Blind Low Vision New Zealand, formerly the Foundation for the Blind, is holding its annual street collection in Gore on Friday and Saturday. The Ensign reporter Sandy Eggleston spoke with Mary Sheddan, of Tapanui, to gain an understanding of what life is like for someone with eyesight loss.
With a little help from her friend Alexa and husband Bill, Mary Sheddan can get by.
Diagnosed with macular degeneration in 2014, Mrs Sheddan has now lost most of her sight except for some peripheral vision.
The macular area is in the centre of the retina and provides a person with central vision needed for looking straight ahead for tasks including reading, sewing and driving.
Mrs Sheddan said she could complete some kitchen tasks such as peeling potatoes and onions, but Mr Sheddan did most of the meal cooking.
“My husband Bill is my most valuable asset,” she said.
“Bill has to put up with all of the hassles of living with a blind person.”
The couple have been married for 62 years.
Alexa was a voice-activated WiFi application Mrs Sheddan used to access a variety of things including music and information.
“Alexa has the complete Blind Foundation library on it.
“I can access books.
“I can access magazines.
“The talking books are an absolute lifeline.”
Mrs Sheddan was also able to dial a telephone number to hear The Ensign read.
“I would like to thank the readers [of The Ensign] who keep people in touch with what is going on.”
Blind Low Vision New Zealand provided her with tools to make life easier, including an application on her cellphone which was voice-activated and enabled her to send and hear text messages.
She used a white cane only when walking in Dunedin.
“I have a fear of falling, losing balance or being bumped so I carry it only when I’m in a crowd.”
It had not been easy accepting that she was losing her eyesight.
“It was difficult to come to terms with not being able to do the tasks I would normally be able to do.
“Each time I find I cannot do a task I know that was a task I will not be able to do again.”
Also known as Mary-ella Storyteller, the former primary school teacher used to enjoy telling stories in schools and libraries.
“Kids I’ve taught will come and say stories you told’.”
However, she no longer did this.
“Because I cannot see faces and make eye contact with the people listening I don’t get any feedback and that limits the ability to interact with the audience.”