Redefining “Blind”

“My son is going through a bad time. He is convinced that he is going to lose his sight, and I can’t seem to convince him to stop thinking like that.”

When I saw this post on Facebook, I knew platitudes weren’t the answer. My son and the poster’s son share a degenerative eye condition:  it is entirely possible that one or both of them may someday be completely blind.  Rather than pointing out the great strides medicine is taking and the potential wondrous science of the future, I took a different tack:  why not help him redefine “blind” and in so doing overcome his fear?

“Blind” isn’t the boogeyman. Being blind isn’t bad.  It’s just another characteristic, like having red hair or an especially glorious beard.  “Blind” doesn’t define you any more than you allow it to.

White block letters on a blue background read, "Keep Calm It's Just a Cane."  A white square surrounds a stick-figure man using a long white cane at the center.My son and I are further down this road than the poster: my little boy already uses a long white cane and reads in braille.  Even as his eyesight declines, I can avow that it’s not what you first notice about him.  He’s smart, he’s funny, and you’ll forget that that long white cane was even there once he’s oriented and tosses it down to go play.  He is a child who is legally blind, not a legally blind child.  He is not defined by his diagnosis.

This is what I want to explain to the poster and her son. He fears being blind because he fears the unknown; because he knows only the lies society tells him about disability being limiting.  To overcome his fear, he needs to know that sight or the lack thereof isn’t what makes a life:  people can and do do amazing things and live fantastic lives even when blind.

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