by Reverend Clyde Jackson
The eyes are a very precious part of one's body. The eyes, after all, are the window from and to the heart. After a person visualizes so many things in this world, it is indeed strange for him or her to view things through the imagination.
Can you imagine the great magnitude of difference between a person who has never seen and one who, daily and hourly, views the activities of the world with his or her natural eyes? For example, a person who has never been able to see will not fully comprehend the depth of red, white, and blue in the American flag.
Not too long ago, I received an e-mail message containing a story entitled "The Wall." The account focused on two men confined to a hospital room. One man sat by the window and offered vivid descriptions of what was going on outside the window. His roommate sat and listened, excited about everything going on as if he were witnessing all of the excitement himself.
At last, the man next to the window passed away. The roommate requested the bed next to the window so that he could gaze out and see what was going on. The nurse granted his request. Much to his surprise, however, the new location revealed to the remaining gentleman that a wall was located just outside the window. He discovered that his roommate had been blind and that he had experienced the outside world with his other senses. He also discovered that this roommate had then shared with him the scenery and events with the express purpose of making his day a little brighter!
This story illustrates how vitally important the imagination is for those who cannot see and how much the unsighted utilize vivid descriptions provided by the sighted world.
I remember when I lost my sight. At the time, there were no voice synthesizers or computers containing programs such as JAWS. I had to learn everything by tape recorder or Braille. To a certain degree, the ability to be independent was gone entirely and my family was also much affected by the change. I needed to learn patience and politeness. I had to learn that what might be important to the visually impaired person was not necessarily important to the person assisting.
One way to obtain help is to educate those around us regarding the needs of the visually impaired individual. Always remember that the more people know about blindness in a sighted world, the more they realize that, inside, we are not so different after all.
There are times in which the sighted individual will take for granted that one without vision can do the same things. The language should never change because it will confuse the situation even more. A person should obviously never point when providing directions to a blind person, or use words such as "over there" and "right here." When such a statement is actually made, and it often is, the blind or visually impaired may never find what the person is talking about, even when trying.
May we do our best to assure the maximum assistance, both in quality and quantity, to our veterans who are blind. May we educate with kindness those who volunteer to help us from the sighted world. Most of all, may we always be kind to one another and express love, for these are the qualities that constitute the foundation of life and the basis for our beloved BVA motto "Blinded Veterans Helping Blinded Veterans."