How I see the world

Bernadette Lancefield
I was six years old. My back was very sore. I had to go to many doctors and have operations. I went to school in the hospital. One day I was having trouble reading. From that day on, I began losing my sight. When I first went blind I was afraid of steps and loud noises. But over time I grew used to being blind. My mind is full of images. I see sound in colour. Since losing my sight, my sense of touch has improved. I love breathing in the smells of nature and tasting various foods.
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Bernadette Lancefield on 14/09/2012
refracted image of a yellow and white flower against grass covered in crisp dew drops
flower refraction

Today, I visualise my surroundings

It was a mild summer day. I was six years old and playing outside with my brothers and sisters. Suddenly my lower back began to throb with pain.

Over the following months, the pain intensified. This period of my life was consumed by appointments with doctors and various operations. Mum stayed with me in hospital, while dad looked after my siblings at home.

Spending large amounts of time in hospital was an isolating experience. Night times were the worst. Each morning, from my hospital bed, my eyes would search for mum. When I saw her, relief would wash over me.

Losing my sight

During this time I attended school on the hospital ward. One day I was squinting at a worksheet and noticed the print was hard to read. From that day on, my world shrank before my eyes.

Often mum would ask me how many fingers she was holding up. It became harder and harder for me to answer correctly. The last thing I remember seeing is the gray of the x-ray table.

Adjusting to blindness

When I first went blind I felt insecure about the world. I was afraid of falling and felt nervous about steps. Living in a two-storey house, I was forced to face this challenge every day. Loud noises also scared me.

As time passed I grew accustomed to being blind. Steps and loud noises ceased to worry me. I learnt to move around with more confidence and ease.

Socially, however, I found it harder to cope. I often felt left out and isolated from my sighted peers. A sense of inferiority overwhelmed me and I longed to be normal.

My imagination

While my sight has vanished, I don't live in darkness. In fact, my mind is often full of colour and images. In the early years of being blind, my imagination was so vivid that it almost felt like I could see again. Today, I still try to visualise my surroundings but the images are less clear.

In my mind I see sound in colour. When someone speaks the words they say appear in my head, written in Braille. Each number, letter and word has a specific colour.

My sense of touch

Since I lost my sight, the sensitivity of my sense of touch has improved. At first, my fingers struggled to distinguish Braille dots. With practice, however, I learnt to read fluently.

Being outdoors heightens my awareness. Although I cannot see my surroundings, I can feel the fresh air, the warmth of the sun and the diverse textures of the landscape. My sense of touch allows me to appreciate the beauty, complexity and power of nature.

My sense of hearing

Although I'm hearing-impaired, I can gain enough audio information to function in daily life. Sound helps to orientate me and often provides vital information about my surroundings. The roar of the traffic, for example, lets me know that I'm approaching a road.

My hearing is also important when I communicate with others. I listen to what people say and I perceive their tone of voice and any vocal mannerisms they express. I find it difficult to hear in noisy places.

Smell and taste

I love breathing in the smells of nature. It helps to clear my head and heightens my sense of being alive. Tasting different foods can often be an enjoyable experience for me, as long as the flavour is not bitter, sour or spicy. Because I'm not distracted by the presentation of my meal I can focus more on the flavour of the food.

I've been blessed

Being blind has increased my appreciation of my other senses. Throughout my life I always try to make the most of what God has given me. While I've lost my sight, I've been blessed in many other ways. Now I'm happily moving forward in life.

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