Monday, 8 January 2018

My school days - Graham S

Graham S
I have a condition known as Albinism which means that I have white hair and poor eyesight. Because I have no pigment in my skin I have to be very careful in the sun as my skin can't tan. Instead it goes from white to bright red and burning (never brown).

It also means that because I don't have pigment in the skin at the back of my eyes, when I look into a bright light the blood vessels at the back of my eyes make my eyes appear to be red. I find it very difficult to see in bright sunlight and have to squint a lot.

Also people with Albinism don't have something connected at the back of the eyes which most people have (I don't know the correct medical term) and this means that my eyes are moving constantly so spectacles can't be used to improve my vision.

Having been asked to contribute to the SRSB Blog I began to think what difficulties I have encountered through being partially sighted.

Although I am registered as visually impaired, I consider myself to have good eyesight compared to most visually impaired people so I suppose that I have not really encountered too many problems other than the usual one of not being able to see which bus is coming and working out which platform I need to be on at a railway station.

Not being able to drive makes you an expert on bus routes and timetables but I frequently put my hand out for the wrong bus because maybe the bus company has put on a single decker instead of the usual double decker or something similar.

However I hated my school days. I am 65 now so it is difficult to remember all the detail of why I have chosen the word 'hated' but I know that whenever I look back to those days I don't have many fond memories.

From a learning point of view it was very difficult to read the blackboard and the embarrassment which I felt if attention was drawn to me because of it was horrible. Even to this day although I don't think that generally I have any confidence issues, I hate having to speak to an audience of more than four or five people. I would write notes based on what the teacher was saying, rather than copy text from the blackboard. Because of this and the fact that reading textbooks isn't the easiest thing for a visually impaired person I didn't do too well in exams.

The exception was woodwork and perhaps surprisingly technical drawing, both of which I excelled at and both of which didn't rely on the blackboard for instruction.

I look now at little Finlay, a young client of SRSB who must be now be around school age, and I am hopeful for him that these days extra help should be available for disabled people with special needs to provide them with equal opportunities.

The other side of school life is the social life and in particular the time spent in the playground. My memories are mostly of being called names because of my appearance. This would be called bullying these days and dealt with differently. I soon learned that a couple of decent boys were the ones to have as my friends but looking back the bad times seem to mask my memories of the good times.

After leaving school my life changed completely. My employers have all been very understanding as have my colleagues and I loved learning at college. I did OK in my chosen profession of transport management and since work I have, until recently, had a picture framing studio in Sheffield city centre. I have some great friends and I have traveled abroad extensively.

I would like to end with a message to Finlay and his parents. Finlay really has nothing to worry about in his future. If his life turns out half as good as the first half of mine has (you can do the maths) he will have a wonderful time and hopefully he will find his schooldays better than mine.

Going forward, I am currently having a canal boat built so maybe future blogs might be about my boating experiences.