‘There’s benefits to being visually impaired. I get in free to Copper’s’
Bobbie Hickey on how she has embraced her visual impairment
Bobbie Hickey in St Stephen’s Green, Dublin: “I focus on what I have: free transport, the ability to skip queues, free nights in Coppers and so many more positives.” Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Hello friend, my name is Bobbie Hickey. I can be spotted throughout Dublin carrying a coffee cup and walking into buildings, objects (most recently, a ladder) or people. This is because I am profoundly visually impaired.
My hope in writing these articles is to normalise disability, so that everyone can relate to some struggles people with disabilities face daily.
Today, we will be turning something we struggle with into a friend. Everyone has that one thing in life that they wish they didn’t have. Be it bad eyes, a bad back or maybe just messy hair – we all have something. For me, it is my eyes and how bad they are, I wish I could look up into the night sky and see stars, or look into the trees and see families of birds in nests, but I can’t and most likely never will be able to. I have learned over the years to accept this and not argue with the universe over it, as surprisingly, nothing good has ever come of that.
So instead, I made friends with my bad eyes.
Yes, they are not perfect. Yes, they drive me insane. But so do my human friends! It is the same thing. You and your friends are a team, you make each other laugh, you make each other cry, you have amazing memories and at the end of the day, you always remain friends. My eyes have made me and my entire family cry with laughter when I thought a fire exit sign was the moon! I have also been so frustrated with them that they have reduced me to tears, but then I think of all the great memories we have together – like the time I got into Coppers free because I was using my cane!
I spent so long fighting against my visual impairment, doing everything in my power to make it go away or at least to make it have less of an effect on my life. I wasn’t miserable, but I was in denial, and it took me to get knocked down by a cyclist to realise that this wasn’t going to go away.
I had two choices: keep fighting and eventually become miserable, or, make friends, take it by the hand and say, “let’s do this”. I started to own my bad eyes – they are mine and I love them. I still get annoyed at them and I still wish I could see stars, but rather then dwelling on the lack of stars or squirrels in my life, I focus on what I have: free transport, the ability to skip queues, free nights in Coppers and so many more positives.
Whatever you have going on in life, maybe it’s bad ears, maybe it’s a stammer or maybe it’s an illness that won’t leave you alone, whatever it is, own it.
Take as much control as possible. Give it a name. I hate using my cane in public, so to add some humour to the situation I named it Barbra and now there is countless jokes made when I whip the Barbs out! You will still have bad days – sometimes I wake up and all I want to do is rip my eyeballs out of my head because they are so useless, but the good days outweigh the bad, just like they do in human friendship.
This is not specific to people with disabilities – everyone has that one irritating thing that won’t go away but they wish they didn’t have. Well, let me tell you, it’s here to stay, so rather than exhausting yourself in trying to run away from it, I suggest grabbing its arm and taking it on a run with you.
Both of you will fall, both of you will triumph and at the end of it all each of you will be covered in bruises and cuts with medals around your necks signifying every success your team achieved. This is the run of life.
It’s hard, long and everyone goes through times they want to give up – but think of how much easier it would be if we all made friends with our own individual “thing”.
Platform Series: Bobbie Hickey
1) Making a sandwich when you're blind
2) Not getting the points I wanted
3) Benefits to being visually impaired
4) I’m not blind. I’m Bobbie Hickey
5) College with no friends, and no eyes
6) People freeze when I approach them
7) Why I mind needing help
8) The best teacher I have ever had
9) ‘This could happen to anyone’