Alice Pennington, a 22-year-old with bilateral retinal detachment, shares her story of living with total blindness and overcoming challenges associated with her visual impairment. She explains that her condition, caused by a genetic condition called incontinental pigmentation, resulted in retinal blisters and detachment, leaving her blind from the age of eight weeks.
Alice discusses the impact of her sight loss on her social life, noting that she struggled to make friends until the age of 16. However, in sixth form and later in university, she found acceptance among a diverse group of friends who treated her as an equal and supported her unconditionally.
Regarding daily tasks, Alice relies on braille and technology to access information and engage with the world. She uses screen readers like JAWS and VoiceOver on her iPhone to interact with electronic devices. She has also embraced mainstream technology, such as her iPhone, which enables her to perform tasks without relying solely on specialised equipment.
During her time at university, Alice received support through disabled students allowances, which provided her with a braille display and a mobility trainer to navigate the campus independently. Her tutors were accommodating, providing accessible materials, which contributed to her academic success. She graduated with a first-class degree and demonstrated that, with the right support, visually impaired individuals can achieve their goals without being limited by their condition.
Alice is passionate about breaking misconceptions surrounding visual impairment. She advocates for people to use regular vocabulary when interacting with visually impaired individuals, emphasising inclusion and not making them feel different from sighted individuals.
Offering advice to others living with sight loss, Alice emphasises the importance of not comparing oneself to others and not putting unnecessary pressure on learning new things quickly. She encourages people to take their time, adapt at their own pace, and focus on progress rather than comparing themselves to others.