What's It Like To Be Blind? 10 Everyday Things Visually Impaired People Dread

Going blind sucks for a bunch of reasons, but topping the list for me is that it’s super inconvenient. Thanks to a degenerative retinal disease called retinitis pigmentosa, I’ve slowly been losing my vision since I was a teenager. This slow process of losing my sight has given me a chance to compare a life with great vision (my life before) to a life with really crappy vision (my life now). Spoiler alert: The version where I can see wins the convenience contest.

Though the lights haven’t gone all the way out yet (I’ve hung on to a strip of cataract-clouded, color-blind tunnel vision and am at this point legally blind), the blind spots have grown enough that they’ve certainly made a huge difference in my life.

While not essential, functioning eyes are really very useful. I’ve heard enough stories about blind people running marathons and climbing Everest and performing triple bypass surgeries (no, wait, I made that one up), to know that sightless folks can pretty much do anything other people do (and as the mother of the three adorable kids in the picture above and the author of the new memoir Now I See You , I’m proof of this).

But there’s no doubt that while everything and anything is possible, chances are, everything and anything will be a bigger pain in the ass. Here's what I find are the 10 most annoying (little) things about being visually impaired.

Finding that earring back you dropped (or anything you dropped, really)

I can locate dropped items of diminutive size by groping the floor in desperate sweeps, but half the time this means I push the object even farther away, like, say, under a bookshelf.

Applying eye makeup

Because of my color blindness, I’ve been known to put eyeliner on my lips. Even if I manage to keep the greens and browns straight, I’m making a Hail Mary pass every time I draw the liner across my lid.

Assembling Ikea furniture

I’ve spent so many hours cursing at ostensibly simple Ikea instructions, to say nothing of the time squandered searching for tiny pegs on the floor (see item # 1). I now have a panic attack when I hear Swedish.

Shopping for jeans

By the time I’ve made out the sizes and price tags (using a magnifier), and located the fitting room, and bashed my shinbones into low-lying displays, and found the one well-lit spot in the whole dressing area to asses how big my ass looks, I’m thoroughly exhausted. It’s enough to drive a girl to online shopping.

Looking at stuff people want to show you on their smartphones

Nary a day passes without friends feeling compelled to show me something on their phone — pictures, texts, some amazing new app they’re all evangelical about — that I can’t see for shit. Hey, it’s cool; I’m not going to knock enthusiasm. Just don’t quiz me later.

Reading the cooking instructions on frozen food items

I turn to frozen food when I don’t have time to cook. But it defeats the purpose when I have to spend ten minutes trying to discern the far-too-complex directions for Thai Ginger Dumplings.

Operating a remote control

There was a time when remote controls had no more than a dozen buttons. Now that your standard TV can turn into a rocket ship and do brain surgery, though, there are roughly a hundred buttons, and the words on these buttons are small enough I require a microscope to read them.

Signing credit card receipts

From the look of my John Hancock on receipts (and doctor’s forms and contracts and waivers) you’d think I was perpetually tanked. I sign, but it rarely ends up on the dotted line.

Ordering dinner from a menu

I hold up the menu like everyone else, but the truth is it could contain classified governmental intel and I’d have no idea. I end up having a lot of “what she’s having.” It’s palate-expanding.

Determining if it's cheek kiss vs. hug vs. handshake situation

I can still recognize folks if they’re right in front of me, but the tunnel vision makes it tough to guess whether they’re moving in for a peck on the cheek or a shake or an embrace. I find myself frequently shaking all the wrong body parts.

Nicole C. Kear is the author of the memoir Now I See You (June 24, St. Martin’s Press). You can order the book and find out more info on her website www.nicolekear.com .