Guneet Sethi enjoyed an active social life and a career as a teacher, till she lost her eye sight. Six years later, she decides not to allow blindness take control of her life. And begins her life on a new note. Let's find out how.
When I first met Guneet, it was very hard to believe that she couldn't see.
Her impeccable dressing sense, her bubbly confidence told the story of a woman who hasn't allowed blindness to take away her social life.
As I started to know Guneet better, her story started unfolding. I think it's worth sharing with you.
Guneet: "What happens when you are in the middle of an ocean sailing and your oars are taken away?
I now know the answer, because this is exactly what I faced.
Doctors diagnosed me with Retinitis Pigmintosa, a severe eye disorder which leads to blindness. This happened when I was enjoying a wonderful social life, nurturing many ambitions and gearing up for a great future.
As my eyes slowly drew into darkness, depression drew me into a shell. I was quite comfortable and content in the four walls of my home with parents to fall back on. I hesitated meeting anyone, as I feared my blindness would be noticed. My social life started to go from bad to worse for 6 long years, until I was left with just myself.
That's when I decided; I did not want to live a life which had nothing but stagnation. I realised that my eye disorder is something I had to live with, how I dealt with it was up to me. Once I came to terms with this fact, I felt much lighter. I started venturing out and reaching out to people. Slowly and steadily, I got my bearings. I did not fear my disability any more and wanted to meet and interact with people.
How to begin
When meeting people, I had to keep a few things in my mind, because, for a person who is disabled in any way, the first impression is crucial. I say this because disabled people tend to be viewed very critically and their capabilities are doubted. So whether you have a visual impairment or any other disability, you just have to make a more conscious effort. That's exactly what I did.
First and foremost, I understood the importance of a good command over spoken language. I was fortunate to have a good command over languages. However, I extensively listened to television and radio programmes. They definitely do help to improve your communication skills. They can help you correct your accent, check your pronunciation and also brush up your general awareness.
I also learnt how to use computers with the help of a screen reading software called JAWS at my nearest NAB centre. Now I had access to the whole world. I could read the morning newspapers and also mail my friends - something I never imagined I could ever do.
My new found independence got me back my self esteem and helped me find a job. Now a job means meeting more people and accommodating in a new atmosphere. And a bit of personal grooming helps you go a long way.
Good grooming takes you a long way
For me being well dressed and having a neat appearance is very essential, as it makes me feel positive and surely increases my confidence level. I take an extra effort to choose clothes, which are comfortable and fit well.
Don't hesitate to ask someone you trust if the combination you are wearing is the right one. I would suggest, buy clothes which have different textures or designs. This way you can distinguish your clothes and connect the colour of an item to the design or the texture of the fabric. It just becomes easier when you are selecting what to wear. For example, if you have two shirts of different colours but identical texture and design, it will not be easy for you to know which colour shirt you've picked up.
You have to remember that even if you cannot see yourself, the rest of the world can see you. Hence it becomes essential for you to have a perfect turn-out. The way you dress, conduct yourself and behave in public, they all help people judge you.
Keep your mind alert
Staying alert is another important tip when you are meeting people. If you are alert, you won't take more than a few seconds to gauge your position. When you are about to enter a room, wait and notice where the voices are coming from. This will assist you to look straight at the person you are speaking to. Make a mental note of the doors you opened so that you can cruise comfortably on your way out.
Be the first one to bring forward your hand with confidence and introduce yourself.
To meet people and then getting to know them can be moments of pleasure, as this forms a beginning of a new relationship. Be it professional or otherwise. You make friends, and who knows, you may come across opportunities, which will make a positive difference in your life. There are people out there who come forward to help, not because they pity you but because they want you to recognize your own skills. It is thanks to such people who encouraged me. To the surprise of many, today I work, travel independently and feel at par with any sighted person.
One more important point to keep in mind while making a first time impression, when you are in a group at meal times, just like any sighted person you too should watch your table manners. It is a good idea to use cutlery to eat. It's better to go for a second helping rather than piling up food on your plate. Keep a napkin handy.
It's always nice to be a part of a conversation. Be careful not to interrupt when someone is making a point. Let him finish before you start speaking. Maintain your poise and keep your hands in control. I mean there is no need to get aggressive and start thumping the table.
But the key to resume your social life lies in accepting your visual impairment. And the sooner you do, the better it is. Every moment is precious. Don't loose any more time than what you already have.
Today, with the assistive technology on our side, a visually impaired person can choose a career in almost any field. You just have to tap the right one for yourself. Then, just like anyone else, work hard to put in your best and excel in the same. Remember, you are not special because you are blind; instead, you have to make yourself special by proving your excellence in your field of work.
Being polite, courteous and respectful enhances your personality. Never try and copy any other person, always be you. Do not portray yourself as someone who has a visual impairment, but as someone who has the ability to perform very well. This will leave a lasting impression, which will lead you on to the right track to success.