Brian Edwards’ vision began to deteriorate when he was 18 and a year later, as the result of Keratoconus, he was left totally blind.
Coming at a time in his life where he was preparing to move into the realm of adulthood, Brian took some time to come to terms with the idea of vision loss.
“I’d say a lot of people have a similar experience to what I did where they struggle to accept the fact that they’re losing their vision and what that actually means for them going forward,” Brian said.
“Especially being a young person, you don’t think about that sort of thing and then all of sudden you’re confronted with huge change. The early stages after I was diagnosed were definitely a struggle,” the now 25 year-old said.
While acceptance didn’t come overnight for Brian, he still made an effort to find out what support was available to him soon after his diagnosis.
“The support I’ve had from Vision Australia has definitely made a huge difference for me and I’m glad that I reached out early on,” he said.
“One of the big things for me was learning to use a white cane so I could still get around on my own. I started learning to use it when I still had a bit of sight left and that definitely made a difference in how easy I was able to pick it up.”
Along with receiving physical support services, Brian also signed up to the Vision Australia Quality Living Group program. The program brings together people who are blind or have low vision and provides them with opportunity to connect with others who may have similar lived experiences and share advice and strategies about living with vision loss.
“That was something that really helped me. Just being able to speak to other people who know what you’re going through definitely made a difference,” Brian said.
“It might just be talking about the basic things you do at home to make things easier, but it’s just good to know you’re not the only one out there who’s going through those sorts of things.”
Having experienced first-hand the benefit of connecting with others from the blind and low vision community, Brian decided he would use his lived experience to support other young people who may be in a similar situation to him.
Brian signed up to Vision Australia’s Peer Support Program, which matches people with similar lived experiences relating to vision loss. Once matched with a peer, Brian will act as a support network and outlet.
“It’s the sort of thing I wish I knew about when I first started losing my vision. I think a lot of people either wait until things are real bad or they’ve struggled through things themselves before they reach out for support, but if you can connect with somebody before that you’re going to benefit.”
Ben is employed and participates in activities like blind cricket. He said he’s happy to talk to people around things relating to those activities and day-to-day life as somebody who is blind, but he believes the Peer Support Program can offer one particular benefit to those involved.
“Acceptance really is the biggest thing. If you can’t accept that things are changing and that you’re losing your vision then you’re not going to continue to grow as a person and get the most out of life.
“That’s what I want to help people with and I think by just giving them somebody to talk to I’ll be able to do that.”
For more on the Peer Support program, click here.