“I’m blind, not stupid” #EndTheAwkward

Gemma is a Corporate Office Administrator at the Royal National College for the Blind (RNC). She’s backing the #EndTheAwkward campaign and here she talks about what frustrates her about people’s attitudes to her visual impairment.

I have decided to write this blog to raise awareness of disabilities, especially visual impairment (VI), as I am VI and have a condition called Retinitis Pigmentosia (RP).

I find it staggering that there is still so much ignorance from people when it comes to them interacting with individuals with a visual impairment. I don’t want this to be a negative blog – I guess I am just venting at the moment. I just want this message to come across loud and clear, and I don’t wish to cause offence to anyone, I am not talking about society as a whole.

If I do not have my guide dog or a cane with me the most annoying thing someone can say when I tell them I am VI is “Oh wow you don’t look blind”. How is a blind person supposed to look? Could someone tell me please? Yet on the other hand when I do have my guide dog Ida with me people can treat me like I must be incapable because I can’t see.

Once, I was waiting on a pavement and a man grabbed my arm and pushed me across the road! He thought he was helping. If I had wanted help I would ask for it!

My impairment is just a small part of who I am

People often ask me if I ever had the chance to have ‘normal sight’ would I? My answer is always no.

I am me, and my visual impairment is just a small part of who I am. Being visually impaired has made me who I am today, so why would I want to change that? I am proud of my achievements and even though I know I will lose my sight completely in the near future I am grateful for today.

I also get asked how I cope with day to day living, being married, having a 10-year-old son, and how they cope with my visual impairment.

I just give them a look as if to say ‘are you really asking me that question?’

I ‘cope’ just like everybody else, I go to work and provide for my family, we go out, have fun and spend as much time together as we can! It’s all pretty ‘normal’, and boring just like every other family in the world. We just make some adaptions to enable us to live life to the full. My husband, son and extended family are extremely supportive and I could not ask for a better family.

I encourage other people with a visual impairment to grab life with both hands, be grateful for every day. Just because you have a disability, no matter what it is; don’t ever let it hold you back. There is so much support out there to help you along the way.

Read more about Gemma’s journey to get her guide dog Ida and how she balances motherhood and an active lifestyle.

Inspired by Gemma’s story and got your own awkward tale to tell? Share your story with us.