As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, I’m a writer and I’ve visually impaired. I’ve shamelessly milked my sight problem for my journalism and creative writing, and while I’m now moving on to other topics, I wanted to give other people the opportunity to experience the power that comes with telling your own story and turning what seems like a disadvantage into a source of inspiration.
As a result, I’ve struck up a relationship with the National Council for the Blind, and I’ve now given three one-day workshops at its Training Centre, thanks to the generosity of its director, Stuart Lawler. The participation has been lively and fun and (no pun intended) a bit of an eye opener. I’m partially sighted and have been so my whole life, so it’s been interesting to learn about the challenges faced by totally blind people and by people who have lost their sight, either gradually or suddenly.
Visual impairment is always portrayed as a hindrance, but in the writing world, it can be a powerful creative force. There are three qualities I noticed in the budding writers I worked with at NCBI which I think will help them to be fine writers.
Visually impaired people concentrate harder. They pay attention to what you tell them, because they don’t have the luxury of leafing through prepared handouts. They are more likely to retain the nuggets of information you pass on to them. Sight is such a powerful sense that it almost blocks the other senses out. When it goes, other senses come to the fore, and as a result, visually impaired people may notice things that other people miss. This trait is essential for a good writer.
This isn’t quite the negative trait it may seem, but visually impaired people can be cranky, frustrated by a world which is designed for people who can see, in mourning for their lost sight. Writing helps them to channel that anger and use it to create something new. Their anger can help them create writing that makes people sit up and take notice, and (pun intended) view the world in a different way.
In writing, it helps if you have a perspective that is different from everyone else’s, a different way of looking at the world. When you’re visually impaired, you already have that. Some visually impaired people may prefer not to be defined by their disability and to write about other topics that interest them. If they do choose to centre their writing on their visual impairment, they have a wealth of life experiences at their disposal to draw on, which will help them to create fresh, original writing.
Have you ever worked with writers who have disabilities? Are you a writer with a disability yourself? How do you think disability shapes writing?