"Can I try on your glasses?'
"Wow! How do you see out of those?"
"Your eyesight is terrible!"
"You look so weird without your glasses on!"
"How many fingers am I holding up?"
The number of times my peers have said these words to me over the years is overwhelming and deeply saddening. I've wasted my tears on people like that so many times, I can't even keep count. How is it funny that some people have vision problems and can't see well? Why is someone else's struggle amusing? People don't seem to understand that it's scary and unsettling when you have to keep going back for a new prescription every few months. Or how unnerving it is to have your vision grey and blur out without a moment's notice. Or how self-conscious some people get when they have to stop what they're doing to put in eye drops every few minutes. What about how embarrassing it is when a prescription is too thick to fit inside your glass's frames. Or when you have to ask the teacher if you can move to the front of the room to see the board even with your glasses on.
When I take my frames off, small objects disappear entirely and large ones lose all definition and shape. There might as well not be numbers on the clock or identifiable objects on the shelves or distinct colours within those objects. If my glasses are off for even a few minutes, a blinding headache sweeps over me. My eye doctor always says, “It’ll balance out soon,” but I wish that it would happen faster. I wish my vision wasn’t something others constantly consider as their business or concern.
However, I know that I'm lucky because some people can’t see at all. At least my vision can be corrected and I can experience the world through colour and sight. Some people don’t have access to eye care. At least I can get the help that I need. I believe that everyone should be given the gift of sight, no matter what their situation is. No one should be embarrassed about their condition and no one should think it is acceptable to joke about or make fun of those conditions. No one should have to suffer because they can’t afford eye care to meet the basic quality of life needs.
In the end, I think it will come down to working towards erasing the stereotypes that come along with vision problems, as well as educating the general public that someone else’s medical condition doesn’t exist for their entertainment. Visual impairment is not a joke and is by no means humorous. Before throwing out a comment, try seeing how it might feel to the person on the other side of those frames.
Paxton Calder is a high school student from Richmond, Virginia, who loves reading, writing, science, and competitive swimming. She is happy to support visually impaired youth.