.”

When people have doubts about my abilities, I see it as a challenge. No, I will not play football in a 100-yard field, but I will play football with a small group of friends. I am as capable as anyone else — I just adapt to my surroundings in a different way. I am thankful for my life, and the ability to be strong in a situation others may question. I know my limitations but challenge myself every day. My eyes might be scarred, but my ears are open to see. I should have responded to his comment right then, and helped him to change his view.

Having a disability, there will always be people who doubt our abilities, but they do not have to be right. Even though doctors may know about a condition, they cannot assume they know the patient. No one can do that. Only I know what I am capable of, and only you know what you are capable of and what you want to achieve.

This tattoo (right) in Braille says “strength.” Even though I am not fully blind and have never used Braille, I carry my disability with me every day, and I am stronger because of it.

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a moment when you were at a hospital and a medical staffer, fellow patient or a stranger made a negative or surprising comment that caught you off guard. How did you respond to it? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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