Disability Q&A Interview series.
This is the second instalment of the Disability Q&A Campaign,. Today we are meeting Florian, a fantastic guy who I met by chance after he commented on a controversial blog post I wrote back in January . Florian is an intelligent and interesting guy. I hope you love his interview as much as I did!
Tell me about yourself:
Hi, i’m Florian Beijers, i’m 23 and live in The Netherlands. I am a Part-time student, part-time programmer and full-time geek! I enjoy listening, playing, composing and producing music. I also enjoy working with spoken languages.
Now we know the basics, can we learn a bit more about you?
What is the medical reason you have a disability?
Scar tissue obscuring the optical nerve’s entry point to the brain, or so I have been told.
Have you had your Visual impairment / disability from birth?
Which terminology do you prefer: Partially Sighted, Visually Impaired, Sight
Impaired, Severely Sight Impaired or Blind?
I tend to say blind myself, I think you should say it like it is and not make up a fancy name for it. Technically I am not blind; I still have some light perception; but still, I’m blind enough to be blind.
Do you have a cane, Guide Dog or neither?
I have a cane, but am waiting on a guide dog as we speak.
If you could extinguish your disability, would you?
It’s funny how you worded this question, you nulled my usual answer to this question by using disability instead of impairment. Had you said impairment, I could have said that being blind doesn’t really impair me at all,
. I can do what I want to do, barely have any hindering from my blindness, and honestly, I’m fine with things the way they are now.
For those who do not know much about your VI what can you see?
I see light. It’s bizarre, I can sort of gage it’s intensity but discern it’s colour, shape etc. it’s too shapeless for that… It’s hard to explain, since light is pretty much always of a particular color. Not for me.
How has your disability effected you?
It hasn’t in the sense that I have changed because of it, simply because it has always been an integral part of my personality. As I stated above, I don’t really see my disability, for lack of a better word, as a limiting factor or obstruction I have to work around. I’d rather say its some kind of physical characteristic, like blonde hair and blue eyes. Would I have lived differently if I hadn’t been born blind? I have no clue whatsoever. Others, however, do not always share this sentiment, see below.
*Socially Blindness, to most, is strange. People don’t understand, and man fears what he does not understand. Therefore this does lead to some apprehension in some social circles. However, I have always tried to bulldoze through these initial obstructions with a smile or a joke. Be confident and others will quickly see you’re not so strange after all. The more attention you pay to your disability, the more others will as well. It is a vicious circle that is hard to break out of, but once you manage it it will dramatically decrease this ever-present tension when meeting new people
*physically: A lot of sports are sadly closed to me. Also, a lot of the blind-specific sports like Goalball and Showdown aren’t really practiced nearby, which means getting to practices is tedious and often not possible due to time constraints or other practical reasons. I therefore work out less than I think I should, and sitting behind a computer desk all day doesn’t help either. I tend to do in0house exercises (sit-ups, push-ups, weightlifting, running in place) etc. with varying amounts of success. Doing this on your own does get boring though.
*Mentally: Honestly, it doesn’t affect me mentally at this point. That used to be different, I was very apprehensive of learning new routes and asking for help. Basically, stepping out of my comfort zone since my environment discouraged me from all sides in that regard due to my handicap. Again, this is more of how my handicap affected my environment than myself though. I did manage to break out of this when deciding to move out and to live independently, someting I am happy about now.
Do you think your disability has made you who you are today?
I think it has given me a reason to grow a backbone, among other things. The example of not judging people by their appearance is apt, as well.
Is there a particular question you get asked often because of your
I get asked many questions, usually, to do with tech by fellow students.
Also often I get asked if I dream, and how I dream.
Which has some interesting scientific roots: Dreams consist of impressions from all senses, therefore you hear, smell, see and touch things in dreams.
For a blind person blind from birth, the visual elements simply cannot exist since no visual impressions were ever experienced. It’s like trying to develop pictures without having taken the pictures first.
What are the positives of having a disability?
People very often underestimate you. I tend to use those incidents to play a joke or teach a quick lesson, often both at the same time, educating the masses one by one. It’s somehow sad that I can still get away with that in 2016.
What are the negatives of having a disability?
The positives I just mentioned are a double-edged sword. I often have to change peoples mindsets before I can work with them properly, this is often the case with teachers, colleagues etc.
What would you say is a difficulty for you being VI / disabled?
Tricky one, I guess doing groceries can be a pain to do on your own, especially if you’re curious about things like expiration dates and preparation instructions.
As a person with a disability, what are the things you face on a daily /
weekly basis that frustrate you?
*In your home: mail, I tend to ignore it until I have no other choice but to read it.
*outside your home: Pavements that have all kinds of objects haphazardly placed on top of them, making me have to Super Mario my way from my house. For example, getting to the train station, obstacles in my path which prevent me from walking as fast as I want to sometimes.
Are there any tips or tricks you use in daily life you’d like to pass on to
another VI/ disabled person?
Yes, one. Don’t be awkward. As I pointed it out earlier,it really is an important thing. The more awkward you feel, the more awkward you will be treated. Try to blend in a little, act if you have to at first. You’ll find people tried you like a person rather than a zoo animal way more often that way.
*Keeping socks paired in the washing machine? Honestly I always say I am going to do that and promptly forget about it the day after.
*Colour coordinating your clothes Nah, just wear a lot of trousers! 😉
*Applying make up? yeah …not the person to ask
Do you use Assisstive technology in your daily living?
I use Screen readers to navigate my way around computers and phones etc, I use NVDA on Windows, and VoiceOver on my iPhone, and Talkback on Android.
*Braille note? No, I think these devices are antiquated and should be phased out except for people who really, really can’t use, or get to grips with a smartphone with an inexpensive braille display.
*Colour detector? I detect colours through an app, sometimes.
*Talking scales? Yes. One for me, and one for measuring the dog food once the guide dog wait is over!
*Liquid leveler? No, I can’t stand the things. You get a feel for it after doing without for a while.
*Apps? I use a GPS tracker called BlindSuare and ViaOptaNav, usually
What piece of advice would you give to someone newly diagnosed? Or going
through a deterioration in vision / or mobility?
You can’t start too early in learning to do things non-visually. Being ridiculed is a genuine problem; I won’t coddle you and lie about that; but especially if you’re blind you’ll have to learn to do these things without sight some time anyway, might as well do it sooner or later. This is your new reality now …and , although it may be harsh, you have to show your human capacity to adapt as soon as possible.
Any advice you’d like to give to a person with sight / no disabilities?
Look past the impairment. There’s more to us than you can see at first glance. And yes, that was a pun. And yes, it was quite fully intended.
Did you seek out any specialist services / charities to help you and your
family deal with your situation?
I did not. My family did, until a number of years ago when I decided I’d rather learn things on my own terms.
*RNIB Schools? I did special education 6h grade.
RNIB Catalogue? Yes.
Where can people find you out in the world?
honestly can’t remember, I never use the thing.
Just google me, i’ll be one of the first results.
Anything you’d like to add my lovely?
Nope, that should be it 🙂 🙂
Thank you for giving us such a fantastic insight into your life living with a disability, I hope this has given people further depth into you as a person, as well as how you live and manage your Visual Impairment!
Please don’t forget to check out all of Florians’ social media above! ^^^
If you, or anyone you know would like to participate in this campaign, raising awareness of all disabilities, please do not hesitate to contact me on the following:
http://www.twitter.com/sassyWyatt using the hashtag DisabilityQ&A