Last Thursday, I attended a low vision support group in which one member referred to her fellows as Bill the high-functioning partial, Mary the low-functioning partial, John the high-functioning total and Sue the low-functioning total.
I’ve been around low vision jargon for almost three decades. Never have I heard these labels applied so casually. I expect to hear these terms in a Disability Insurance hearing, not in a support group where Bill and Mary and John and Sue gather once a month for coffee, a pat on the back and an encouraging word.
I call myself blind. To me that’s enough. You get the picture. If pressed for details, I say I can make out shadows from light. I can tell if it’s cloudy or sunny. I see objects as black blobs shrouded in fog. I use a white cane. I have a Seeing Eye dog. I use a bunch of adaptive gizmos and gadgets. I take the bus. I ride the el. I find alternate ways of doing things. That’s just me.
Last Thursday was my first time at the support group. I wonder if I now have a label to complete my name. I don’t much care. Regardless of what someone labels me, I define who I am and how I function.
For me, the group is composed of Bills and Marys and Johns and Sues, not three high-functioning partials and so on and so forth. The more we are labeled, the more our uniqueness is subverted. We are individuals with common needs: security, belonging, hope and love. Our mean age is seventy and our predominate diagnosis is macular degeneration. Let that be the face of our group, our label if you insist. Beyond that, we defy categorization. We are all one in a million. We are all one of a kind.
– Jeff Flodin