There are two words that I am trying to evict from my vocabulary — “good” and “lucky”.
“Good” — because it is such a beige, non-word, non-answer, more-punctuation-than-a-word, like “nice”, or “okay” and all three words should be banned by law.
“Lucky” — well, because “lucky” was often how I would describe things happening to me. I was “lucky” that I got that funding or award, or I am “lucky” that I get to do the job I do. When really, luck has nothing to do with it at all.
I should say (and am trying to get used to saying) that I am blessed and grateful. Feeling blessed and grateful is so much more “on purpose” than the word “luck”. This is perhaps why I shy away from talking about blessing and gratitude, and instead, I water it all down to pure dumb luck.
One thing that I would often answer “I’m just lucky,” wasn’t around what most people would consider being a good thing (after all, you can also have bad luck, surely?!). When I was 27 years old, the vision in my right eye went blurry in an instant — like someone had smeared Vaseline all over my eye. Of course, no one had, and off down the medical rabbit hole I went.
It was a rabbit hole because no one knew what condition I had (and I got to talk to A LOT of doctors). I was prodded and poked, given drugs, given injections, told to stay super still, told to run around, more drugs, more doctors and yet no name for what I had. More importantly, with no name, there was no potential cure.
After months of appointments, most retinal specialists agreed that I had an incredibly rare eye condition that at least had a name, but (lucky me) had no cure. The name has both “syndrome” and “presumed” in it, so I think that the docs were just making up the name anyway. The only treatment at the time was effectively amputation of the affected part of my eye.
But this is where I used to say that I got even more lucky — I had this condition only in my right eye. Everyone else (and we are talking 17 in Australia and a couple of hundred in the USA) got it in both eyes, and instantly, leaving them blind where they stood. The doctors (optimist folks that they are) all told me that I would get it in both eyes; it was only a matter of time, and that I should use that time to prepare and plan.
Planning to be blind was one of the best-worst things that happened to me. It started my life-long fascination with Braille signs in public. If I was blind, how was I supposed to know that the sign was there? If the sign said something like “press the yellow button, not the green one”, what idiot came up with that? In times of Covid-19, how much hand-sanitiser do people with vision impairment have to pack for reading all those Braille signs on an average trip into town?
While I don’t have the answers to those questions, I did start a journey to come up with something different to help people with vision impairment navigate unfamiliar indoor spaces.
And so BindiMaps was born. BindiMaps is a smartphone app that helps anyone navigate an unfamiliar indoor space, like a hospital, university or shopping centre. While anyone can use it, BindiMaps was first developed for people who are blind or vision impaired. Bindi is short for “be independent” — something that those without a disability tend to take for granted, but really should be more grateful for.
One of my greatest joys is being present when someone with vision impairment uses BindiMaps for the first time and independently goes to where they want to go to. There are often tears, and not just from me.
So, the best-worst thing? There are so many clichés, like the one about making lemonade from lemons. Personally, I think that those clichés are trivial and disrespectful. Being told that you are going to go blind sucks, and it is terrifying. But there is a direct link from my eyes failing to the idea of BindiMaps. And I can’t help but be grateful, and feel blessed, that I was able to help create something that makes such a difference in people’s lives.
What is BindiMaps?
Everyone loves navigation apps.
You know, like the one on your phone that rhymes with ‘frugal chaps’.
They’re brilliant, until you go indoors and everything just…shuts down.
That’s where BindiMaps comes in.
We help you find your way around the indoor spaces that other navigation apps can’t reach.
Once you open the app, the technology finds you and then uses common-sense, everyday language to guide you to wherever you’re going:
Parent’s room in the mega-mall? Walk this way.
Neo-natal ward in the new hospital? 9 metres on your left.
For many people this will be hugely helpful.
For people with a vision impairment, it’s a complete game-changer.
Whatever you’re looking for, BindiMaps will help you get there.