What prompts us to consider ourselves disabled? From the time we are children and realize we are individuals we begin to take stock of who we are. Small children don’t seem to worry about what they can’t do. When they fail they pause and try to figure out how to succeed. When do we lose the joy of finding new ways and new abilities?
When I started wearing glasses in elementary school I began to have to pay attention to what I was doing. Wrestling with other kids would invariably get my glasses hit. I would have to take them off. Since I was rather myopic when playing football, catching and passing the ball were no longer an option. Since I was big for my age I could play in the line and often centered. Years later I played rugby, and found the same problem as when we played football. Playing on the wing I was the last person to realize the ball had been kicked to me. That is scary when you have guys bigger than you running full speed at you, and no one’s blocking. I moved to the scrum, and later got some contact lenses.
Wearing glasses didn’t seem strange to me. Both my parents wore glasses and later my sister and brother wore glasses. Many other people were glasses so that problem was not unique.
When I was in my mid-20s I was diagnosed with glaucoma. At that point I felt I could see as well as anyone else. Being a doctor I realized that someday that might change. A few years later I was doing physicals for people to drive trucks. One of the requirements is that they can see to the side. I realized that I could not pass that physical any longer. I like to think that I could do anything but this was not something I had set my hopes on. If my livelihood depended upon my driving a truck this would have ended my career.
Over the years my vision changed very slowly. There were a number of accommodations I made to see as well as possible. I got antiglare sunglasses. I would let my wife drive when possible. And eventually I tried to plan my route so that left turns were less often. Later I learned to check from side to side on the road ahead of me. Looking across the road from one shoulder to the other assured me that I had seen everything ahead of me.
When I finally met the requirements for legal blindness I do not know. For many years I had trouble with the eye test to get my driver’s license. My eye doctors would always sign the note so I could get my license. I got scared the last time I went to get a driver’s license. I looked in a machine and saw nothing. It was testing my sensitivity in lowlight conditions. Again, my eye doctor gave me a note that allowed me to continue to drive.
Was it safe for me to continue to drive?
Driving is not just a right but for most a necessity. Many families came to me concerned about the ability of my patient to drive safely. There were many reasons and many stories why they were concerned. In many cases the patient was demented and it was surprising they could find car keys let alone finding their way home. I think that the autopilot that sometimes takes us home when we wanted to stop on the way was active. Like walking, driving can become second nature. In upcoming blogs I plan to talk more about how to have these difficult conversations.
If you or someone you know has had to change their way of doing things would you share that with us?
As All Ways, Seek Joy,
Coach Dr. Dave
Author of the forthcoming book,” recipes for lemonade (thriving through disability): Dr. Dave’s personal recipe “