September 04, 2017|
By Chrissy Renee|
Living with vision loss is no barrier to success. I spoke with Shaun who is a twenty-something year old with Retinitis Pigmentosa who works as an Employee Relations Consultant for the NSW government. Read his journey of navigating high-school and university with low vision and how he hasn’t led his circumstances stand in the way of his success.
When did you realise there was something not quite right with your vision?
My parents in my first few years noticed a few things that weren’t quite right in the way I would see things. One of the bigger issues they noticed was that I was struggling with my depth perception. They subsequently sent me for tests and at age 4 I was diagnosed with RP. The first time I can really remember noticing vision issues was at age 8 or 9 when riding my bike with friends I rode my bike into a parked car at full speed which broke my front few teeth (I blamed the sun but really was a pretty good sign that my vision probably wasn’t the best….).
How did your vision loss affect you in high-school?
My time at school wasn’t the easiest and for the majority of the time wasn’t particularly enjoyable. With my vision deteriorating over that time I was constantly having to face new challenges and overcome new obstacles. Along with these challenges there was the bullying. It wasn’t everyone and all the time but still wasn’t very pleasant. I’m not particularly proud of how I dealt with it at the time and usually lead to me getting in a bit of trouble. High-school got a bit easier in the later years but as my vision got worse the more challenges I would have to overcome on a daily basis. Like most kids I didn’t want to be seen as different so I was usually very reluctant in using what adaptive technology I had which meant I wasn’t the best student I probably could have been. Most teachers were very understanding and willing to help but I did have one teacher who didn’t believe that I had a vision impairment and thought I was making it up to get out of doing work. I had to get my dad to speak to him so he would believe me. Looking back I now believe that going through all these difficult and challenging times has helped make me stronger and more confident today. I made some great friends at school who remain my closest friends to this day.
What path did you choose to follow after finishing high-school and did your vision play a role in your decision?
I eventually decided I would go to university as I wanted to get in the field of Human Resources. I studied a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Human Resources. Having a vision impairment played a minor role in choosing a career path to a certain degree. Growing up I never really knew what I wanted to do so hard to say if it stopped me from doing anything else.
Tell us about working with a vision impairment. What challenges do you face and what are your strengths?
I currently work in Employee Relations which is a bit of a mixture of Human Resources and Industrial Relations. I have been extremely lucky with the team I work with along with a wonderful and supportive manager, they are understanding and don’t view my vision impairment as a difference or a negative which makes work enjoyable and much easier. One of the major challenges is having to visit different work locations but with the team I have this has not been a problem to date. I still find it a bit daunting going to new locations with people I don’t know and can get quite nervous before doing this but I usually manage to get through it and find ways of dealing with the nerves and stress.
I feel that having a vision impairment has given me many strengths that many other people wouldn’t necessarily have. Having a vision impairment helps build resilience, helps with problem solving, understanding people’s needs and being caring and compassionate when required. Having to overcome challenges on a day to day basis which builds strength in itself and means that the little things in life don’t get to me as much as they may for others. With my differing experiences to others in my team at work it allows me to have a different perspective on things at times.
What advice do you have for young people who are finishing school and choosing a career path?
My advice would be to not let your vision impairment hold you back from doing what you are passionate about and striving for what you want to achieve. Whether it is choosing a career path or doing things in your private life. Have confidence in yourself and get out there and do what you want, don’t let other people’s perception of what you can and can’t do stop you from anything you want to do. I am legally blind and try to live a normal 27 year old lifestyle. I still go out socially with friends, travel as much as possible and have even recently started playing soccer with friends again. It may be difficult at times to not let people’s views on what you can and can’t do get you down but I would love readers of this to give everything they want to a go and to try and find that confidence within themselves to live life like someone with 20/20 vision may. Don’t be afraid to give something a go, you might just surprise yourself and even better surprise others.
Thanks Shaun, you amazing human!