By Mike Moore
I have been blind for nearly six years now, and as I reflect on that time, the journey up to this point has been interesting to say the least. Since my blindness came upon me quickly, I did not really think about the long-term impact it would have on me. In the beginning, I hit the ground running, because there were many things I needed to learn and to do. Of all those things, learning how to read and write was on the top of my priority list. Since I could no longer accomplish that task the conventional way, I found myself flirting with illiteracy. There were many other things I needed to learn as well, but at that time, I felt this was imperative.
As I forged through days and months, it became increasingly obvious that assistive technology would become an important part of my daily life. Integrating this into my life was not as daunting as learning Braille, but it was not without its challenges. Since I had previously used technology like smart phones and different types of computers, I began with confidence and a whole lot of enthusiasm. The challenge then was learning how to use the various computer and mobile device screen readers to be able to access the Internet, and all that goes along with that. These technology skills are still serving me well today. I am able to use Zoom, Skype, and similar platforms to participate in a variety of tasks including online educational courses. Over the last five years, technology has permeated my life, and access to all things digital has increased for those of us with visual and other impairments.
In addition to this, over the last five years, there have been some changes in my personal life as well. This is the area I reflect on the most, because it is the most different and the most unfamiliar. Different in the sense that my kids have all moved out on their own. I retired from my career. And, I am now single. Also different is that I no longer live in the house where I raised my children. However, I do still live in the same community, which is nice.
What is unfamiliar to me is living alone. There has rarely been a time in my life, that I have lived alone. I am not sure that if I were still sighted that I would feel differently about living alone, but I do know that it was not something I ever desired to do. For me, as a blind person, it is extremely difficult and sometimes stressful living alone. Daytime is not as taxing as nighttime, but it is still a weird feeling. Even though I have installed nearly every security device available, it does not prevent me from feeling vulnerable. I have noticed that the hours of 1 a.m. to around 4 a.m. are the most challenging for me. I do not get much sleep during that time. Usually if I am out late hanging out with friends, they will walk me in, and check everything out around the house before leaving.
I appreciate it when my friends help me out like that. I have both talked to and read about other blind people who live, or have lived alone, and they have had similar experiences. In addition to the harrowing feeling of living alone, the lack of human interaction can sometimes weigh heavily upon you. I try to get out of the house as much as I can. I will visit friends, go to the gym, or sometimes just sit on the porch. It is not unusual for a blind person to be home alone for days, or weeks, without a single visitor. This happened to me during the height of the pandemic.
When I first lost my sight, I did not envision living alone. It is not something that I want to get used to either! Until I can rectify my living situation, I have been very diligent in reaching out to my friends and family for extra support as it relates to visits and sleepovers. Yes, sleepovers!
In the blind and visually impaired community, being independent is at or very near the top of our priority list. However, if you find yourself living alone, and that is not what you desire, I implore you to reach out to friends, family, and or agencies for help. If you know of a blind or visually impaired person that lives alone, please do check in on them. It could be a phone call, a text, or even a visit. I am sure they would appreciate it. I know that I would!