The toughest period in my adjustment to blindness spanned my undergraduate years at the University of Connecticut in the late 1960s. My vision was continuing to deteriorate, and I didn’t want to be severely visually impaired. The things that I used to be able to do (play basketball, go bowling, for example) were increasingly difficult to do competitively with my sighted peers, so I stopped doing them. My dorm mates, especially in the earlier years, played tricks on me. One put a Batman picture on my door. None of that would bother me today; as a matter of fact, I’d find it pretty funny. Back then, though, I was devastated. I was finding it more difficult to pass as a sighted person, so I feared going out on a date and not being able to read the menu. So, when I did date, I knew what the items were on the menu before I got there. When I concluded I could not fake it anymore—that I must accept that I was going blind—I stopped trying to fake it. Then, a funny thing happened: I felt a huge burden lifted from my shoulders. I realized that blindness wasn’t the worst thing in the world and that I could compete with my sighted peers in so many ways. That was the beginning of my emotional adjustment to a vision loss.
I continued to lose vision over the next 30 years after college. Psychologists tell us that emotional adjustment is very difficult when you’re still experiencing a deteriorating condition; however, going blind didn’t bother me after my college years.
Of course, there are instances today, especially encountering sighted people with little experience with blindness, that irritate or frustrate me. However, we as blind people need to realize that that’s going to happen to us for the rest of our lives and there are positive ways of dealing with the unknowing public. I call this kind of behavior “innocent ignorance.”
Back in my college days, I became so frustrated with sighted students that I began giving lectures to classes of occupational therapists, speech therapists, and social workers about how people who are blind and visually impaired do everyday activities. I believe it’s important for all of us to educate the public whenever possible and not to become flustered when they don’t treat us the way we want to be treated.
Carl R. Augusto
has served as President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) since May 1991. Mr. Augusto is a preeminent leader in the field of blindness and visual impairment, having served in a variety of professional and volunteer capacities since 1971. He has expanded AFB's scope to influence corporate America to make products and services accessible to blind and visually impaired people and has brought organizations, of and for the blind, together toward common objectives and greater collaboration. Mr. Augusto holds a Master's Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from New York University, a bachelor's degree in Psychology from the University of Connecticut, and was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters from Saint Peter's College in New Jersey.
Biography excerpted from AFB’s website: Read Mr. Augusto’s complete biography here