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I Have a Visual Impairment and This Is What It Looks Like

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I would like to share something with you. When you look at me, you do not see what I see. You see a woman wearing glasses, nothing out of the ordinary there. But I have a secret (well, I have not exactly been quiet about it). I have an invisible disability. This means you would never know by looking at me that anything is different. The invisible disability I am living with is blindness.

I have a severe and permanent visual impairment in my right eye caused by blunt force trauma. Out of curiosity, people frequently ask me what I can see out of that eye. As soon as I speak the words “I can see a little bit in the…”  the assumption is made that because I can still see something, I am not “really blind.” Most people do not understand that blindness is a spectrum.

As I think back to the past, before losing the eyesight in my right eye, I realize I was also guilty of thinking all blind people see nothing. I had no idea that blindness can widely vary from person to person. I did not know that most people who are considered to be blind have some level of remaining vision. In fact, only a small percentage of people who are blind or visually impaired are in the category of total blindness.

I created this picture to help understand what my impairment looks like — through my eyes.

Here is what this picture looks like for a person without a visual impairment:

Clear image of waffles with powdered sugar and chocolate.


When I look at the same picture using only my right eye, this is what I see:


Image of waffles is blacked out and fuzzy in the center.

This is my visual impairment; this is where I fall on the spectrum of blindness. I have a traumatic macular hole and glaucoma in my right eye. You can’t tell by looking at me that my vision is severely impaired. You would never know this is how I see out of my right eye. You would not know that I have an invisible disability unless I told you.

And yes, even though I do have fairly normal vision in my left eye, my vision combined is not without complications. The loss of depth perception is very problematic and in my experience creates an adjustment period that seems to be evolving all the time. I lack awareness of what is going on to the right of me, bringing much truth to the saying “out of sight, out of mind.” I also experience extreme light sensitivity, along with constant floaters and flashing lights.

Invisible disabilities are just that — you likely will not be aware somebody has one. I may not be at the point where I am using assistive devices and the way I look may not fit popular opinion on how a visually impaired person “should” look, but I assure you, my disability is there and it is real.

Originally published: March 23, 2021
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