A Perspective on Blindness

Faisal Anwar’s latest blog:

Bionic Eye

Researchers are close to developing a bionic eye, but will it solve blindness?

I just wanted to share this interesting story from a student in New York City.  He grew up with a friend who went blind and he has an interesting viewpoint on the development of the bionic eye.  Worth a read:

In elementary and middle school, I had a friend and classmate known to have an eye problem. I didn’t understand what exactly that problem was, and he didn’t like talking about it, but everybody just knew he had it. He was slightly cross-eyed, but as far as I could tell, he could see things just like everybody else.

In the seventh grade, he left the school. He never told anybody why, and a teacher just conjectured that he went to a school that could support his eye problem. He actually did just that, but I didn’t find out until high school when he found me via the internet. I learned that he went blind as a teenager.

He said it was difficult to take, and that he did cry when it happened. But looking back at everything, he’s glad he went blind. It made him who he was, and he got to appreciate blind culture. I once went to his school to see him play goal ball, a sport where people are blind-folded and they throw around a ball with bells inside that the opposing team is suppose to block using their sense of sound. The game looked fun, and the kids in the crowd had a blast. It felt just like any school basketball or football game. Seeing everybody cheer and hanging out amongst their friends changed how I saw the blind; I no longer felt pity for them.

My friend had Retinitis Pigmentosa, a common, hereditary, degenerative eye disease. The person first loses his peripheral vision. Seeing is like looking through a tunnel, and as one gets older, the tunnel hole gets smaller and smaller. The progression of the disease is not consistent, which is why my friend’s sight was relatively fine when he was younger. On the other hand, he expected to go blind in his thirties, and it ended up happening in his teens instead.

I thought this disease would never be cured, which made me a little sad for my friend, even though he wasn’t sad for himself. So when I learned that scientists developed the first bionic eye, and that earlier this year, it allowed people with Retinitis Pigmentosa to see for the first time, I got excited. I wanted to call my friend and tell him, but then I realized that he probably wouldn’t be as excited as I was. He was used to the blind lifestyle. Most of his friends are blind, he even had a girlfriend that was blind. He has all these gadgets he uses to take notes and read things on the internet, so he isn’t missing out on as much as naive people would think. Plus he’s now training to be a teacher for the visually impaired. His entire life revolves around the blind lifestyle.

And the bionic eye is still very expensive, so even if he has a slight desire to see again, he probably won’t any time soon.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a great advancement in technology. But at least for my friend, there may not be as much a need for it now as people might think.

via Faisal Anwar Virginia http://faisalanwarvirginia.net/2013/09/19/a-perspective-on-blindness/

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