Woman trying to decide which direction to go.
Learning Disabilities

What I Wish People Knew About My Visual Perception Disability

Michelle SteinerMay 21, 2019 Originally published on the Mighty

When people find out that I struggle with visual perception, they automatically think it’s related to my eyes and not my brain. I can understand the confusion. However, visual perception is not what it may appear to be.

I have been asked why I don’t get glasses, but my eyes are healthy and I can see normally. I have been told if I just paid more attention, I wouldn’t have run into something.

My visual perception difficulties are part of my learning disability. Visual perception affects my reaction time and how my brain perceives objects. I struggle with escalators; the constant movement leaves me confused and I am unable to know when to step on or off.  I have difficulty with eye-hand coordination and where my body is in space.

I struggle with the concept of right and left. I cannot tell which shoe is for the right or left foot. I have to try the shoe on first to see if it’s comfortable. I am able to see the shoe, but they both look alike to me. I worked in child care and one of the most frustrating things was when the children took their shoes off and I had to try to put them back on the right feet! I would often get it wrong. People understood if it was a child’s mistake, but didn’t understand why I couldn’t tell the difference.

Visual perception also affects my sense of direction. Just as I can’t tell left from right, concepts like east, west, south and north have little meaning to me. I cannot give directions. I have found that if I explore an area on my own, I can create my own map in my head. I use landmarks such as the color of a house, or the way a hallway is decorated. Visualization takes away the abstract concept of directions. If someone asks for directions, it’s easier if I walk with them or tell them where to turn if they give me a ride home.

I am unable to drive due to my visual perception and coordination. I find it too difficult to coordinate the pedals, the wheel and to watch out for people and obstacles. I had a driver’s evaluation, and they said due to my visual perception, driving safely would not be possible. I never tried to get my license after that point. I couldn’t live with myself if I caused an accident.

My visual perception is brain-based, not vision-based. However, it gives me a unique way of seeing the world.

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