WBU-AP(Junior Group) Fine work
The Positive Experiences and Opportunities That Can Come from Being Blind
Vanessa Vlajkovic Australia 19 female

I am sure that there are people who will take one look at the title of this essay and mutter, "positive experiences? Yeah, as if." And that's okay, because not everyone will be interested in what I have to say, but let me just tell you this: don't judge a book by its cover. And another thing: don't ever assume that because a person has vision loss, hearing loss, or any other type of disability, that their lives will ultimately be doomed. It's not true, and I am living proof. Here's how'''

At the tender age of nine months, when I was beginning to walk, something occurred which my family weren't quite expecting. I was diagnosed with Optic atrophy, a condition in which the optic nerve does not form properly. As there was no trace of this disorder in our family history, and I was perfectly healthy at the time of diagnosis, those who love me were left bewildered as to what could have caused this. To this day, we still don't know, but in my opinion, it doesn't matter. I have much to be grateful for, such as that I still have 20 percent remaining sight. I'm also very fortunate that my brain was in no way affected by optic atrophy, thereby allowing me to get through my education with minimum difficulties. I learnt Braille at the age of four, and this has helped me to become as independent as possible, over the past fifteen years.

Although I will not go into depth about this, I think it is necessary to mention that I am also Deaf. This is because much of what I am about to write is due to me having combined vision and hearing loss, hence many of my adventures are owed to these two factors together, not just the one. I became Deaf at about seven years of age, and, like the first time, the cause was unknown. Now, at 19, I use sign language as my main communication. It wasn't always this way. My hearing got progressively worse between ages 14 and 16, thus resulting in me learning Auslan, (Australian Sign language).

Having said all that, it brings me back to the topic at hand - how has being blind, (or Deafblind, if you like), opened up doors to me that are otherwise closed to the majority of people? Well, let me start with the time I met One Direction '''

Starlight Children's Foundation is an Australian organisation, similar to Make a Wish Australia, that grants once-in-a-lifetime wishes for children and teenagers living with illnesses ranging from all forms of cancer, to the lesser-threatening things like what I have. I'm going to disregard the obvious fact that 1D is no longer a band, for the sake of not being a killjoy. In February 2015, I was flown to Sydney by Starlight for three days and two nights, with two of my closest friends by my side. To make a story short, it was an unforgettable trip, and something which will always remind me that even though I may not see and hear everything around me, there are definitely breaks from reality out there just waiting for me to come along and discover them. There is a silver lining to almost everything, you just have to get into the habit of looking for it.

There have been countless other times where I have felt honoured to be in the position that I am. In Australia each year, a national Deafblind camp is held, organised by bodies such as Senses Australia, Able Australia, etc. The location of camps varies, but mostly it is Perth and Melbourne that host the camps. In 2016, we had one in Sydney too. These three-day camps are an ideal way for Deafblind individuals and their support persons to gather at a fun venue and experience the joys of the many outdoor activities which are on offer. It is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of my favourite parts of being involved in the Deafblind community. I have had the pleasure of meeting some wonderful people, who share similar views to myself and are as understanding as could be. It is truly a privilege to be able to interact with these people, especially considering that I have grown up in a hearing and sighted family.

Sometimes I struggle to find my place between the two worlds, but you know what? I can get the best out of both of them. It's just about having the right attitude, setting yourself goals and grabbing opportunities when they come your way. Neither blindness, nor deafness, should scream negativity. People look at me and they might go, "awww, poor girl. I bet her life is so hard." But, I'm here to tell you, my life is no harder than yours. It's the simple truth.




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