This is 2018, not 1818. It’s time to shout it from the rooftops.

Someone tell me I’m not the only one who feels like we’re still living in 1818 rather than 2018. It sometimes feels like if you’re not a rich, white, able-bodied, straight male who’s perfectly mentally stable in today’s society then you’re screwed.

It’s almost like if you don’t fall into any of these boxes then either the government, religious institutes or some members of society, who are really baboons dressed in human meat suits will deny you access, strip you of you’re dignity, humanity, independence and hope.

Although we all like to bang on about how far society has progressed, at least in first world countries, we still have a hell of a way to go. I’m not denying that we, as a whole, haven’t improved immensely since the time of the caveman because god knows we have. It’s just not enough.

Why do women, people of diverse ethnic groups (by that I mean anyone and everyone who isn’t white), people who are part of the LGBT community, people in the disability community still persecuted?

We aren’t are gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, colour or ethnic background, religion, ‘dis’ability or socio-economic background. Yes, these factors help shape and define who we are but ultimately we are all still humans who want and deserve respect, dignity, autonomy, independence and humility.

We don’t deserve to be shamed, shunned, looked down upon, made a mockery, laughing stock or fool of, made to feel like we’re lesser than everyone else because of our differences.

We all crave the same things in life, regardless if you are the entitled top 1% guy who thinks the world owes him everything on a silver platter because of his money and heritage or the poorest 1% guy. We all need and want love, structure, respect, stability, hope, dignity etc. It doesn’t matter the colour of our skin how you identify sexually or gender-wise. It doesn’t matter if we have a disability or are able-bodied. These labels are socially constructed pieces of bullshit that allow idiots to feel safe in their moronicly close-minded, uneducated, pathetic, ideals that anyone who is different from them is somehow a disease on the face of the planet that needs to be demoralised as quickly, publicly and painfully as possible to break their spirits in order to get rid of them and save the world from a terrible monstrosity.

Why does society insist on making a mountain out of a molehill? Who cares if you’re black, white, Spanish, Arabic, Muslim, Christian, gay, straight, male, female, tall, short, WHATEVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If you’re a cool person, with a good mind and we get along and make each other laugh and have fun together then it really doesn’t and SHOULDN’T matter.

If on the other hand, you have an issue with one part of who I am, get fixated on it and think you can somehow try and change that part of me or think it’s ok to dismiss me or hate on me because of it then you’re the loser in that situation. Why would I want to waste my precious time trying to get to know you? Why would I waste my precious time trying to prove myself to you?

I personally believe that the government and other institutions such as educational bodies and the media should take a more proactive stance when it comes to creating positive images of people from different backgrounds and groups. We shouldn’t be turning disabled people into inspirational, brave heroes who only deserve respect and admiration because they got out of bed to face yet another long and arduous day with the same condition that you’ve grown used to and gotten round in their own ways. We shouldn’t be stereotyping people from certain area’s of London, people of a certain colour or upbringing. We should ease off and accept that not every person from a certain profile will be in a gang or want to smoke and beat up people.

Why is it still ok to assume that every single gay man wants to turn every other man gay? Why is it unnatural or freakish for people to identify as a different gender from the one they were born? Why can’t two women or two men bring up a perfectly stable, loved, well-rounded, balanced child? so many single parents do it and they don’t get emotionally beaten up or shamed so what makes it ok for a loving same-sex couple to receive that treatment? Why can’t same-sex couples get married when it’s been proven time and time again that it’s obviously working so well in 100% of cases in heterosexual cases?

It angers me that even in this day and age those of us who aren’t that rich, white straight male have to live in fear that the government is going to short change us and make our lives that much more difficult because we have to prove time and time again to that we have a disability just to get the cheapskate support that they think is adequate to live independent and fulfilled lives.

Why do us women, who identify as part of the LGBT community, who happen to have a ‘dis’abled’, or anyone who isn’t white or christian have to feel fear that we wont get good jobs or education that would help us better ourselves in order progress and feel like we are worthwhile and contributing in a meaningful way to society?

Why is it that even now in 2018 we still have to fight to get our voices heard or fall by the wayside because of a very real fear that we aren’t going to be supported properly and adequately in order to prove the haters that we are more than just our label?

It’s almost as if half of everyone and everything gets so caught up in burogracy red tape, political correctness whilst the other half goes to the other extreme and goes out of their way to be the cruellest versions of humanity possible. Nothing is going to happen in this stalemate.

We have to stand up, shout from the rooftops, fight back, whatever it takes to ensure that every single person is treated as they should be, with respect, without cruelty, with individual needs put front and centre rather than others deciding what is best.

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Disability isn’t scary

Being visually impaired isn’t the be-all and end-all of who or what I am. My ‘dis’ability affects the way that I have come to approach certain situations and may mean I take longer to do certain other things but that doesn’t make me my disability. It has shaped who I am as a person … there’s no getting around that fact. One good example is that I … personally … this isn’t the case for every visually impaired or blind individual out there … stop pigeonholing us we’re not all the same person just because our eyes are fucked. I digress, I … personally don’t like asking for help because when I was in secondary school I found pushy adults who thought they knew more about exactly what I could and couldn’t see, just because they’d trained and worked with other disabled teens, gave them the right to give me tools that didn’t work for me. Thus I didn’t do as well as I could have done in my GCSE’s because I lost the will to live before I sat my exams. Don’t get me wrong I passed the majority of my exams, including a C in Maths Double C in Science and even a double B in English. But that’s beside the point I now how a very crippled and very British nature when it comes to asking for help. I’d rather look like a flailing, beached whale then ask for help.

It has also meant that I’ve done things and met people who I never would have done if I were fully sighted.

Around Easter time 2009 I went on a school trip to Nepal and hiked through part of the himalaya mountain range and got to ride an elephant and see wild white rhino. I highly doubt I would have had such an opportunity or been ballsy enough to take an opportunity like that on my own.

Around a year later I went on a skiing trip in the French Alps. I’m very much the odd one out in my family. I love going on rollercoasters doing things like skiing etc, whereas them? not so much therefore if I hadn’t of gone to the specialist school that I went to I most likely wouldn’t have gone skiing to this day.

In a weird sense, my visual impairment has made me both shy and outgoing at the same time. Having met, interacted and made so many friends who are visually impaired or blind and having had the opportunities because of my sight has made me into the person who I am today.

Now, one thing that does piss me and so many others in the visually impaired/blind community is when people say something along the lines of ‘you’re so brave,’ or ‘you’re so inspirational’. Well, NEWS FLASH we’re not. That’s not to say we can’t and don’t achieve great and inspirational things but just living our everyday daily lives does not make us inspirational. Dressing, making and eating our meals, putting on make-up, having a shower, these things don’t make us inspirational or brave.

It’s because of public misconceptions that life with any form of disability must be so devastating and debilitating that even the notion of getting out of bed and taking a shit by ourselves is mind-boggling.

It’s almost like the vast majority of people instantly hear that a part of you’re body doesn’t work in the way it should and their brain instantly stops working in the way it should. They instantly spew and project all of their own worries, insecurities and misplaced stereotypical views onto what our own personal lives must be like.

Yeah, I may look rude because I don’t recognise people in the street, yes I can’t always read small print without looking like a complete and utter moron if I’ve left my magnifier or phone at home and am on my own, yes I have to be extra vigilant when crossing the road.

But, you want to know what pisses me off about being disabled? Apart from never being able to drive a car, be a nurse, brain surgeon or fighter pilot? Well, I’ll tell you (even if you didn’t want to know). It’s the people who instantly think they know what I need without even asking me. Their heart is in the right place, I can’t fault them on that. It’s when people don’t ask me first or don’t think that with instructions I could carry out the simple task on my own. It’s the fact that some people see me as unable to do anything by myself or not able to hold down a job. It’s the people who ask stupid questions such as ‘how many fingers am I holding up?’ ‘can you see my face from here?’ ‘why don’t you wear glasses?’ ‘I’ll pray for you’ ‘is there no cure for you’re sight?’ ‘oh, so you’re albino’. It’s the fact that people instantly hear the worlds visually impaired and jump straight to the conclusion that my life is just one massive turd that stinks like it’s been in the sun a day too long.

Well, I’m sorry but who gives you the right to judge my life based on two words? Do you know what I’ve done in my life? Do you know that, because of my caring nature, I’d rather be doing a caring job than sitting in an office 9-5? Do you know what political party I vote for or whether I voted to leave or remain in the Brexit referendum? What are my views on Trump? Am I gay or straight? What’s my favourite book? No none of this seems to matter as soon as I say those two little words. As soon as I say I’ve visually impaired the fact that I’m a normal human being seems to go out the window.

If you are one of these people that have acted like this or whose first instinct is to react like this then please just bear in mind that no two people are the same regardless of whether we have a visual impairment or not. Treating someone as their disability rather than for their personality, nature, goals, achievements, aspirations and dreams is derogatory, rude demoralizing, dehumanising, patronising and frustrating.

Having a disability is not the scariest thing in the world. Global warming, nuclear war, Kim Jug Un, Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, Voldermort (Had to get harry potter in there somewhere), child sex trafficking and pornography, mass murder, massive plane crashs now those are just a few examples of things that you should be scared of. If you lose your sight, hearing, limbs etc you learn to cope and life wouldn’t actually be as scary as you first imagine it to be. No Disability isn’t scary it’s just a different way of seeing and interacting with the world that’s all.

Why does society still feel awkward around Disability?

Having a disability is just another part of life for around 15% of the global population. To put that into a more concrete number that’s around 1 billion people worldwide living with some form of disability. Yet the other 85% of the population, however much they say they are forward thinkers or modern thinkers, will hold some form of a negative image about someone with a disability that will inevitably affect the way they treat or interact with that individual.

I’ve lived all my life with a visual impairment. I have been directly and indirectly discriminated against in education and work because of my ‘disability’. I use exclamation marks here because in my mind’s eye I have much less difficulty getting up and down stairs then wheelchair users, less difficulty finding clothes that fit me in comparison to those with any form of dwarfism, I don’t have AS many issues in social situations as opposed to people who have learning disabilities or are on the Autistic Spectrum.

However, I can’t use a computer or phone without specialist assistive technology. I’m at even greater risk whenever I cross the road because I can’t immediately cloak when a speeding vehicle decides not to stop at a red light, or judge how far away vehicles are when I have to cross a road with no pedestrian crossing. I can’t accurately judge depth so going downstairs without a handrail is always a bit of an adventure. Getting off an on trains and buses is another venture where I try not to kill myself by landing on the road or train lines because the gap is designed for giants. I can’t read the back of packaging without a magnifier and even then it can be a nightmare that will leave me fatigued due to eyestrain. Seeing shopfront signs that aren’t clear are a real pain in the backside and mean I won’t always know what the shop is until I walk into it. Then when I get into the shop the flow layout or should I say, sometimes bad layout is a real piss on my parade moment because I enter into some weird game where I’m competing against myself to try and see if I can navigate the shop without bumping into anything or knocking anything over, whilst being blinded by the lighting or looking like a complete and utter idiot by looking like someone who’s just had their eyes gouged out with a spoon.

Society designs every aspect of life, whether that be clothing, shops, bathrooms, general public spaces, educational facilities, seating, beds, anything you can think of for ‘normal’ everyday society. Then it’s innovative people that have to think of intuitive, creative ideas to combat societies idiocy and shortsightedness to aid people with a disability to navigate a world that able-bodied people have created.

In my opinion, this is one of many contributing factors as to why every single one of us who has some form of disability will inevitably come across some form of discrimination. Society doesn’t accept all forms of disability when creating and designing. Societies general rule of thumb when it comes to accessibility seems to be we’ve done something that may help one group of disabled people so that’s good enough. Nine times out of ten that accessibility creation and vision they had? is barely useful to anyone and is barely putting a dent in what they could be doing to help peple with a disability.

Another reason why people with disabilities may face scrutiny is because of the SICKENING lack of education. For example, the number of times I’ve head the questions ‘well have you tried glasses?’ or ‘Why don’t you try laser surgery?’. Ok So ‘I’m not expecting every single person in the world to be the worlds leading ophthalmologist (eye doctor) with a wide knowledge of every single eye condition in the world but still it’d be nice to not hear the words ‘oh so you’re albino like that …’ whatever animal it is they saw on TV or the internet. NO FOR GOD SAKE I’M NOT ALBINO LIKE THAT ANIMAL YOU HEARD OF. For starters, I’m Ellie a normal person, not in some way shape or form a wild animal, and I happen to have albinism.

I’m someone who doesn’t mind people looking or staring a little in the street if I’m using my cane because it’s natural for everyone to star at someone who’s different and anyone who says they haven’t ever stared at anyone or even had the urge to is blatantly lying unless of course, they are actually blind.

A difference in the world is normal it’s natural and it’s ok to be different. However, it’s not ok when people think it’s ok to point and either shout rude comments directly at the person or stage whisper to others that they are with. How would you like it if I turned around and just shouted at you that I think you’re fat, ugly, smell and look like you got all you’re clothing from the pound store? What stops me doing that is my higher intelligence.

Another thing that pisses me off is when a child points, stares or asks questions of their parents about someone who may have dwarfism who may be using sign language or an assistance dog or mobility device and the parent turns round to them and tells them to sush or not ask those sorts of question. This instils the parent’s own inability to accept people with a disability as normal onto the child. It’s rude and downright frustrating to know that parents are pushing their own smallmindedness onto their children.

To any parent out there or to just generally anyone out there that has ever done this in their lives. PLEASE, I BEG OF YOU STOP. If you don’t feel comfortable answering questions or don’t have a suitable way of answering that will help nourish the child’s curiosity and widen their acceptance levels. go up to the person and ask them some polite and unobtrusive questions. What I mean by this is no, ‘how do you go to the toilet?’ or how do you get dressed in the morning?’ or ‘how do you have sex?’ unless of course you know the person really well and you know that sort of question won’t offend them, because asking a random stranger that? Inappropriate to the max. It’s perfectly ok and acceptable to have questions and to ask them.

We shouldn’t be afraid to tackle the big issues in society. We shouldn’t have to create new designs to combat designs that have already interrupted, disrupted and made life more difficult for people with a disability. We shouldn’t feel weird and uncomfortable about asking questions that will broaden our knowledge, improve our social skills across the board and raise our awareness of other peoples struggles and what is useful help that won’t come across as patronising, condescending or being seen as stripping away our independence and dignity.

So the next time you interact with someone who has a disability, be mindful of what you say and how you say it. Ask if someone needs help before assuming you know what we need. Don’t talk down to us or about us, talk to us and assume, unless we are blind drunk, that we are fully aware and in control of our faculties and intelligence. Be patient with someone who may have a stutter, don’t finish their sentences, don’t grab someone’s arm who has a can don’t talk to the assistance dog like they can understand you. Don’t shout at us or slow you’re speech down unless we ask you to. Don’t assume that everyone in a wheelchair can’t walk don’t assume that everyone who doesn’t always use a wheelchair may not need one sometimes. Don’t assume anything about the individual you are interacting with. Their disability may affect them in a myriad of different ways to the next person who has the same disability.

Interact with us as though we don’t have a disability, that’s not to say you should ignore the disability. As that can be as damaging, insulting and unhelpful as assuming you know what we need. We want to be treated as the person who we are, the journey we have travelled to get to this point rather than our disability. Agree or disagree with us about politics, fashion, music, TV, Film etc. The more you get to know someone, don’t be afraid to make jokes that you know they won’t be offended by about their disability. Ask them or give them non-patronising ways to help them. For example simply explain the layout of your house or where things are on the dining table to someone with poor vision, offer to explain what’s happening on TV if you watch a programme together, learn some basic sign language if interacting with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing, offer to put things in an easily reachable place for those in a wheelchair or of shorter stature. These are just some ideas that you can think about or impliment to increase your confidence in regards to interacting with people with a disability and restore our faith in normal, kind, caring individuals who want to get to know us rather than our disability.

Pain, frustration and positivity. It’s ok to have dark days with a disability

The aim of this post is not to garner sympathy at all. This is just a rambling post about the impact a visual impairment can have on one’s mental health, specifically my own as I can never begin to imagine what other people go through or their thought processes regarding their own sight and personal journey.

This is in no way a post that describes every single experience that every single person with a visual impairment has. It’s simply a portrayal of one way in which one individual has been shaped. My life is in no way meaningless just because of my own journey or experiences. It does not mean I don’t aim to have a fulfilling, positive and meaningful life. If anything the life experiences that I’ve had is one of the main reasons why I want to work with people and make a change in the lives of others who may be travelling the same path as myself

I was born with Oculocutanious Albinism, a stable condition that means I am legally blind. Do I consider myself to be ‘blind’? No, as I have a lot of useful vision compared to a lot of people who I know in the visually impaired community. However, the more important question is do I even consider myself fully visually impaired? … No.

I try and blag my way through life as much as possible because I don’t want to seem vulnerable or weak in any way. It’s almost like I don’t want to accept that I need help. I don’t want people thinking I can’t do something because of my sight.

However, doing so puts me in a worse situation than if I held my hands up fully to the fact that there are times that I actually need a little extra support.

To give an example, I don’t use a long cane nearly as much as I should do. I don’t want to look ‘blinder’ than I think I am. I also don’t think I need a mobility aid as much as someone who has less sight than I do so I feel like a bit of a fraud whenever I use it.

Generally speaking, my dear sweet loving family are extremely supportive and want the best for me and want me to access help where appropriate. However, my long cane has always been a bit of a funny situation. My parents have always discouraged me to use my cane around where I live. On numerous occasions, I have been told in no uncertain terms that my cane would put less trust in me because it would be a physical sign of my visual impairment primarily in terms of the previous types of jobs that I’ve had or when applying for jobs. I have also struggled a lot when it comes to disclosing my visual impairment when applying for a job and I have always been advised not to because it might harm my ability to be shortlisted for an interview. Of course, when mummy dearest gives you advice you tend to want to listen because … well, she’s mum and you always tend to believe that parents have more life experience and know what’s what.

Now, I’m not saying that my parents are bad people. Of course their not, quite the opposite in fact. However, I think it can be very difficult for parents of children with any form of disability, especially an invisible disability that is both severe but not severe at the same time. There is no manual on how to best deal with any and all situations that can and do crop up.

Having the condition that I have means you live in a bit of a grey scale world. You don’t fit into the sighted world but, this is just how I feel, you don’t fully fit into the blind world either. It’s almost like you’re a bit of a nomad just stumbling from point to point. You have enough sight to be able to pass as sighted but you need certain aids to help but some aids are specifically designed for people with little to no sight that you don’t feel you actually need or want them.

This perpetual cycle of thinking you’re more sighted than you actually are can be very dangerous, physically, mentally and emotionally. Due to the fact that I don’t use a cane people don’t know that my sight isn’t good enough to move out of the way and can be a rather stupid risk to take when in busy urban areas where there are lots of bikes, cars, buses etc. Emotionally you never feel you fit into one specific place and don’t know how to describe what you can and can’t see because there isn’t specific vocabulary that isn’t medical jargon.

Mentally it can almost be a daily battle to either explain to people that yes you are disabled and no you’re not faking it, decided if it’s the right decision to declare you’re disability for job applications, fighting for the correct support which can sometimes be hard because not even you know the wide variety of support that is out there (because it would be way to easy to make help fully accessible and fully at the forefront of peoples awareness) and how it can help, feeling like you can’t do jobs that you want because of your disability and feeling like you’re stuck in a place where you’ll never get a good career that’ll fulfil you because people don’t want the hasstle of a visually impaired employee or don’t think you are capable of performing tasks simply based upon your disability.

Emotionally it’s tiring feeling stuck in one place because out of pure and utter lazy habit it’s become a safe little bubble where you can run and hide perpetuating the cycle of self-doubt, never trying new things, never pushing yourself because you constantly tell yourself that you’ll never amount to much in a sighted world. You feel trapped by your environment and the little bubble that you don’t feel safe to leave.

I am at a crossroads in my life at the moment. I am applying for Universal Credit (part of the UK’s benefits system) which I must say has a very regimented way of doing things and seemingly has very little understanding or regard for people with a wide variety of disabilities and that being disabled is not just a black or white situation. However, I digress. Until I am receiving money I don’t feel like I am able to move forward because I don’t have the financial aid to fund things like invaluable voluntary work that could be very useful to me gaining a job that I could be good at and that I’d actually want to do. Volunteering would also mean having to travel further afield than St Albans, which luckily is so close to London that I’m quite comfortable travelling to London seeing as I’ve done it so many times. However, the fact that my whole working life so far has revolved around St. Albans the prospect of travelling somewhere different, meeting a wider variety of people and so on is rather daunting and something that my mental attitude has thrown a bit of a hissy fit about recently.

I know I have to travel outside my comfort zone or I’ll never grow as a person but my mind and emotions are like, ‘fuck it Ellie do you really want to put yourself out there and just get turned down immediately? coz that’s just a very real possibility you know?’.

So the long and the short of it is. That is where I am in my life so far. One part of me wants to run and hide from everything and another little jiminy cricket part of me is screaming at me to jump into the deep end and flail about until I learn how to tread water and look like a swan, kicking my feet but cool, calm and relaxed on the surface.

Life isn’t easy when you’ve got an invisible disability. We all have our own journeys, emotions, mentality and outward influencers that we have to deal with and it’s ok to feel lost, angry and upset. There is no timeframe or specific way to deal with these feelings and issues. However, if you are someone you know is feeling like this then just know that it’s ok and you’re not the only one who feels these feels.

I’m not disabled, society makes me so

Do able-bodied children instinctively know how to cook a roast dinner? NO!!!

Do able-bodied children instinctively know how to make their bed? NO!!!

Do able-bodied children instinctively know how to cross the road safely? NO!!!

Do able-bodied children instinctively know how to read/write, tell the time or count money? NO!!!

Do able-bodied children instinctively know how to ride a bike, swim or play any sports? NO!!!

These are just a few examples of things that children and young people need to be taught. Every able-bodied child has their own personal techniques, preferences and time frames for being able to learn things that are useful to develop their independence or allow them to enjoy themselves and have fun.

A child with a visual impairment is EXACTLY the same. Of course, we will have a different set of techniques to overcome the fact that we cannot see as well as our able-bodied peers. However, we are able to achieve all the same goals and expectations as those with ‘normal’ vision. We are perfectly capable of wanting to and actually living independently. Just because it’s not your way of living independently doesn’t make it wrong. It just means we are living in a way that suits our level of vision and living to our true individual selves based on our personality, education and personal experiences.

Given the right support, set of techniques that are tailored to our own vision and personalities and an appropriate time frame there is nothing that we can’t achieve that our able-bodied counterparts can. Of course, there will be things that we can never do. We’ll never be able to pilot a fighter jet, perform complex neurosurgery or read small print but that doesn’t mean are not an asset to society who needs to be shut up and kept out of sight.

But just because we can’t do certain things such as the examples I gave above, that doesn’t give anyone the right to use our visual impairment as an excuse as to why we supposedly can’t do something. Given the right, correct and tailored support and education, we can be and are an asset to society.

What logical reason can you give me why I can’t cook and eat my own meal independently or pour a glass or cup of any sort of drink?

What logical reason do you have why I can’t clean my own bathroom?

What logical reason do you have why I can’t use a phone, computer or tablet?

What logical reason do you have why I can’t make my bed?

What logical reason do you have why I can’t catch a bus or go into town independently?

What logical reason do you have to believe that the only way that I can access any reading materials is via braille?

What logical reason do you have to believe that my sight is exactly the same as the next person who has exactly the same condition as me?

What logical right do you have to think you know what’s best for me when you know nothing about my personal preferences, personality or previous experiences?

What logical right do you have to instantly come in and do something for me when I’m either capable of doing it myself or learning to do it in my own way?

What logical reason do you have to think that I can’t enjoy tv shows or going to the cinema?

What logical reason do you have to instantly change the language that you would usually use around your able-bodied friends just because of my ‘disability’?

What logical reason do you have to think that I want to be prayed for?

What logical reason do you have to believe I deserve to be treated as my disability before being treated as a regular human being?

What logical reason do you have to believe that I don’t care about the way I look or about my personal health and hygiene at all?

What logical reason do you have to believe or think that I wouldn’t want to partake in any form of sports at all?

I’m more than the total worth of your assumptions about a disability. First and foremost I’m a human being who is the culmination of my likes, dislikes, choices, experiences, beliefs and opinions. I just happen to be visually impaired, I’m not disabled I’m visually impaired. It is societies overarching views and beliefs on disability and uneducated assumptions and the physical inaccessibility that society has created that makes me disabled.

My disability is not a life sentence

My visual impairment doesn’t mean I’m imprisoned in a god-awful life that sucks ass. It’s not a life sentence either. Of course, there are challenges of having a visual impairment. I can’t drive a car for instance.

My life, however, it’s far from saddening, meaningless or pitiful. I love Taekwondo and train regularly throughout the week at a mainstream club. I am taught everything, every technique every aspect of taekwondo just like everyone else who attends the classes and I’m already half way to black belt. My visual impairment does not stop me from wanting to achieve a goal, stay fit and be able to defend myself whilst having fun along the way.

I have Occularcutanious Albinism which means my eyes skin and hair are much lighter than those without the condition because of a lack of melanin which gives colour to all these parts of the body.

Yes, there is a higher risk that I may get melanoma of the skin or eye because my skin and eyes don’t have the natural defences against UV rays. That’s easily remedied though simply through the application of suncream and sunglasses. It’s what everyone has to do to protect themselves from harmful rays it’s no different or inconvenience.

In regards to my hair colour? Well, I don’t ever have to worry about adversely damaging my hair with constant bleaching to achieve this look and yes, my hair may get slightly lighter as I get older but I’ll never go grey. So all in all? money well saved and no damaged hair for me BAM!!!

My visual impairment doesn’t stop me from enjoying the tv show, music, books or sport that I enjoy. It doesn’t stop me from having my own opinions and preferences in terms of politics, clothing and work and career aspirations.

I’m not someone who wants or needs pitying. It is unwelcome and unneeded. I will admit that having a visual impairment does impact on how well I can access certain area’s of life but that is due to social inadequacies rather than my own. My eyesight doesn’t mean I can’t read it just means I can’t read the tiny writing that society still places everywhere. It doesn’t mean I can’t travel independently I just need to be a bit better prepared in terms of knowing exactly where I’m going and familiarising myself with new places.

My life isn’t restricted because of my ‘disability’ it’s restricted because of societies lack of appropriate accessibility that would allow me to fully incorporate myself into the wider community with total ease.

I’m not someone to be mollycoddled. I deserve to be treated with respect, dignity and the same equal human rights as my able-bodied counterparts. My visual impairment isn’t the thing that holds me back in life it’s the sweeping, misguided and stereotypical views of society as a whole that holds me back. I don’t have special needs I just have different needs that need to be overcome in a different way.

Who gives anyone else the right to judge the quality of my life or my abilities based on an overarching and archaic view that people with a disability need constant help and can’t live a fulfilling life? Not everyone with a disability faces the same challenges, uses the same techniques to overcome any hurdles or have the same personality. We should never be placed into one box or viewed as a degenerate who deserves to be dictated to because other people seem to think they know what I’m going through or whats best for me.

Working with an individual, instead of working or talking about them, giving them space to voice their opinions, thoughts and needs and to be properly listened to, is the most liberating thing someone can do for another human being. Treating that individual as a human person with a voice who knows what they want and helping them achieve what they need in an appropriate time frame gives them back their independence, dignity and helps them take back the appropriate rains in their own lives. Never suffocate someone by treating them the way you think they need to be helped. Ask how when and where you can help them with a listening ear and mindfulness that their needs and challenges will constantly be changing and evolving.

I’m not here to make you feel better or reinforce your misconceptions.

I’m not here to make you feel better about yourself, your life or your circumstances. I’m here to live the life that I want, the way that I feel comfortable and achieve great things.

Yes, my eyesight is shitty because I’m medically blind and I burn a lot easier than you and can’t use digital devices without some sort of accessible software, yes I can’t read the maps on the underground or bus timetables or the menus at restaurants as easily as you, yes I find it more difficult to navigate steps and new environments than you, yes bright lights can be a real eye ache and my eyes get more tired more quickly than yours.

However, my life doesn’t suck balls. I have my own set of challenges that I have to constantly work around. Nonetheless, there will be things that I may be better at than you. I may be better at taekwondo or horse riding or playing the violin than you.

Just because I have a visual impairment doesn’t mean my life is devoid of all meaning, hope, joy, passions, goals and aspirations. My life is just different from yours just like the other 7 billion peoples lives.

The worst thing about being ‘disabled’ is peoples perceptions that we can’t do anything, can’t achieve anything of any real importance or that we constantly need help or pity from able-bodied peers. We do need help to figure out ways of coping with our unique challenges but that does not mean we are completely dependant on others all of the time.

Constant intervention from others, rather than being helpful can be very limiting, frustrating and debilitating. It doesn’t help to build our resilience, independence or ability to create and work with useful strategies that aid us in our lives.

How would you like it if someone constantly wrapped you up in bubble wrap because they thought of you as lesser than themselves and less able to thrive and strive in the wider community? Frustrated right?

We need to work in partnership to develop constructive methods of growing as individuals rather than simply receiving unwanted and unwarranted sympathy from people who think it is such an awful thing to be disabled or misguided help from those who don’t or won’t talk to us about why might actually be useful in achieving and maintaining independence but simply try and palm us off with help that isn’t in any way useful.

The real test of living with a disability is living in a world that isn’t really geared to help or accommodate people with disabilities. We still live in very much a sighted, hearing and mobile world that makes those of us with a lifelong condition feel disabled because we can’t access what able-bodied people can with the same ease if at all.
We may have a medically diagnosed condition but we are socially disabled.

Perceptions about people with a disability or long-term health condition are imposed and impounded by a world that doesn’t seem to have the ability to accept that we have different needs and requirements to access the wider community. These perceptions and stereotypes and misconceptions are only deepened by misrepresentation in the media.

The majority of representation in mainstream commercial media seems to be made up of two different types of people with disabilities. The first seems to be the type of person who can’t do anything, can’t access anything, can’t live a happy, healthy, independent, productive and meaningful life. The second seems to be someone who has achieved something extraordinary or done something that seems amazing because they have a disability.

Just because I have a visual impairment and love taekwondo doesn’t make me extraordinary people. It just means I’m an individual who loves keeping fit in a way that involves me learning how to defend myself in a disciplined manner. I’m not extraordinary because I have a disability and have won medals at dressage events in the past. I’m not extraordinary because I’m disabled and managed to pass my degree with a 2:1 no, that’s extraordinary because I got a 2:1 in my degree and that’s it. I’m not extraordinary because I have a disability and have worked, no it’s extraordinary because I’m one of many young people in the midst of a financial crisis who was able to get a job in the first place.

Yes, my sight has presented me with challenges throughout my life and that will never stop but it doesn’t mean I’m not able to do the things that able-bodied people do at all. I just do them slightly differently. Does that make me an inspiration? No. Does that give you the right to look up to or down on me? Hell to the no, I ain’t got time for that bullshit. Does that mean you have a limited or skewed perception of people with a disability? Most likely. Does that mean you have had very limited contact or actual real-life interactions with living breathing individuals who have a disability? I would say that that is a big screaming yes.

The way you treat someone with a disability can be a real deal breaker for people who live with a disability. Treating us simply based on your own beliefs, thoughts and misconceptions are massively detrimental. Talk to the person like you would anyone else, get to know them for who they are before you start treating them as their disability. Ask appropriate questions instead of just living in your own sheltered world.

Lastly, even if it’s a subconscious thought that you’re not aware of don’t think that you’ve got it so much better than just because you don’t happen to have a disability.