Seeing ability in the blind

Voice of Ability
By Vicki Hanaka
(Editor’s note: This is the first in a brief series by Vicki.)
I am a member of All Saints Parish. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been totally blind.
Born at least two months early, I was given too much oxygen, which harmed my eyes. It was thought that I would not live, so I was baptized as soon as my head made its appearance. Whatever sight I had was lost during infancy. Actually, a lot of us in this predicament did live but are blind. It is far better to be blind than dead!
Naturally, my attitude toward blindness was shaped by my family. First, my parents accepted my blindness, and that made it easier for me to do so. Second, my older brother Eddie, who was born even more prematurely than I, was not only blind but also had cerebral palsy and suffered severe intellectual and developmental disabilities.
My brother Mike, a year younger than I, is typically sighted. I had much more in common with Mike. We played and got in trouble together, so my blindness seemed of little significance.
Eddie and I shared a keen awareness of our remaining senses, especially hearing. For example, Mom couldn’t sneak a Coke past us! Also, Eddie and I shared a dislike of cartoons. At the time, they had little dialogue. I was able to explain to my mother that they seemed like just a bunch of noise to us.
When I was 10, our family was completed by the birth of my healthy, full-term baby sister, Betsy. She was the answer to my long-time prayers.
As for what is helpful, communicate verbally with me, and by means of appropriate touch. I want to be included. Let me be the judge of what I want or need. It’s alright to offer help, but I may or may not accept. If we have been talking and you are going to leave, please let me know, so I don’t end up talking to nobody.
Conversely, I don’t like being excluded or simply lumped with other blind people, though I may choose at times to associate with them, for support or because we are friends.
Also, don’t talk past me, a subtle form of exclusion. For example, one might softly ask a companion, “Is she…,” as if asking, “Does she have the plague?”
One should not be defined solely or even primarily by one’s disability. Blindness or any other disability may distract some people from recognizing our fundamental, God-given dignity as persons, but it cannot detract from that dignity.