by Carson Wood

For most of my life, I've found great pleasure in the simple act of taking a walk. As my retinitis pigmentosa progresses, the need to be more intensely focused on orientation and mobility has taken away some of the enjoyment. The more congestion I encounter, the more I must take notice of every hint of potential danger. I've realized I harbor some deep resentment in that the need for such intense concentration is crowding out the great joy I once felt, even when the hubbub of daily commuting was daunting.

Although pride has been labeled as a sin by some, I want respect and demand my right to live a life of dignity and to be valued as a human being. Being haunted by recent news stories where fully sighted pedestrians have been killed and maimed by motorists in hit-and-runs in which even witnesses didn't bother to stop, I've been fixated on where my fellow visually impaired people now stand in the scheme of things.

On my daily walk home from the gym, I was crossing an ingress-egress driveway which was quite wide. I did not hear the car idling, waiting to turn, so my cane came in contact with the car, which prompted me to go around the rear and head back to the sidewalk. As I passed the passenger side of the car, someone grabbed my arm and started leading me without having said a word. I told the person, "I've got this situation under control." The man said, "Go ahead, fall down!" I cursed at the man and said, "Why don't you go fall down?!"

Later in the day, when crossing Main Street, a vehicle stopped as I waited to hear if it was safe to use the crosswalk. As I crossed, the vehicle driver let out a mocking, Walt Disney's Goofy laugh as I headed for the opposite curb.

Attending my town's Together Days celebration that evening, I was met by some members of the Lions Club where I'd once been a member. They asked me if I was doing anything other than lifting weights and cleaning my house. The Lions Club professes to be the guardians of the blind, but the way the question was put to me, it was intended to make me feel like a second-class citizen.

The loss of my functional vision has taken away many abilities I once had. It has not taken away my spirit and will to go on. I refuse to let it destroy my dignity. Life issues beyond visual challenges are plenty tough enough, such as the impending death of my best friend of 40 years and the impending death of my pet dog. I have to question if the current attitude of the general public is really as callous as it seems to be proving to be.

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