Moving Forward: Adapting to Sight and Hearing Loss Moment by Moment
Hi! I’m Amy Bovaird—a Christian, former ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher, Author, Speaker, Educator and Mentor. I work as a cashier at a local grocery store, which I love. Active in my community, I lead an ongoing pill bottle donation drive, liaise with several organizations and support fellow authors. I’m an encourager and a caregiver.
So what, you say. Lots of people do those kinds of things. Yes, and I’m happy to be one of them!
I’ve learned life has lots of turns—some really unexpected challenges—and moving forward physically has helped me keep a positive focus mentally.
I have a progressive incurable eye condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa. I’ve been legally blind since 1989 and now, have progressive hearing loss. In 2008, my eyesight diminished to the point I had to learn to use a white cane to get around. At the same time, I noticed I was missing much in conversations around me. I had my hearing tested and found a marked loss, which hearing aids have corrected it to a certain poi nt. Even so, I have lost a lot of what I had and struggle to interpret what others say. I’ve unconsciously become a lip reader and in context-reduced settings, I sometimes feel in over my head. Oh, the funny pictures they generate in my mind!
So how can I do all these things? How can I be a cashier when I’m blind? How can I critique another author’s work? First of all, blindness is a spectrum and not like an on/off switch. In my situation, I can see some things but not others. Magnification helps me a lot. I currently need a magnifier of x4. Conversely, I often feel I never have enough light. But other times, the light washes out everything and I have to wait for my eyes to adjust—especially moving from one setting to another. My daily life is full of contradictions—and the ability to ability to adjust myself is how I succeed.
When I began to use a white cane, acknowledging the loss of my eyesight by publicly threw me into another culture. I felt out of my depth, unsure of myself in every way. In retrospect, that turn in the road was much like adapting to life overseas and learning how to live in another culture when I taught English.
In my memoirs, I speak authentically on how to cope with loss, specifically of how learning to use a white cane changed my outlook on blindness. I had a completely blind mobility instructor who challenged me. In Mobility Matters: Stepping Out in Faith, I take readers through all my fears—many of which are shared by other blind individuals—to my success. My goal is to encourage through sharing my journey. The feedback has been so positive. I followed Book 1 up with Cane Confessions: The Lighter Side to Mobility. This book consists of 27 stories of mostly humorous stories of my life abroad and in the US adapting to sight loss. I’m currently working on Book 3, Second Sight: Milestones in Mobility. I’m completely open about my journey and how I overcame my challenges with using my white cane in different scenarios. I think it will be an extremely valuable and relatable memoir. My memoirs speak to those with sight loss but also to those who want to overcome any challenge. I also educate others about sight loss. The ability to laugh at myself in various situations makes me approachable. Readers often express surprise at the challenges and also my coping strategies.
I also write about other types of losses—divorce, child loss, death of loved ones, loss of expectations, and these focus on faith and, again, moving forward positively.
My triumphs have come about through my faith, my positive thinking and transparency. Being real and grateful for the support I’ve received is a cornerstone of my life. I give and receive encouragement. As long as I move forward, I can accept my imperfections and contribute much to those around me. I’ve built a strong support system that keeps me energized and successful.
We impact those around us by overcoming and being real. My brother, who struggles with bipolar disorder, once told me, “I like hearing you speak. You smile and make me feel happy.” Those words have become a strong motivation for me to keep positive and moving forward.