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Learning about blindness: a personal perspective by Raul Lovett

Our eyes are truly wondrous products of evolution. Through my work at Lovett Stories + Strategies I’ve learned a great deal more about blindness and vision than I ever thought I would. It was eye-opening (no pun intended) to learn so much about blindness and low vision. For me, this experience was very personal as Joe Lovett is my great-Uncle. Joe suffers from glaucoma, which we now know is hereditary, meaning that I am at risk as well.

One of the most important concepts I was (and most others are) unaware of is that our vision exists on a spectrum, with perfect vision at one end, and complete blindness at the other. For the vast majority of people however, their vision sits somewhere along this spectrum. Especially for the “blind” the biggest misconception is that they cannot see at all; they only see total darkness, and this is not the case. Most people who are legally blind have some degree of residual vision, which might enable them to see light or shapes.

Through watching Going Blind, one of the most interesting things I learned was that our vision is 80% memory, and 20% what we see in real time. This is the main reason why so many people who have glaucoma or similar eye diseases don’t notice the holes in their vision, because their brain fills in the rest from memory. Joe experienced this firsthand, which he discusses in the film. A helpful tool called an Amsler grid is available to help one notice any holes in one’s vision between doctor’s visits. This is one reason why regular eye check-ups are necessary.

In regard to vision care and aid, I was totally unaware of the area of visual therapy called low vision therapy. Low vision refers to when one’s vision cannot be corrected to 100% even using the best corrective lenses possible. Low vision therapy utilizes aids to help people with low vision function at the highest level possible. Many tools are available, ranging from monocular telescopes to stickers with large font for one’s keyboard. While it may seem normal for me as a sighted individual to be ignorant of low vision therapy, it is fairly shocking that the vast majority of those afflicted with low vision or blindness are completely unaware of the services and aids available to them. This is an issue that Joe is attempting to ameliorate through screenings and broadcasts of Going Blind, and the outreach, Going Blind and Going Forward

I could go on and on about all of the different aspects of vision and blindness that I learned at Lovett Stories + Strategies, but there are too many to write here! Working here has truly been a learning experience, and I invite everyone reading to watch Going Blind and to get involved with the outreach.