I’ve heard it so often that it shouldn’t still bother me, but it does.
“Oh, so you’re not completely blind then?”
As if somehow this makes the ordeal of sight loss so much better.
I’m tempted to reply; “Oh, do you think zombies feel happier knowing they’re not completely dead?”; but instead find myself explaining, for the umpteenth time, that, like 97% of those registered blind in the UK, I have a little, residual vision – vision that fluctuates depending on how bright it is, or how tired I am.
Worse though is the incredulity I’m met with as a blind person doing anything visual. Notwithstanding my pebble-thick reading glasses and the array of light-emitting electronics I carry, I’ve been made to feel that a blind man trying to use his eyes is a fraud.
Not that the word “blind” discourages stereotypes. Quite apart from its pejorative association with naïve or wilful ignorance, its very definition confers the total inability to see on all those it describes.
The alternatives aren’t much better: “partially sighted” or the archaic “purblind” simply don’t cut the mustard. And the more modern “visually impaired” rings hollow with the embarrassment of whichever committee first coined it.
And to add bureaucratic insult to injury its two subsections – “sight impaired” and “severely sight impaired” reinforce the impression that sight loss needn’t be regarded as serious until it reaches a certain level.
I’ll confess I was amused the first few times I heard myself described as a VIP, or visually impaired person. But the happy coincidence of dual meaning has worn thin, becoming as predictable as comments about my lack of complete blindness.
So I’m asking listeners to help compile a new lexicon of meaningful words to describe how we want our sight loss to be seen.
To start the ball rolling I’m proposing “occluded” – meaning obstructed, particularly in terms of an aperture. It sounds a bit like “ocular”, making you think of the eye, and sits somewhere between included and excluded, reflecting how many of us feel. In meteorology an occluded front is formed when a cold front overtakes a warm one, often causing unsettled conditions.
Now there’s something I can relate to!