Dave; I am visually impaired and proud
Dave Parfett, 19 from Derby, is a first year student at RNC (Royal National College for the Blind). Before this he was in mainstream college, moving from course to course because the tutors could not provide the correct support or equipment. He started RNC in September 2016 and in the blog below he talks about why this was the best decision he could have made;
“I first visited RNC the day after my 18th birthday for a Have a Go weekend; I was apprehensive about coming at first because I’d never been in a VI environment before. But I knew that it was the best place for me and I immediately felt comfortable when I got here.
In the past I blagged my way through school and tried to hide my visual impairment as much as I could. I didn’t get the support I needed; I became frustrated and ended up in fights, getting detention and being put in isolation. It’s always been a battle with me and education; I never got support with IT so I played up. Now I feel supported at RNC as there are three types of access tech to choose from. I use ZoomText and have been taught how to use it properly. In school I wanted to get good grades but I never felt encouraged – I was told that I would get bad grades and they didn’t expect me to get into sixth form, but I did.
I have nystagmus which means that my sight is variable due to the time of day and can be made worse by fatigue. When I was at home I had no social life because I didn’t want to go out at night, I’m not night blind but I find it really hard judging distance and I didn’t want people to know I had VI. I never thought that I would use a cane, it was a big step admitting that I needed it; particularly at night and walking through crowds, especially because of my anxiety. But now, having the right mobility training, I feel more confident and have even walked through London on my own using my cane. When I wake up in the morning things are blurry at first so I need time for my eyes to adjust and that’s when I really need my cane to walk to the shops.
At the New Student Conference in July I met a bunch of mates, we got on well and stayed in contact over the summer and they’re my best mates now. Coming here isn’t just about the education, it’s about being able to go out and be a normal teenager. I just do what any normal young lad does; I go to the cinema, I go clubbing and I socialise with my mates. Back home I wouldn’t have been going out at night unless it was with my mum or dad. Now I love the freedom of being able to go into town with my mates – if I wasn’t allowed to do that I’d feel institutionalised. There are so many things that I didn’t think I could do that are adapted here; I’ve had the chance to try goalball and cricket which I’ve never played before.
At RNC I’ve never felt so at home; I feel safe and secure – mum said she’d never seen me so comfortable and the first day we got here she said she felt like she could’ve just left me here and she knew I’d be safe. I came to RNC so I could gain independence – I don’t want to go home every weekend because I don’t want to rely on my mum and dad. I am still adjusting to being in a specialist environment because before this I was the only VI kid in school.
Everyone here is so friendly and understands your situation because everyone has the same circumstances; we’re all VI. Even though some people here are totally blind, they can recognise people by voice so no one is isolated; it’s such a social place.
I have never been so open about things but there is nothing to hide here. You listen to other people and hear their stories and their points of view. The more you talk about it the more you come to terms with it and I’ve come out of denial. Everyone is really aware of people’s VI; what we can and can’t do. Everyone is always helping and guiding each other.
In the past I was always scared and self-conscious about my VI; I’ve always seen myself as different. No one bullies anyone else for being different here but in any other environment you would. The teachers here are really good and completely understand your situation, they’re not patronising at all. I thought that they would try and molly cuddle you but they leave you to it unless you need the support. It’s all about getting on with things and developing coping strategies, you get so much support from the teachers and the other students. I’d never met anyone with nystagmus before and there are so many people with it here. It’s mind-blowing at first. I’ve had loads of counselling in the past but I don’t need it here, there are so many people to talk to and everything is so open. I’d never asked for support before, I guess I was afraid. I just got on with things and didn’t want to admit that I needed help. Now I’m confident in asking for help if I need it, I know it’s always there if I ask.
For a long time I’ve battled with anorexia and body dysmorphia, I never told people back home and struggled with putting on weight and stayed at 49kg for 18 months. When I first came to RNC I put on 1kg in 2 weeks and then within 2 months I was up to 52.5kg. It’s a lot of progress for me and it’s because I’m so happy here; I haven’t been this comfortable before.”
If you are interested in visiting RNC, please call our friendly student enquiries team on 01432 376 621 or email email@example.com to find out more about becoming an RNC student.