In today’s blog post our guest author Chad Boudon tells us, about his life with Retinitis Pigmentosa an how he learned to transform his disability into a superpower.
Hello, my name is Chad Boudon, I am a legally blind journalist, accessibility researcher, podcast host, and small business owner. Since age eleven I have been losing my vision due to an inherited retinal disorder called Retinitis Pigmentosa. Nowadays, I am confident enough with my vision loss to the point where I can say I am grateful for my eye disease. However, I did not always feel this way when it came to my visual impairment.
Growing up I found it impossible to cope with the idea that I would lose my independence and confidence. I had this warped mindset on what it meant to be normal and if I did not measure up to my own expectations of what was normal to me then, I felt like I had no reason to belong in the world. The worse my vision would get the more and more I would ignore it and try pretending there was nothing wrong with my sight. This way of thinking led me to refuse to use my white-tipped cane, as well as all the adaptive technology doctors provided me.
I did not know it at the time, but ignoring these tools was the worst decision I could have made. I started falling behind in classwork, which lead to me failing my courses. Additionally, by choosing to not use my cane meant I began to fall down flights of stairs, run into pedestrians, and even get run over by vehicles. I was a danger to myself and yet I still refused to acknowledge my eye disease and adjust my life accordingly.
Eventually, I decided to retreat from the outside world and become a recluse. I stopped attending school and would only leave my room to eat or use the restroom. Obviously, living such a lifestyle took a toll on my mental health, and eventually, it got to be such a problem that I began to contemplate suicide. At my lowest point in life, I felt it would be easier to just give up and embrace the eternal dream.
However, since I am writing this entry it obviously means I did not go through with my plans. I think the first step towards me starting to accept my vision loss was simply talking about how angrily I was to be losing my vision. Furthermore, I spent a lot of time addressing my lack of confidence and independence as a visually impaired cisgender male. I was so afraid of failing in life due to the eye disease that I conditioned myself to believe that I would never make a name for myself because of my disability. So many people told me growing up that I should accept my limitations and never dream too big to the point where I believed them. For me going to counseling and figuring out all the triggers for my doubts and anxieties was a huge step forward for me.
However, the number one thing that helped me turn my disadvantage into an advantage was getting my current guide dog Andros. Getting my guide dog was how I realized my confidence and independence. Everything in my life changed once I returned home with Andros. Is topped staying inside; instead, with Andros I started going to the mall on my own or went with friends to a festival. Andros was who I needed in my life in order to both show me and prove to myself that I can be a part of the world and that there is somewhere I can belong. I still struggle to this day with adapting to my progressive eye disease. I will continue to lose my vision until a cure is discovered. However, I honestly do not care if one day I do go blind.
I already have everything I need to overcome any change to my vision. I think it is easy to give up, however, I think if we give up too soon then we never realize what we can go on to accomplish. I never once thought I could be a disability advocate, however, I am happy I found a way to transform my disadvantage into an advantage. No one will ever have the same journey even if they have the same disability or chronic illness. However, we can all do great things given enough time, resources, support, and kindness.