Help can be hard to find for young people with vision impairment
I was registered partially sighted with the diagnosis of glaucoma at the age of six. I then developed macular degeneration, cataracts and rod-cone dystrophy. I have had between 150 and 200 operations. Aged 21, I was registered blind.
My school and college education was frequently interrupted by all the surgeries I had to have. I found this situation very deflating. Just when I’d think I was a step closer to having stability in my life, I would find another hurdle in my way, leading to me missing parts of my childhood and education. Teachers didn’t understand my impairment and believed it was only an excuse for my poor standard of schoolwork. In reality, it was taking me longer to complete the work but I was also behind in academic ability. I left school with no qualifications. When I attended one of the specialist colleges, they felt I needed to complete my A-levels, rather than equipping me with the skills to use assistive technology, access the web and use email, which have since proved invaluable to me. I have been in and out of college for nine years, due to the 40 operations I’ve had during this time. I eventually managed to complete my A Levels.
I felt that within the school system and the NHS there was no emotional support; people weren’t aware of the emotional impact of having a vision impairment and dealing with the associated isolation. It was only quite recently that I found out about the NHS support available – eye clinic liaison officers (ECLOs).
Making it happen
Having a vision impairment hasn’t only impacted on my schooling but also on family, friendships and on my confidence and self-esteem. In my teens, I realised that no-one else was going to support me so I would have to start speaking up for myself. Over the years, one of my strengths has become communication.
I contacted my local social worker who assisted me with rehabilitation and information on the equipment which is available to make blind people more independent. I also found that as a person who is registered blind it is difficult to access the channels that others can to seek employment. It has been empowering for me, not only to find something I am good at, but also to be able to provide a service that adds value to other people’s lives.
It is still difficult to make organisations understand how to work with someone with a vision impairment. I believe that rather than complaining about the difficulties with organisations that are not trained or equipped to deal with a person who has a vision impairment, it is important to educate and enable them to do so.
People often say now that I am positive and always have a smile. Negativity was a slope to disaster for me. I don’t work well surrounded by negativity and thrive off being around those who have a spring in their step. I was often the person my friends and family would come to for advice.
Over the years, I have developed the skills and empathy to help and support people. I decided to create an organisation to provide this support. I have trained in mediation, mentoring and guidance, counselling skills, coaching, disability awareness and safeguarding. One of the reasons I’ve been able to create and maintain my business is due to Access to Work. Although the process is difficult and testing at times, it has been a service that has provided me with independence.
Ryan Compton is the founder of the Centre for Resolution, which provides a range of services for people with SEN and disabilities: