Hey guys! Welcome back to Fields of Vision, it’s Megan! Glad you could be here with me today! In this video I’m going to be interviewing Deborah Ambro-Crandell. She is a great friend of mine and a colleague who lives in Virginia. She is an amazing person; she is so motivated and talented and intelligent, and I couldn’t wait to interview her. So stay tuned to hear all about her
experience with visual impairment! Just a little bit about Deborah: she has a passion for fashion, and hopes to one day create a fashion line of accessible clothing for blind people, so that there’s some sort of tactile way for someone who’s blind to know that two items go together, and that they would be designed in such a way that they would be beautiful, fashion, high-end clothing for people who are visually impaired and blind to wear and know that they look great all the time. I’ll be keeping tabs on Deborah, and if there’s anything really cool that I can share, I will for sure. To learn more about her visual impairment, there’s a link down below, just check that out if you want to learn more about her specific disease. Also, just a heads up for everyone who is totally sighted who’s going to watch this interview: the camera was just a little out of focus, so suspend your disbelief, and just listen to the content, because it is really interesting, and Deborah has a lot to share, and hopefully some insights for you to gain. Okay, hope you enjoy it! (waves) Hi, and welcome back to Fields of Vision! This is Megan, and I have miss Deborah here with me, and she is visually impaired, she’s an amazing person, and so I thought that I would interview her and ask her a couple of questions about her life and how visual impairment has affected her. So, Deborah, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your visual impairment? [Deborah] I can! Obviously, my name is Deborah and I am visually impaired … have been since I was 16. I developed an eye disease called iritis uveitis, and it stemmed from a bout of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. I went through a lot of years struggling with my vision loss, and being angry, and it took about 10 years for me to start evolving into a person who is now pretty adjusted, I would say, with visual impairment. [Megan] So, are you employed right now?
[Deborah] I am! I do.
[Megan] Tell us a little bit about your job! [Deborah] Alright. I actually work for a agency in Virginia. I am a customer service rep and I actually have just kind of become the leader or supervisor of two additional customer service reps, and I love it. I love working with customers. I use special software when I am using a computer, which I do all day, and I just have a little earpiece, and most of the time none of my customers even know that I am visually impaired. [Megan] Yeah, you definitely don’t come across as visually impaired. I know, I get that a lot too, so it does help to kind of smooth over any social interactions, because people don’t perceive a disability, and so then they just interact with you normally. [Deborah] So it’s usually not until I walk into something that they say, “something’s wrong,” … and then that gives me an opportunity to engage them in a conversation about, You know what, I have vision loss, and No, not all vision loss is black-and-white that you’re either 100% totally blind or “you’re not really visually impaired, you just need glasses.” There is such a range of vision loss, and it gives me an opportunity to share what vision loss is, and what my vision actually is. [Megan] Right. So, one of the things for Fields of Vision that I’m interested in sharing is also to give people that perspective on how there is a range. So could you tell us a little bit about what you experience? Because you have lost vision over time, right?
[Deborah] Yes. [Megan] So tell us, from where you started to where you are now, what your visual experience is. [Deborah] Alright. When I was 16, I was in an AP History class, and I was reading Siddhartha … I will never forget that book, I need to go back and revisit it, it’s a good book. I was reading it, and my eyes got blurry, so I went home and I told my mom, “Hey mom, my eyes are all blurry,” and I thought I needed glasses. So she took me to the eye doctor, probably within a couple days, and the eye doctor took one look with that machine that kind of looks in the back of your eyes, turned to my mom and said, “Has she ever been treated for JRA?” And I remember sitting there thinking, How does that have anything to do with a joint disease? My eyes? So, I had cataracts on my eyes that were forming and I had massive inflammation, so my vision loss was at that point probably 20/40, 20/60ish … and then I went through a series of surgeries throughout the next two or three years They thought that maybe they would be able to correct the vision; they couldn’t, and then I developed scar tissue on my optic nerve, so my vision loss went from that kind of 20/80 by the time I–maybe 20/100–by the time I graduated high school,
to progressively getting to about 20/800, I would say. So, right now looking at you, Megan, I can see that you have light-colored hair; I can see that you’re wearing a dark-colored shirt, but I can’t identify the color; and I cannot see any facial definition of you, but, if you waved your hand around, I could see movement. So hopefully that explains a little bit of my level of vision loss. [Megan] So is it just blurry, or is it blobs and sort of just a dark haze? What is it like?
[Deborah] It is just blurry. I try to explain it to people like, try to look through parchment paper, or wax paper, maybe that was thin … kind of … I don’t … you know, it’s been a long time since I’ve actually been able to see, so I don’t know what it would really be like to look through wax paper, but it’s kind of like that, it’s just everything is blurry, and I have a really hard time defining colors now, especially: if they’re dark colors, they’re Dark; if they’re light colors, they’re Light. That’s about it. [Megan] So have you noticed that over the years you’ve forgotten what it’s like to see?
[Deborah] [noncommittal sound] [Megan] Like, I’ve noticed that I just don’t know anymore, what was it like when I had 20/20 vision? Or, what am I missing? [Deborah, politely] Gosh, that is such a good question. There are things that are just ingrained in my head, like: a blade of grass … as a kid, and seeing the veins in a blade of grass; the sky and the clouds … watching clouds, and how they just morph into different things; and the stars, I totally remember the stars. But what it is to get up in the morning and hop out of bed and be able to see everything around you 20/20 … I don’t remember that at all, I really don’t. But I remember just certain things from being able to see, like … denim, the grain in denim, the texture … I remember seeing people that I knew when I was younger, and I remember distinctly their features and their faces, so I get to live in a constant state of being 16 … young, and pretty! Actually, there are always win-wins to every circumstance, you know? I don’t have to see cellulite, I don’t have to see the crow’s feet, I don’t have to see the aging, so, you know, there’s a positive! [Megan] Yes! And I have noticed also that–and I don’t know if it’s for everyone that’s visually impaired, but at least some of the people that I’ve met– most of them have a really good outlook on how people appear. Like up here everybody seems to think everybody looks really good! (both laugh) [Deborah] Yes, exactly! It takes away that whole … how everything is so visual in the world, and so many first impressions are based on something visual. We are lucky enough, in a way, to have that element kind of removed, so when I’m making an assessment on somebody that I first meet, it’s based on their content, their voice, their attitude, their personality. That’s why I liked you so much when I first met you, because you are very engaging, and very uplifting and positive, and, you know, I was attracted to that–not that you’re not a beautiful girl too. [Megan] Well it goes both ways. And I do think that … and maybe it’s just that, going through that loss makes you … it’s like the pressure-cooker; you turn into a diamond. You just have so much more perspective, and the ability to apply what you’ve experienced to life, and to growing, and being a more well-rounded person. [Deborah] I completely agree, and as women–especially as young women–I think it really takes a level out of growing and evolving, and it’s allowed me to really put some of that stuff behind me, and move forward, and not worry … as much. Not that I don’t still worry; I do. I don’t want to be a hot mess. (Megan laughs) [Megan] Well, none of us want to be.
[Deborah] Well, exactly, whether you can see or not. [Megan] No doubt. If you could tell a sighted person one thing, what would you share with them? What would you tell them about blind people? If it’s someone … let’s say, someone who has never met someone with a visual impairment, what would you tell them? [Deborah] I would tell them to … first off: don’t look internally and kind of perceive me as your own fear. I think … most people, it’s a human fear; our vision is such a big part of our lives, and I think that a lot of people look at someone–if they’ve never been around someone with a vision impairment–and they automatically think, “I couldn’t live that way. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t be happy being visually impaired.” And then they think, “Oh, well, you are AMAZING because you get up every day, and you EXIST.”
(Megan laughs) [Deborah] You know? And I’m truly not amazing like that … I am amazing for many things, but it’s not because I’m visually impaired; I’m amazing because I’m amazing. I would tell them that we are just as normal as everyone else, and we are just as capable as everyone else, and that, in a lot of instances, we’re probably more capable, because we’re fighters, and we’re trying really hard to manage out there without a sense that is so vital to most people. So I would just tell them we’re normal … we’ve got jerks in the crew; we’ve got really smart people in the crew; and we’ve got Average Joe’s in the crew, just like society does. [Megan] Do you have anything else you want to say?
[Deborah] I don’t! I appreciate being part of this, and I’m really excited about Fields of Vision, and I hope the best for you, and I know it’s going to be a great success, and it’s going to help everybody in, not only the visually impaired world, but also in THE world. [Megan] Thanks Deborah.
[Deborah] You’re welcome! [Megan, to audience] I hope that her insights can be of help to you, and if you have any comments to leave, leave them down below, and I’ll see you next week! [both wave] Bye!