For the past forty years I have been legally blind. As a young adult I was diagnosed with Stargardt disease, which is the most common form of inherited juvenile macular degeneration. Stargardt disease causes blind spots in the central retina which makes focusing difficult. Loss of the ability to focus makes reading a challenge.
Ever since my diagnosis, I’ve had two pairs of prescription glasses… one for everyday life and another for reading. My reading glasses have such powerful magnification that I can only read with one eye at a time and what I’m reading must be within an inch of my face.
My vision loss also meant that I was no longer able to drive a car. This forced me to deal with the emotional stress of losing a level of independence and becoming more interdependent. My wife, my parents, eventually my children and other members of my family became my transportation network taking me to work and other places helping me live a full life.
Finding employment in the earlier months of my vision loss was quite difficult. This wasn’t because I was unqualified or unable to work. I believe that the perception of others was that I wasn’t capable to perform the required tasks. But through determination, I eventually found employment. And for nearly twenty years, I worked in two different businesses in my hometown.
I also enjoyed a twenty-seven year career as a basketball coach, working with both boys and girls programs in Allegan. Team levels ranged from elementary all the way to assistant varsity coach in the high school. Throughout the years I have not allowed my vision loss to stop me from living a full life. As a young adult, I participated in men’s basketball and softball leagues. Amazing enough, I was the pitcher on our slow-pitch softball team. Today I still enjoy golfing and bowling.
Dealing with vision loss has caused me to develop strong life skills such as setting goals, maintaining a positive attitude, overcoming rejection, and focusing on the “prize”…my personal measurement of success. Sharpening these skills has made me a stronger and more successful person.
For the past two years I have attended a Support Group sponsored by the Association for the Blind & Visually Impaired. In our meetings, we are informed of current and upcoming technology. One example is the voice program that I have on my computer (which speaks to me). Another example is a video magnification tool, like the closed circuit television (CCTV), which has made reading much easier for me. We also discuss topics related to vision loss and share how we deal with obstacles on a daily basis. Perhaps the most valuable thing I have gained from attending these meetings is a group of friends, who are loyal and supportive.
Recently, I have written and self-published a book entitled Paying Victory’s Price. Included in this motivational book is information about the life skills that have allowed me to overcome obstacles in my life, and to live a full and exciting life despite being legally blind.