Supporting Parents and Carers of children with a Visual Impairment
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Posts Tagged ‘Sight loss’

Am I Inspirational?

April 13th, 2017 / View in own page?

In her first blog post for LOOK, our Project Worker, Holly Tuke, discusses whether she sees herself as being inspirational. Holly is blind due to a condition called Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), and knows first hand what life is like as a young person with sight loss.

I’ve often been called an “inspiration”, and when that happens I feel humbled. But to be completely honest, I don’t think I am inspirational at all, I’m just an average blind girl who is trying to get to where she wants to be in life, and, along the way, achieve her goals. I stuck to these goals when I went through mainstream school. It was tough at times, and I didn’t give up without a fight when things went wrong, which they often did. But that’s just the person I am. I’m now in my final few months of university. I believe having a degree will present me with better life opportunities and help me find a good job. I want to do well in life and make my family proud. I am currently balancing my university work with my part-time job with LOOK, and other commitments too, but I don’t think any of these makes me particularly, ’inspirational’. I do these things because I enjoy them, but also to achieve the best I can in the future and to improve my life chances.

Picture of Holly

If anyone wants to call me inspirational then I am honoured. Personally, I think there are far more inspirational people than me, individuals who have, for example, saved people’s lives and have a positive attitude about everything.
The word ‘inspirational’ can be a funny one. I know a lot of disabled people absolutely hate being labelled with it. They don’t understand why they’re perceived to be inspirational when they are just trying to live normal lives. But the truth is, non-disabled people will never fully understand what it’s like to have a disability and, in all likelihood, never will.

I’m at a point in my life where I am happy with the person I am, I know what I want to achieve and where I want to get to, I know my strengths and weaknesses and I like to think I am a good, positive and caring person.
I’ve done a lot of charity work and volunteering over the last few years and recently started my first job as a Project Worker for LOOK. It’s just the sort of position I’ve always wanted. I believe that I am not only gaining experience for my future career but I am also helping others. I am keen to help others in the same situation as me and facing similar struggles to me, because I know how hard it can be to live with a disability every single day. I know how hard it can be when all you want is to see the beauty in this world but you can’t. I know how isolated it can make you feel. I know what it’s like to constantly fight for equality. But I also know the beauty having a disability can have. I believe that having a visual impairment has made me a stronger person, it’s most certainly made me who I am today. Would I be doing what I am doing now if I didn’t have a disability? I don’t know, but if you look beyond society’s perceptions, having a disability isn’t all bad. If you think about it hard enough, the positives can actually outweigh the negatives.

I’ve been blogging for over two years now and my blog, ‘Life of a Blind Girl’ is going places I never thought it would. I started blogging in the hope to raise awareness of disability and to help others that might need a bit of support. That has been the aim of my blog and blogging for LOOK has helped me reach that goal even more. Whether I help one person or 200, I don’t mind. Helping others, passing on my advice and providing people with some support or motivation is so important.
Blogging has also given me the chance to make new friends, some of whom are blind and visually impaired like myself.
If anyone is interested in starting a blog or writing a guest blog post for LOOK then I would encourage you to do so, it’s so important to get your voice heard. Blogging is one of the best decisions that I have made.

When I graduate from university I want to continue blogging and working for LOOK or within the sight loss sector to support as many young vision impaired people as I can. I want them to know that having a disability doesn’t have to be a barrier. Does this make me inspirational? I’ll let you decide.
If you enjoyed Holly’s post then head over to our useful links page where you can check out her blog!

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A Lack of Vision Does Not Mean Lack of Will or Ambition

March 8th, 2017 / View in own page?

My name is Charlotte Carson and I am the director of LOOK-UK – I hope you enjoy reading the first of many blogs.

I’m honoured to be the Director of LOOK as I have a very strong personal connection with the charity. LOOK was founded in 1991 by my incredible parents, Jennifer and Gareth Bowen, when I lost my sight at the age of 7. I was initially diagnosed with Stargardts disease, which was later re-diagnosed as Cone Rod Dystrophy. They, along with several courageous campaigning parents, founded LOOK in response to a lack of support for families. LOOK’s founding mission was to link families together from all over the UK to share experiences and support each other. Their ethos was families helping families, and we are now so proud to carry on this lineage in the form of our peer mentoring project, youth helping youth.

I’ve been in my role for nearly two years and LOOK’s mission remains as it has always done: to improve the lives of families with visually impaired children and young people. We are doing this through our peer-to-peer mentoring scheme (launched last year), providing support, information, and activities.

We are so lucky to have our office based in the Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford. I’ve hosted focus groups here, on Skype and networked with different organisations. I’ve been so impressed by the idealism, tenacity, and strength of all the students I’ve met. It felt right to create a project together, where we support each other. No one knows better than us, what we need and what we are going through.

Although many visually impaired people do lead full and interesting lives, they do face challenging times too – school can be tough, accessing an education, dealing with personal sight loss, and overcoming many social barriers too. I faced similar difficulties when I was at school nearly twenty years ago. I have spent my post-education years thinking there must be a better path through these transitional times and I learnt, through experience, that mentoring is the key.

I know from first-hand experience how beneficial a mentoring relationship can be for young VI people – it really can help gain the best outcomes in life and help us reach our full potential.

How do I know?
I am now registered blind and have a degree on useful vision. I can see outlines of objects and people and the rest of my vision is a blurry mess of colours and flashing lights. My sight is deteriorating and it fluctuates daily.

In my teens and into my twenties, I was introduced to a few key figures in my life, who were to have a significant, and long-lasting effect. These men and women became my mentors, guiding me through my tricky transitional years. They helped me believe in myself and to fulfil my dreams and ambitions.
Charlotte and her school friends

The self-respect and confidence I learnt from my mentors remains with me to this day and, importantly, inspired me to launch LOOK’s mentor project last year. I know, from talking to young people, that there is a real and urgent need for a project like this. The benefit of a mentor is immeasurable and long-lasting. Sometimes, what really helps is just to talk to someone who understands what you are going through.

The project is starting online and we’ve currently trained up a team of experienced mentors, who are supporting young people aged 11 – 29 through our secure online mentoring platform. As this is a pilot project we will be evaluating its impact and we already can see terrific results. We have some really interesting projects in the pipeline too, news of which you can find on our website.

The essence of the LOOK Peer-to-Peer Mentoring Project is to provide support and help for young people with a visual impairment from an impartial mentor from outside the family, school, or college, who will neither judge nor dictate and who, most crucially, has been in the same position. It could be for you.

I know that together we can make a difference to many people’s lives. Purely from the power of kindred support. If you are interested to find out more about our project or get involved, then please get in touch.

I’ll be blogging on here again soon. If you are also interested to blog for us then please email youth@look-uk.org

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