“How old am I? Why don’t you guess. 22? So you think I’m a functional adult? (laughs) I’m actually 19 and I’m currently pursuing a Diploma in Marketing at Temasek Polytechnic.
I was part of a dark room simulation once and most of the participants assumed I was much older than I really am. To be fair to them, they couldn’t really see my face. I also talk in complete sentences, and most people my age just don’t talk in complete sentences. It’s really funny to say, but it’s true!
When did I experience vision impairment? I was diagnosed with glaucoma at the age of seven. Over the course of my life from then on, my vision started to slowly go away. The transition from functional vision to non-functional vision was most obvious when I was preparing for my O-Level exams.
Accepting the lost of my independence was hard at 16. You can be 50 percent independent, and you can even be 95 percent independent, but you’ll always have to rely on someone once you’ve lost your eyesight. Life became easier once I accepted it, because it’s easier to help someone who isn’t stubborn.
You would think that transport or reading would be the number one problem that comes with visual impairment, but those can be circumvented in some way with experience or technology. The one thing that can be very difficult is actually social interaction.
Put yourself in my shoes. If you entered a room full of strangers, you wouldn’t know who to talk to because you cannot gauge people’s facial expressions or their levels of interest. People often hesitate to talk to me because they don’t want to offend me or assume that I’m not interested because I’m quiet.
It sounds a bit hypocritical coming from me, because I’m an introvert and I’m very afraid of initiating conversations; but, if you see me, don’t be afraid to talk to me. There are many things that you can do wrong before I get offended – you’d have to mess up majorly. So don’t be afraid to approach someone like me. Most of the time, we don’t bite.” – Joshua, 19
This interview was conducted at “The Human Library” event in Singapore where Joshua participated as a human book. Click here to find out more.