WBU-AP Otsuki Award
The Positive Experiences of Living with Blindness
Australia David Kovacic (56, Male)

photo: David Kovacic 

When an opportunity to see or do something different comes along, and nobody gets hurt, do it because you may not get the chance to do it tomorrow. Before I became blind that was the motto I lived by.
Some of the adventures I've experienced include swimming with the sharks at The Melbourne Aquarium, climbing to the top of The Sydney Harbour Bridge andsnorkelling on The Great Barrier Reef while feeding the small, colourful, tropical fish. Even when I travelled overseas I tried to do things that were not necessarily common tourist attractions. I've attended a Bull Fight in Arle, France, trekked in the mountains of Nepal, went on Ghost Tours all over England and visited a replica of The White House in Washington DC.
Inside this replica I found an empty Press Room. So I climbed up behind the podium and found a selectable list of famous Presidential Speeches. Selecting one of J. F. Kennedy's speeches and using exaggerated hand gestures with the best American accent I could do, I delivered the speech. To my surprise, when I'd finished the speech, the room was full of people. Smiling, I jumped off the podium and left the room. But not before turning toward the crowd and saying in a thick Australian accent "Not bad for an Aussie, ay?" You should have seen the gaping mouths as I left the room. Priceless.
Then, years later, I had a seizure and nearly died. I was placed in an induced coma and not expected to live. But live I did, but now I was almost completely deaf and totally blind.
After months of recovery and rehabilitation, I found myself sitting alone at home contemplating which vegetable I closer resembled; broccoli or cauliflower. It was then that I jumped up and said, "Stuff it! I want my life back." That's when I decided to reclaim my life.
The key to achieving this was having a successful Cochlear Implant which I did. So far I've been surfing with The Disabled Surfers Organisation. One day I arrived with a cane and giant sunglasses. I had so many laughs from wearing them, I was even interviewed on television and photographed for the local newspaper wearing the giant sunglasses while surfing.
That was not the first time I'd been in the media. I have been on local radio and have had a photograph and article about the events of the night I became blind. This article which includes my wife Claire's account of that night, was published in a newspaper magazine that was distributed all over Australia.
Another exciting activity I've done is drive a car around Sandown Raceway in pouring rain. My visually disabled co-driver turned to me and said, "Slow down. It's raining so hard I can't see through the windscreen." I turned toward him and said, "Neither can I.", as I floored the accelerator reaching over 130 KPH down the straight.
Another milestone for me was returning to my favourite hobby, Metal Detecting. My existing metal detector was modified for blind use by attaching a plastic cane tip beneath its coil. With the aid of a sighted Carer, this setup is ideal for me because it allows me to keep the coil at a constant height while sweeping and maintaining my balance. With this setup I can detect almost anywhere; local beaches, parks, play grounds and the bush lands in The Victorian Goldfields. And no, I have not found that elusive, large gold nugget ''' yet.
Recently, I was able to return to another hobby, Kayaking. On that day, when we arrived on the beach, it seemed like all our family and friends were there to witness the event. Fortunately Peter, family member and co-kayaker, paddled in sync with me making me look professional rather than like Forrest Gump splashing around. It was such a successful day, we promised to do it again. I have not told him yet, but next time I intend to kayak with him just off our local beach where I know lies the wreck of a 1930's steam ship, The Orangano. If reached at very low tide, we'd find the smoke stack above the ocean.
And last Christmas, with my brother-in-law Tim's help, we managed to put up some outdoor Christmas light decorations. I even did all the electrical connections on my own and managed not to electrocute myself or blow up our house.
You know, believe it or not, there are some advantages to being blind. There are many organisations that will assist you in achieving your goals. And I know I definitely contribute to saving money on electricity bills by not needing lights on at home when alone. Claire also finds it useful to have the light on in the bedroom without disturbing me while I sleep.
Another thing I have noticed is that my sense of smell has heightened since I've been blind. This is a bonus for me because now I can tell when I really do need a shower.
One thing I do realise is that I would not have achieved much if it wasn't for my lovely, amazing wife Claire, my little boy Jake, family and friends, and the staff and volunteers from all the organisations I have been associated with. I thank you one and all from the bottom of my heart.
So what's next for me? Well, when the opportunity presents itself, I intend to go Indoor Rock Climbing abseiling and maybe give Skydiving a go. That way, I would not see the ground rushing up at me. besides I think it would be nice to feel the wind rushing through what's left of my hair. But for now, I'll keep participating in new and old adventures as they present themselves to me.
The End, or my beginning.


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