The First Step — Introduction

Hi, welcome, come in. This is Cora, she’s my guide dog. I have a cat too, his name is Magic, I adopted him from a cat lounge. Can I make you a tea or coffee? Yes, I can manage boiling water safely. No, I don’t need to put my finger in your cup to know when to stop pouring. Please make yourself comfortable. I have so much to share!

Cass and Cora shaking hand and paw!
Photo by Lee Anderson. Image of Cass and Cora shaking hand and paw. Cass wears a white t-shirt with “mademoiselle Paris” written on the front in black text, and light blue jeans. She smiles brightly towards Cora, with her blonde hair pulled back into a neat ponytail. Small silver twist earrings hang from her ears. Cora looks expectantly towards Cass, ears up. Cora wears a light orange collar with blue and green tags. Behind them is a large window showcasing the Melbourne city skyline.

I guess I’ll start with a little bit about myself. I am twenty-seven, short, blonde, sometimes shy and sometimes outgoing. I enjoy playing Vision Impaired Table Tennis, listening to podcasts (yes, including true crime ones), going to gigs, eating out, travelling, watching sport, and pretending that I can play the guitar.

I recently graduated from Monash University with a Bachelor of Business and majors in marketing and management. I live alone in an apartment in an inner-city suburb of Melbourne. And I recently got my first full-time job at BindiMaps!

Without meaning to sound rude, what brought you here? Is it because you want to learn a little more about what it is like to live as someone who is blind? Great, then you’re in the right place. Before I dive right in though, let me just say this. When you have a disability, some members of the public seem to think that they have the right to ask you anything about your personal life. It’s almost like if you have a disability, then you are expected to have an open-door policy.

Not long ago, we heard about Nas Campanella’s experience of being interrupted on a Sydney train just to be asked how she had lost her vision. You can read her story here. Just a few months earlier, Chrissy Brincat shared a similar story of being interrupted on her way home to face a barrage of questions. You can read her story here. Both women explained that they answered the questions because they felt obliged to and they didn’t want to be rude. Nas was even told by the stranger that if he were blind, he would “kill himself”. How’s that? Sadly, this scenario is not uncommon. Imagine being told that your entire way of life is so confronting that other people would rather be dead. Trust me, it’s not that bad. I love the way Chrissy puts it. She goes about her life doing what needs to be done sometimes “just plain [forgetting] that the majority of the world [do] all these things with an extra sense”.

I can definitely empathise with Nas and Chrissy’s stories. There have been many times when I have found myself sharing my life story with total strangers. But as Chrissy admits, human beings are innately curious creatures. Occasionally, I wish they would leave me alone. Most often, I am happy to share. In fact, my last job involved teaching people about what it is like being blind, answering their questions, and promoting a positive attitude towards disability. I was comfortable in that role, but there were times when I would get sick of talking about myself and my blindness all day.

But don’t stress. As I mentioned, most of the time I am happy to share. My personal philosophy is that I would rather you asked so I can tell you the truth. To me, that’s better than always wondering, or even worse, believing something that is simply untrue. Let’s face it, I am a pretty open and honest person. I think you’ll learn that about me if you stick around. Plus, in this scenario, I am choosing to share with you. I’m not being hassled on my way home when I am hangry and tired and right at that juicy part of my podcast. What I will say though is that this is only my personal view. I will acknowledge this fact many times in these blogs. I never want to be seen as the mouthpiece for the blind community. I can only share my own experiences and opinions, but others’ milage may vary.

So here goes! I have been blind since I was about three-years-old. I developed a tumour on my optic nerve. I imagine it blocking the signal from my eyes to my brain. They don’t know what caused it. I had chemotherapy when I was young, and an operation to try and remove the tumour. They only removed half of it because it was too close to my brain and they didn’t want to risk it. So it’s still there. But it’s benign, and I have an MRI every year to keep an eye on it. It doesn’t affect me in any other way.

I only have light perception in my right eye (meaning that I can only tell the difference between light and dark), but I do have slightly more vision in my left eye. It is really hard to describe what I can see. I suppose it’s almost like colourful shadows. Nothing is blurry, but I can’t see any detail such as facial expressions or the pattern on your clothes. I could tell if you were standing in front of me, but I wouldn’t be able to recognise you unless you spoke. I can’t see all colours either, I get a lot of them confused. I can’t tell red and green apart for example or blue and purple either. I guess it’s more like seeing shades. So I could tell that you were wearing a light-coloured top and dark pants, but not the exact colour. My vision is also worse if it is sunny. That’s partially because of the brightness but also because of all the shadows on the ground. I don’t have great depth perception, so I can’t tell if that shape on the ground is merely a shadow or if it is a hole or something I could trip over. My vision is not that crash hot in the dark either. I do find my little bit of vision helpful at times though. I can usually avoid obstacles in my way and when crossing the road I can see the lines to know that I am crossing straight. That is a huge advantage.

Anyway, that is probably plenty for an introduction, but I hope you’ll come back next time. I still have so much I want to share, including all about Cora too!

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.

We help you find your way around the indoor spaces that other navigation apps can’t reach. Navigate the great indoors!

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