Losing your vision is always unpredictable. Some people can spend their entire lives with near perfect eyesight. Others may lose it gradually. Others still can lose it in a matter of days. Prabath, a client of Vision Australia, falls somewhere inbetween the last two categories.
Diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa at a young age, Prabath’s vision deteriorated slowly. He graduated high school in 2000 and would have yearly check-ins to see how his vision was going. In 2003 he was declared legally blind.
Over the next few years, his vision continued to decline but levelled out for a time, and he did not let this stand in his way at all. Between 2004 and 2006, he successfully completed a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Deakin University. During the summer semester of 2005/06, he successfully completed an International Research Project, where he had the opportunity to examine the housing needs for survivors of the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami in Sri Lanka. Between 2004 to the present day, he has been involved with community organisations of Melbourne, where he was able to design and coordinate programs to assist with underprivileged communities of Australia and Asia.
A sudden change
Over the course of one weekend in 2010, Prabath lost his sight completely.
“I was okay on the Friday. By Monday I was completely blind. I didn’t think it would go so quickly.”
Not one to take this challenge lying down, Prabath started using more of Vision Australia’s services to make sure he could do everything to as well a level as he could before he lost his sight.
“I started mobility training, braille training and computer training in a more full on capacity in 2011” he says. “I was taught strategies to do things, from the familiar to the unknown, and then I started setting up my own systems of doing things at home.”
Prabath’s confidence in doing these tasks quickly got noticed by the general public when he was out and about.
“I soon found that people would come up to me and say things like ‘Wow, you can’t see but you can handle money’ or ‘You work so well with a computer’. I do things differently but people are still impressed.”
Sharing the positivity
During the current lockdown as a result of COVID-19, Prabath and his friend Natalie Adams have decided to take these notions and turn it into something positive.
“People got curious and asked me if I can share how I go about living and doing day to day things as a blind person. A lot of people have questions.”
And that is the backbone for Prabath’s series of videos entitled “Power of Heart”. In this video series, Prabath shows how he does things as a person who is blind. These can be everyday things such as making a pot of tea, all the way to picking out what coloured clothes to wear, and even how he plays games such as scrabble.
“I want to show that there is equipment out there to allow us to have an ordinary life. It’s not about the disability, it’s about the willingness to do things, the attitude to do things.”
Reflections and the future
Prabath’s attitude to life never holding him back has seen him become a passionate speaker and advocate for the blind. His travels to 48 countries, and his own childhood, have inspired him to write a book specifically dealing with younger people coming to grips with their disabilities.
“I have been able to engage in educational, employment, sporting, recreational and social environments of Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Australia. This has further enabled me to gain exposure in European, North American and Asian societies. I have a vested interest in exploring and understanding issues relating to socio-cultural differences in those societies and challenges impacting on vision impaired people.”
Touching again on the intent of his Power of Heart videos, Prabath shows that the difficulty one faces in being blind or low vision is not that you can’t do some things, it’s that you have to learn a new way of doing it.
“I see [my videos] as a benefit to both sighted and blind communities; sighted people can develop insight about how blind people can do things, it will help to improve their understanding and help to close the gap between the two communities. That’s the Power of Heart.”
You can find Prabath's video series, Power of Heart, on facebook here.