The conversation starts something like this:
“So how long have you been blind then?”
I could be in an airport waiting to board my flight, settled in the back of a taxi on the way to the train station or queueing for a cup of coffee. The setting isn’t important, my blindness is.
Usually I’ll answer, I shouldn’t feel obliged to, my medical information should be private like everyone elses. But I know the public doesn’t see it that way. If I don’t answer they will often snap at me, usually pointing out that they were speaking to me, as if it’s some kind of consolation prize.
“I’ve always been blind.”
The responses vary, some people tell me how sorry they are, others say it must be better because I’m used to it. And then it comes.
“Haven’t you tried anything? Is there nothing they can do? Have you tried glasses?”
It’s amazing how, when faced with a disabled person, everyone suddenly becomes a medical expert. It’s as if I, who have lived with my disability my whole life, must never have thought about visiting a doctor. I was diagnosed at 8 months old, have visited a consultant yearly and monitor any changes to my eyes more carefully than most sighted people do.
I understand that these people think they are being helpful, but I wonder how much thought has actually gone into their questions. Firstly they assume that I would like to get my vision back. I am not so sure I would. Secondly they believe I may not know about all the magical cures available to me. There are currently none, and although I have no plans of pursuing one I still keep very up to date with what they are.
There are lots of conversations I could have with strangers at airports, in taxis or whilst buying a cup of coffee. I could tell them how I’m planning to study abroad in Colombia in just a few short months, how I love to research, or that I like to make videos. But of course my blindness, and the prospect of fixing it is much more exciting.