Visual Impairment and Diabetes

It definitely is real. But what’s worse is that I don’t think most people are even aware they are doing it. I think a lot of people simply can’t imagine how they themselves (with no training or experience) would do something with little or no vision, and then they project that onto the person who is visually impaired (but who does have training and experience). I often get told I’m “amazing” for doing the most simple tasks like walking down the street, pressing the correct elevator button, or paying for something at a store… If people think that’s amazing, then no wonder they can’t imagine how I could do complicated work- and life-related things.


Sorry we hijacked the thread talking about blindness everyone!

Back on subject: No I don’t put down my diabetes as a disability at all because I don’t need any specific accommodations. When I do, I just notify my supervisors. One time I felt self conscious changing my pump at my desk so I asked for a private area to change it in and they allowed me to use a conference room. My manager (the one above my supevisor) has seen me go low a few times and has allowed me time off the phone with pay in a call center for medical breaks to deliver glucose tabs, finger sticks, and call my doctor as needed. One time it was like nearly an hour, and he told me to take all the time I needed. Other leaders at work know, and when I start beeping, they always check on me. I’ve never had anyone say anything mean or be discriminatory at all. I love working for AAA!


@bpollina I’m so excited for your wife. Any new job starting is a thrill, and it sounds like it’ll be extra exciting for your wife! Is her vision change a newer thing, or is it something she’s grown up with?

I worry about this. And I wanted to ask you @jen about how I should handle certain situations, but I didn’t want to burden you with needing to explain something to me I should possibly already know.

For instance, I noticed a gentleman with a cane in the middle of an intersection the other day, and by the time I’d pulled over and gotten across the street, another woman had also jumped out of her car to assist him. But he’d gotten a tad off track and ended up in the bike lane on this busy street. I caught up with him and helped him onto the sidewalk and chatted with him, but I didn’t know if I should leave him be or make sure he made it where he was going (he was a little confused it seemed). EH had helped the same gentlemen the week prior in a similar situation. So, does one stop and help if not asked? Is it considered annoying? Does it bug a person or is it helpful?

And thank you so both very much for sharing about your vision and experiences. I’m always thankful to be given the opportunity to learn more about what each person’s day-to-day is like. None of us are the same, and there are many cool things to be learned from everyone. :slightly_smiling_face:

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It’s no wonder you’re confused, because the answer varies a lot by individual and situation. Some people with disabilities hate when they’re even asked if they need help. Others really appreciate it. And sometimes people who don’t need help in most situations do need help in a particular situation.

It may help to know that the vast majority of people using white canes have received training from an orientation and mobility specialist. An O&M specialist trains someone not only how to use the cane but related skills such as how to navigate a neighbourhood or cross a street safely.

Having said that, my rule of thumb is that it never hurts to ask if someone needs help. Just respect whatever their answer is. You can’t be expected to read minds, after all. And sometimes someone is using a technique that they were taught to try to get re-oriented or re-establish their line of travel, and it may look to someone like they are lost or having difficulty when they aren’t. But approaching them and asking if they need help never, ever hurts. And if someone says they are fine, don’t feel bad for having asked. (I sometimes get people who say, “Oh, I’m sorry,” if they ask me if I need help and I said I’m fine; I try to respond with, “No, I’m fine, but thanks for asking!” to let them know that I don’t mind them asking.)

The only thing that I get annoyed with is when someone assumes I need help without asking. Some people try to provide a running commentary of what’s coming up when I’m walking down the street, and I feel like telling them that I”m familiar with the area and also that’s what the cane is for even if I wasn’t familiar with it. And even worse is when people just grab me without any warning if they think I’m going to fall off a curb or fall while getting on the bus or whatever. But I never get annoyed if they just ask if I need help, as long as they don’t insist on trying to help even if my answer is no.


Your reply was amazing. And certain parts of it totally made me laugh. Although, truthfully, it’s not very funny if somebody is chasing you down the street shouting about what there is in front of you. Or grabbing you. Mostly, I laughed because it reminded me of my best friend with seven children. She has been pregnant and routinely groped by random strangers so often she has lost track. It is strange to me anyone would grab another human without conversing with them first! :upside_down_face:

In all honesty, I am equally as likely to offer help to a non-disabled person as I am to a disabled person, because I am kind of helpful. And when I was using crutches last year, and I had people bodycheck me and slam doors in my face, it really raised my awareness of how much I appreciated assistance. Those folks that did offer me help, I appreciated it so much!

Thank you so much for explaining how people learn to use canes! I had no idea. I knew there was training, and I heard an interview with a gentleman who teaches echolocation to people with visual impairment, and it was fascinating.


My wife has been legally blind since birth, so nothing new there. The cataract surgery went well, but gave her only minimal more vision.

I agree. Whenever a blind person gets a cane, there is always O&M training by a specialist. My wife hates it when I quote directions as left/right. She said she was taught by her O&M instructor NSEW directions.

I also agree that it is best to ask the blind person if they need help. Since they can’t typically see you approaching, to help without asking could actually disorient them more.

My wife doesn’t really like to use her cane, though, because she can see and she hates it when people seem to steer clear of her like she has a contagious disease or something and feels ostracized.

Job wise, there is an organization in Missouri called RHB (Rehabilitation Services for the Blind) that offers all kinds of stuff related to employment for the blind. They can do things ranging from job coaches to purchasing adaptive equipment for the blind to be able to work such as computers with large print screens, braille devices, speech, etc. They also do home-bound stuff if you just need stuff for the home like braille lessons, books, books on tape, cooking help and tools for daily living.

Being married to a disabled wife has taught me so much. If you guys have any more questions, I’m all ears.


So am I. And I don’t think it’s all that off-topic, because vision loss affects a comparatively large portion of people with diabetes, yet is hardly ever spoken of aside from people dreading it… So I think it would be great if there were some positive discussions that could pop up when people searched for these sorts of terms.


I used to feel horribly self-conscious about the fact that I used braille and a cane when I was a teenager. As if I wasn’t “blind enough” and someone would accuse me of faking. Which is ridiculous when I think back to it now, but was a real fear back then.

About ten years ago, the CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind) made a commercial poking fun at the fact that most people assume a cane user can’t see them. I found that around the years that commercial aired, I got a lot more people asking me if I had some vision, so I think it was a good awareness campaign (though at the time the commercial was a controversial in the blindness community, with some liking it and some hating it):

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Can I split this thread once I’m in front of a computer? If it’s fine with all involved, what should I title it?

Oh my goodness. This is amazing. I couldn’t find my way out of a paper bag with NSEW directions. Actually, in writing that and thinking hard about it - I could if I was expected to do so more frequently. It’s one of the things that I’m good at is knowing which direction north is. But it’s not something I use regularly. I will keep it in mind!

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I’m fine with it. No idea what to title it though.

I am trying to think of a witty title and failing. But I’m OK with a split. It has gone pretty off-topic from jobs and diabetes, and if people are interested in continuing the discussion, I think it makes sense to split the thread.

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This is the case with so much that surrounds disability. So much that people think is difficult or amazing or impossible at first would be possible for anyone to do with enough practice. Anyone reading this thread who might lose their vision would still be able to read, use a computer, walk down the street, prepare meals, hold down a job, continue with hobbies… Not right away, because it would mean learning new ways of doing things. But with enough practice, all of those things and much more are possible.

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Feel free to edit the title. Mine is pretty lame. Sorry @TravelingOn, I beat you to it.

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FWIW, my wife is also diagnosed as PRE-diabetic, but she eats pretty normally. We’ve tried to get her to slow down on the carbs, but she won’t listen. So I’m the only one with T2 insulin dependent diabetes.

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And for me, I’ve been legally blind since birth and had T1 since I was 9 years old (I’m in my late 30s now).

This is fascinating. I’d love to hear research about how the brain learns, and if reading print or Braille worked in the same manner (does the brain use the same processing centers for touch based reading or visual based reading) and how does this differ from auditory language based learning.

Thank goodness. Busy enough around here I’m not keeping up. Thank you @chris!

If I understand correctly, what you’re saying is: it’s just different. Maybe different than a person’s “before” and maybe different than other people’s “current” way of doing something, but it still works - having a job, moving down the street, cooking, etc.

I’m parsing this. And I think it’s important. Thank you.

I suppose the idea relates back to diabetes. When someone’s newly diagnosed, there’s the onslaught of insinuations about what is no longer possible. However, in real life, most everything is still very possible. The limitations are frequently perceived - occasionally by the diabetic person, often by others - and not fact/real/actual limitations.


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Exactly! I mean, there are a few real limitations. If you’re blind, you can’t drive, for example. But what’s the purpose of driving? Mostly, to get from Point A to Point B. And you can still do that, you just have to do it differently from most people. The same is true of almost everything. And, unlike diabetes, there is the additional task of learning to use senses that you may have spent most of your life largely ignoring, so that can take quite a bit of effort. And a majority of people who lose their vision as adults are seniors, which can present all sorts of other complications due to additional disabilities and the like. Still, most people can learn to do even different and perhaps difficult things if they have a good teacher and put time and effort into the process.

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