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OneSight celebrates World Sight Day on October 9, 2014 to increase awareness of the global vision crisis and raise funds for critical OneSight programs.

For the 563 million people with vision impairment, it can be hard to focus. Elizabeth, a leader in the Strategic Environments group, discovered this when she went blindfolded for an hour.

Feeling Blindsided For An Hour – Elizabeth’s View

Elizabeth - World Sight Day

I accepted a challenge to “lose my sight” for one hour as part of OneSight’s World Sight Day efforts. The thing that struck me the most during my dark period was how much I rely on my vision for comprehension and overall clarity of thought. For half of the hour, I had Amy, my guide, assist me in reviewing email. It wasn’t as easy as I thought it might be. Not being able to actually read the emails left me feeling unclear—what did the writer ask me to do as a next step? What store was that email about? Amy had to read some of them to me a few times before the message sunk in so I could determine my response.

Walking down the hall was exactly what I expected it to be—sketchy. Getting to my desk was a mini adventure because my guide didn’t know exactly where my desk was. When she mentioned that I needed to move over to avoid a table, I realized we were in the wrong row. I also had the strange sensation that something was going to fall out of the sky and hit me on the head at any moment. Hopefully Amy doesn’t have any bruises on her arm from me holding on tightly!

It also felt strange to be so heavily dependent on someone else for help to do the things I typically do each day because I can see clearly. It got me thinking about how much my life would change if I lost my sight completely. All the things I’d need help with, all the new and different ways I’d have to do some of the most basic tasks in my life. Not to mention all of the things I wouldn’t see again! A very sobering thought, so when I picked up my children after school and kissed my hubby hello after work, their smiles looked just a little different to me.

The Upside To Being Blindsided; Other Senses Take Over – Amy’s View

I had the easy part of our World Sight Day experiment – helping Elizabeth navigate the building and her job for one hour. Elizabeth came to my desk excited to start the hour. She’d even prepared for her no-sight hour by eating lunch early and heading to the restroom one last time (might be TMI but it’s true!). When I put on the blindfold, Elizabeth asked me to tighten it so she wouldn’t be tempted to cheat. It was clear she wanted to fully experience her world without sight. As we walked down the hallway toward her desk, Elizabeth gripped my arm tightly and told me to slow down; she felt disoriented walking at a regular pace.

A few co-workers stopped to ask what we were doing and I was amazed at how well Elizabeth recognized her colleagues by their voices. “That’s Bill, that’s Allison, that’s Adrienne.” She recognized colleagues she didn’t come in contact with very often. Her sense of hearing was working overtime to compensate for her loss of sight. When we passed a few vending machines before reaching her desk, she told me she knew where we were because of the sound the machines made.

I helped Elizabeth settle into her desk chair and locate her water bottle. We decided to check email; navigating that task was both interesting (for me) and frustrating (for Elizabeth). I had to re-read a few emails so Elizabeth could capture all the details she needed to make decisions and craft her replies, which I typed for her. While at her desk, she recognized the sound of Adrienne opening up a pack of crackers across the aisle and turned to talk with her about a project. What I found interesting is that everyone Elizabeth talked to tried to make eye contact with her even though she was blindfolded. Elizabeth also asked me to stop reading a few times because she was distracted by other conversations around her. “It’s hard to listen when I can’t see and there are two conversations going on at once,” she said. “I really can’t focus.” Indeed! We finished off the hour by walking to Elizabeth’s next meeting.

Being with Elizabeth reminded me how much I take my sight and my glasses for granted. Without it, I would be lost. Without it, I couldn’t answer emails or walk down the hallway easily. Seeing Elizabeth struggle through just that one hour made me understand what 563 million people struggle with every day. The way I see it, we not only can change the global vision crisis–we must change it!

 

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