Tricks of the Trade: Chapter 2

Written By: Jeanne Aufmuth - Mar• 30•17

March post pic

In a perfect world I’d be driving. Picking up at a moment’s notice and taking myself wherever I need to be. In a perfect world I could see my granddaughter’s sweet little face without having to squint.

But this world is not perfect, it’s just our world. And, as I am sight impaired, I have to craft a realm that works to support my deficiencies as well as my strengths.

The RP-minded brain is always in protection mode – I notice this most keenly as I walk the streets of New York. In NYC a red light is merely a suggestion; the masses are fleet of foot when it comes to crossing their busy streets. I myself have one ironclad rule; crossing a street – either red light or green – means putting another body between me and oncoming traffic. Way to throw someone else under the bus (I hope not literally!) but this is my mindset and it’s called survival.

IMG_3885It’s also just one of many survival tools we’ve all learned to utilize in order to cope with our vision. I’ve written about these before – tricks of the trade as it were – but they are essential to managing visual impairment in a sighted environment and worth revisiting. Here are a few of my favorites.

The handicap placard. Boy was this a hard sell. I have an absolute horror of people cheating the system to catch a break, and thus could not wrap my head around applying for handicap status. But a conversation with a wise RP friend turned me around – she not only uses the placard for parking (especially critical at night) but also to board a plane with those who need extra assistance. Canes can confuse people who label you as “blind” and don’t understand when you flip out your book or your iPhone. The handicap placard is a universal symbol saying something is wrong and none of your damn business.

The flashlight. I’ve written about this before but I can’t say enough about this handy little lifesaver. A tiny one in your bag for reading a menu in dark restaurants. Placed in the nightstand for those wee hour trips to the loo. Shining one into the closet to make out one pair of dark jeans from another. Darkened stairs would be impossible without a steady beam to make out their rigid contours. I would be well and truly lost without this perpetually handy helper.

ipad0The iPad. I have an edema that clouds my vision and, more specifically, wipes out my contrast and color perception. Words on paper are hard to make out and thus I read electronically. The Kindle app allows for white writing on a black background which not only aids in contrast but diminishes the blue light problems that plague virtually everyone who uses an electronic device. In addition to the reading I use my trusty Pad to draw, paint, check scores, text, send email and receive calls. I Face Time with my family and I take photos. My iPad is a second set of eyes; I’m grateful to be living with RP in an age where electronic support is readily available.

Sharpies. Color me crazy but I’ve loved them for as long as I can remember. I will not admit to the number of unopened and freshly pointed packs in my desk drawer, but suffice it to say I could open a pop up shop on the fly. Other kids liked crayons, I did Sharpies. Lo and behold they’re still the perfect tool for our waning vision; among other tips I Sharpie my pants labels to distinguish navy from black. You can actually SEE something written in Sharpie – big, bold and bright in an array of magnificent colors. Sharpies are like an old friend who has stood by through thick and thin.

To all my RP brethren I say kudos to making it through each and every day with your own effective moves and relentless fast fixes. Please share some special tricks that may help someone else navigate this constant course!

 

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4 Comments

  1. Phil says:

    Are you saying that you don’t use a cane so as not to confuse people? A great tragedy of this condition is the amount of RP’ers who lack the courage to use the one item that will allow them to live truely independent lives, the white cane. Truth is, the concerns are of your own making. Try using a cane and you will discover that not only is life easier, but people are far friendlier and more helpful tan you could imagine.

  2. Jeanne Aufmuth says:

    I have a cane and i use it when need be. Agreed that people are helpful and friendly. However i have noticed a difference when boarding an airplane — as mentioned i dislike the labeling and the confusion (whether my own concern or not) and thus — in this specific case — find the placard better suits the purpose. No lack of courage just an easier transition and i’ll take easier any day.

  3. Such an interesting and helpful glimpse into how you adapt to your situation – and what I love most is that you share with humor and insight. Thanks for these tips, I know they will be very helpful to many people.

    • Jeanne Aufmuth says:

      Thanks Alyssa — i’m hoping many will share their tips as they go a long way in helping cope with the day to day!

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