Reading in my One-Eyed Life

This past October, I wrote a post called ‘One Eyed Life’. In it, I tried to define my disability and the implications and consequences of it on my life; including my energy level. I feel that I should enlight a bit on the fact that I don’t need people to think that I am strong for ‘having endured’. I have endured nothing at all. Plus, I have learned many ways to bypass the little issue. I have discovered a handful of benefits and I have also learned to utilize technology and other innovations. This is my one-eyed life in practice. I would like to note that this is all in regard to how I currently live my life, for if I mentioned all the points in my life that are of interest to this topic, that I could publish it into a book series.

NOTE; I am not a resource for people who are looking for solutions to reading without eyesight or with partial sight. However, this post might offer ideas and insight.

Let us then settle on the topic of books while we’re at it. I enjoy books; the fantasy genre especially. I have two fully stocked bookshelves with both fiction and non-fiction. There are books about fantasy creatures, books about writing and books about the fantasy genre itself. Besides this, I need books in order to study, obviously.

So, let me indulge you in my world of books and reading. First, there is one that is probably fairly popular nowadays; the audio book. I purchase them from audible or get them from listening libraries. However, rather than reading them on my phone or playing them on my computer or tablet, I actually have a device for them. The device is the size of a smartphone and has a multitude of buttons on it. This device is called a Victor Reader Stream. What I can do is copy files to an SD memory card and place the card within this device. The device, at my command, then plays the files for me. The upside of this device is that it has long-lasting battery as well as countless options to adjust your listening preferences such as audio speed and pitch. You can place bookmarks within the book you are reading which you can retrieve later. This function I often use when obtaining audio files of my study books, but more on that later.

I also have a device called a TV magnifier. I’m not sure if that is the correct term for it in English but it is what we call it here. As the name would suggest, it is a screen. This screen (more like a computer screen now that TVs have become enormous objects these days) is positioned over a flat surface below that can be moved around. The screen displays a portion of the surface below; showing a magnified replica. Using this device, I can adjust the color palette (light on dark, dark on light, green on dark, yellow and blue and much more) as well as the contrast brightness. Should there be very light text somewhere, I can increase the contrast brightness so the letters become more distinct. I often read my books about fantasy creatures and such under here so I can also look at the pictures closely.

Now that that’s out of the way; we’ll move on to devices that most of you are more familiar with; computers, tablets and smartphones. The computer, on which I am currently typing, is in no way special, other than that it is mine and is thus full of creative things. Windows has a handful of built-in tools that allow me to fully use the software. I always use the inverted colors; which changes black to white, green to pink and yellow to blue (this is after all RBG coding and not paint or light). I can easily turn it on and off again with a few simple keys so I can still view pictures correctly. Besides this, I use the magnifier tool. This tool allows you to magnify a portion of the screen or the entire screen. I prefer the latter; meaning I only view a small part of the screen at a time (about one-ninth). It takes some practice to work with, as my brothers and friends demonstrate; they are not good at it. Finally, I use a narrator function which reads what is on the screen. It follows your cursor; meaning that if I had it on while typing this, it would read out every word (or even symbol or no words at all, depending on settings). For the educational part of my life, I use digital books. They appear in audio formats, EDU (which is plain text in Word; no pictures or graphs and such included) or PDF. There are other formats but I prefer these. Depending on the subject, I order one or multiple formats. The company Dedicon receives my orders. They convert my books and deliver them to me on a CD. They arrive in my tangible mailbox at my request.

My phone and tablet, both products by Apple, have equal functions as those mentioned above and I often use them. Sometimes when I’m reading other blogs, I will do so on my phone and have the device read it to me. This takes the strain away from my eyes, which saves energy, after all.

Besides these things, proper lightning always helps. I also have a few hand magnifiers. One is a very simple glass one which I use to read my phone with, since often times magnifying makes its surface too small to properly navigate. Using speech functions isn’t very handy when out and about either. Using the magnifier is simply the fastest.

The second handheld magnifier is about the same as the previously mentioned one, but it has the addition of a light within it. I use this one to read short, simple things (instructions on packages of food). The final handheld magnifier is basically a small version of the TV magnifier. It has less functions however and I can not adjust the magnification scale. (My health insurance didn’t want to pay for the ones that allowed for this function. Cheapskates…)

I have attempted using e-books on my iPad but there are many different e-book platforms and thus countless apps. Besides, since I already have an excellent service that provides my school books, I wouldn’t need it for that. Audio books are quite pleasant too and the narrators in those books are much better than any of my speech functions could ever be. Finally, I prefer the feel and smell of actual books. That is why e-books aren’t for me.

What else is there to say? I believe this about sums up my situation on the aspect of reading and books.

I had intended to describe multiple aspects in this post but this one topic already took up plenty of words and symbols, so I’ll leave the other topics for another time and hope they do equally well.

Until then; may destiny be kind to you.


One Eyed Life

During many previous posts, I’ve made a small note of being visually impaired. Though I’ve often wanted to post this, I have never actually gotten around to it. I finally got to it now, because I have had a few posts in mind but they wouldn’t make a lot of sense until I made my audience aware of this little situation. So here is the story of my disability.

When I was born, the doctors discovered that my eyes were underdeveloped. The left eye was beyond saving. It has never had any ability at all. It’s just aesthetic, I suppose. The other wasn’t much better but there was still hope for it. As a baby, I received multiple operations. The doctors removed the lens from my eyes. They also transplanted a cornea twice. Since I was so young however, my body rejected the donor organ. The doctors decided not to try again since it didn’t seem to work. During my youth, I’ve had a few other operations concerning my eyes. One was to fix a condition in my eyes that had kept deteriorating my eyesight. The other is a small tube above my eye that drains a certain harmful liquid from it and thus keeps the pressure down.

I have an enormous medical history in this regard. Most of it would mean nothing to you all. Admittedly, some of it is a mystery to me too. I don’t understand all the terms.

What I do know, however, is what this means for me. Unlike what people tend to think, I can’t tell you what I see. I don’t have a reference for what ‘normal’ people see so I can’t compare my own eyesight to it either. But I have had wonderful doctors who have explained the situation to me.

Because I only have one eye to perceive with, I can not see depth in any way. I can observe that it exists in the world. I can understand that one tree is closer than the other because it is bigger and that its roots are lower in my field of vision. But the actual depth that there is, I can not see. I live in a 2D panorama.

Additionally, my one-eyed life has made my field of vision smaller. When people walk to my left, I can not see them. When they walk to my right, I can often see them vaguely from the corner of my eye. This is why I like it when people walk at that side of me so they aren’t simply a voice to my left. I like to know where they are. That makes sense, right?

Finally, a noteworthy consequence of the removal of my lens and the damaged cornea. The lack of a lens means that I can not make things in my field of vision look sharp. It also means I can not filter light as well as other people can. My cornea, after its second transplant, was also rejected by my body. This means it is damaged and vague. This further increases the vagueness of my environment and the light sensitivity.

Of course, this explanation too, is more just a vague view (pun intended) of my daily life. So I will try to explain it. First, I’d like to elaborate on how light works for me. When I see light, it becomes distributed across my whole field of vision. It is the same with fogged up windows or shower doors. Light becomes a cloud of light, rather than just one point. This means that it makes it harder to see anything else besides the bright scattered light. In the dark, this means that there is only darkness and pools of light around me. Naturally, I rely on my other senses during the dark since my eyesight is practically useless.

The vagueness means that I see more unclearly than the first smartphone’s cameras. I have less pixels, I suppose. Things in my life are blurry. Yes, my glasses help to compensate it a bit, but I can still not see fine detail. Sharp contrast and large details make it possible for me to function in life (reading the computer with inverted colors and big letters, for example). But the majority of my life is simply shapes. A slim blot of color on the street can be a person walking or a person on a bike. A big dark block in front of me on the street might be a car or truck. I can’t recognize the faces of friends or family. I recognize them by their voices. I can’t read ‘normal’ text. I can’t define things in the store unless I know exactly what to look for. For example, when I need shampoo, I will look for an abundance in purple somewhere, since Andre Lon’s packages are nearly always a pleasant violet hue. So I know that if I find those, I find other shampoos too. This is how I often find my way through stores. I go by large details since I lack the small ones. My mind is always working overtime to try to identify what I’m seeing through the clouds of vagueness.

The fact that my brain works hard is one worth nothing too. Even I find it easy to ignore this part of my disability. It means that everything I do, from walking to the train station down the street to buying a sandwich will always take more energy than it will take other people. I do my best to lessen the work my eyes have to do. Sometimes I close them while I do chores at home but the effect of closing them does not make up for the energy spent. I often find myself needing insane amounts of sleep over the weekends to compensate for how much of myself I have been giving away in order to keep up with other people.

I must admit, this is something that I really still struggle with. Even if I admit to myself that I have been doing too much and that I need some time to regenerate, I do not always take the time to rest up. I will feel that since other people can do this, I can too; even though I know I can’t. I’ll continue to do my homework and attending classes; pushing myself onwards.

At the end of my past schoolyear, I felt that I was really on the edge of a burnout. I had exams and a project due. The project was to be done in only one week and it took up all my time and energy. I enjoyed it, for sure. It gave me a chance to show off all my talents. Yet even things I like can really take up my energy because it just means that I spend countless hours on them, like I did with this project. Honestly, school should not have lasted even half a week longer. I could not have done it.

I know that I probably make my situation sound bad with that last paragraph, but it really isn’t as pitiful as people might think. I am also an individual. I’m not just a blind girl who needs to be admired for trying to make something of life. I also cook and clean and do chores. I navigate the streets on my own using my cane and all my sense. I travel with buses and trains and everything. I visit friends who live hours away that way. Life isn’t so bad but it is just a work in progress that I can cope better with every day.

As it has been to me, may destiny be kind to you.