Blind & Low Vision NZ , formerly the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind, is holding its annual Blind Week street collection on October 18 and 19. The Ensign reporter Sandy Eggleston chats to Gore man Jason Griffiths who has been blind since before he was 4-years-old.
If he had his sight, Jason Griffiths says he would be “as lazy as anyone”.
The 47-year-old lives in Knapdale and often walks home from Gore.
Mr Griffiths said he did not particularly enjoy walking but often that was his only option if he needed to travel somewhere.
“I scrounge and beg a lift when I can and walk home,” Mr Griffiths said.
“It’s not ideal – it’s too slow.
“If I had full sight I’d be as lazy as anyone.
“I’d just about drive to my letterbox.”
He was not born blind but, because of eye disease, had his eyes surgically removed – one when he was 18 months old, and the other when he was three-and-a-half years old.
“It came down to remove my eyes or I would be underground.
“Those were the choices my parents had to make.”
Mr Griffiths was born in Gore but spent much of his life in Auckland after attending the former Homai College for the Blind in Manurewa, now known as the Blind and Low Vision Education Network NZ, from 1977 to 1991.
He returned home three years ago.
“Most of my friends are in Auckland.”
If there was a message he wanted to share with people it was “I breathe oxygen too”.
People in Gore did not seem to know how to relate to him.
“The odd person will talk to me normally.”
Some people treated him as if he was intellectually impaired.
“My only disability is my vision.
“It’s a real mixed bag so I’ve found it’s just as easy to go on merits – I’ll treat people as they treat me.”
He cooked for himself, did his washing but had someone help with housework and grocery shopping.
“I like my independence.”
His laptop had speech recognition which enabled him to use it but it took him much longer to do tasks than a sighted person.
Needing help with simple tasks able-sighted people took for granted being able to do was a “hard pill to swallow especially day in, day out”.