The Communication of Disability

On meeting someone new, as a disabled person, there will always come a moment when that question is asked. The specifics of the question vary, but in my case, it’s – how far can you see? I’ve been asked this question in countless contexts: at parties, on buses, in cafes, and at airport security. To give credit to the enquirer, it’s often delivered with helpful intention, or at the very least with polite curiosity. I don’t have a problem with the question itself. It’s the answer that presents a difficulty. 

For some reason, vision and its parameters are ludicrously difficult to explain. Despite the frequency with which I’m asked this question I still struggle to give an illuminating response. I tend to reach for numbers first. I say I have 6 48 vision, so what a fully sighted person can see from forty eight metres away, I can see from six. This is a well-rehearsed phrase that rolls off the tongue. It gives brief satisfaction, and only brief, because it quickly becomes apparent that those arbitrary distances don’t comfortably translate to any real life situation. Forty eightmetres is a near impossible measurement for our imaginations to accurately compute. Percentages tend to have the same effect – I cite 12.5, which is just a crude reworking of the initial figures.  

Read Liberally Issue 2 here