by Kevin Burton
My visual acuity, at 20 over 200, is right on the borderline for what is considered to be legally blind.
This leads to some confusion. The way I come to see things may look awkward to some. I am sure some think, “Is this guy blind, blind drunk, or just crazy?”
I say to people, “If you want to know how much I can see, drop a dollar on the floor.” That’s funny, but not terribly helpful.
My own father never really figured out what I could see or couldn’t see. He had some idea, but often had to ask.
I remember being in the backyard with him one day. Pointing, he said, “Can you see that?”
“You mean that skunk?” I said and yes I could see it, sort of. I knew it was an animal and the only animal I knew of with that high-contrast black-and-white coloring that I could see at a distance, was a skunk.
But I didn’t really “see” a skunk” I saw black and white movement. If it had been a squirrel or any other small animal I would never have been able to distinguish it.
When I was young and attending the Ohio State School for the Blind, they called people like me “high partials,” meaning we had a high level of partial vision. Don’t know if people use that term anymore.
So that’s the way it is being a high partial. You take in as much data as you can visually and fill in the rest from experience or by context or however you can.
Let’s say I am typing in a place without full lighting. Let’s say I need to type a phone number. Looking at the number keys above the letters, I find the 7. It’s a skinny number and not rounded, like the 5, 6, 8 and 9 surrounding it. If I have the 7, I know where to go for the others. I don’t really “see” the six, but don’t need to.
Some restaurants present a challenge. If I walk into Wendy’s, well I know the menu at Wendy’s. But let’s say I’m in some regional chain restaurant I’ve never heard of. I can’t read the menu high on the wall above the heads of the cashiers. So I just order as best I can.
“I’ll have a cheeseburger plain, heavy on the plain please, with fries and a diet coke.”
“You mean a number three,’ the cashier says.
“Well, if you say so, absolutely, a number three. Bring it on!”
I’m sure these people keep an eye on me until I am safely out the door.
My wife says that I see what I want to see. She says I have selective vision. That malady isn’t diagnosed by an ophthalmologist, but an obstetrician. Once you get that Y chromosome and become a male, the selective vision comes automatically.
She says studies have shown this to be true.
Well I don’t know about that, but I do know I appreciate what vision I have more than many sighted people, who take theirs for granted.
I can see the faces of my wife and other loved ones. I can see a yellow, red and orange sunset as the day fades to night.
When the Chiefs won the Super Bowl I sat across the room from the big screen TV and used a monocular to get a good view of the action. I use the same monocular to see if the flag is down on the mailbox and I can check the mail. After I get the mail I use a handheld magnifier to read it.
Though I cannot see well enough to drive, I do contribute by providing my wife with excellent driving advice. These are the little things that make for a happy home. My blindness doesn’t stop me from helping, where I can.