As part of our series on eye health for World Sight Day, we sat down with Mara Hutchinson - a social media influencer and advocate for the Legally Blind and Visually Impaired community - to get an insight on her and what it means to live with visual impairment.
- Tell us about yourself and what you do.
Hi guys, I’m Mara, a 39 year old legally blind woman, wife and mother. I have a rare genetic eye condition, called Retinitis Pigmentosa, which has caused me to lose most of my vision.
I’m a proud stay at home wife and mother; I have a beautiful family that I get to take care of every single day. I am also a social media influencer, sharing everything about my life, whether it’s about motherhood, all of the things that I love and especially sharing and advocating for the Legally Blind and Visually Impaired Community. I share what I can, in the hopes to inspire and help whoever I can in this world.
- For our readers who may not know what it means to be legally blind, could you give us some insight into your experience with RP?
I’ve been battling Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) for over 11 years now. RP is an inherited retinal disease causing crazy progressive loss of night and peripheral vision. And this can often lead to legal and sometimes complete blindness. It’s a very scary thing to go through. Not many people understand the value of vision until you are hit with a rare disease like RP which, at this moment, has no cure.
I am living life with about 5% vision in only my right eye. My left eye just sees some outlines, blobs and light, nothing clear though. The classification for being severely sight impaired (blind) is vision of 20/200 (6/60 in the UK) or less in both eyes, or a visual field of 20 degrees or lower. So when I say I have 5% in my right eye, that tiny peep hole is what I am holding on to in order to really see the world. I also use a white cane to navigate the world and it has helped me to be more independent.
- We know that you work hard to ensure that your disability doesn’t define you, do you have any words of advice for anyone reading this who may be struggling with a diagnosis?
Life with any type of eye condition and diagnosis is hard. We’ll feel lost, embarrassed and all sorts of feelings. Whatever you are feeling though, I have been there and sometimes I still feel that struggle. Yes, I also wanted to give up on life after my RP diagnosis, but I managed to accept the reality and told myself that I can still continue to live a life I deserve and want. Sure, it’s not easy to have limitations on what we can or can’t do, but I tell myself that there is still a way. That I can still keep going and make sure that I am living. Living the best way I can, for myself and for my family.
Life is a funny thing, we go through all sorts of struggles but it’s really up to us how we handle it. Would I rather be stuck at home crying myself to sleep? Because I did that for a couple years and wanted to end my life. RP or any struggles can eat away at us, but it’s all about the mental game and how to tackle it. I chose to live. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here with my husband and my son. I wouldn’t be here to share my story and all my challenges and to tell you that we can do it all, despite our disabilities and struggles.
- Are there any changes you would like to see over the next year to improve the livelihoods of people like yourself with visual impairments? Whether it be from brands, individuals etc.
I personally just want us to be accepted. Whatever disability it is, for us all to be accepted in this world. There’s a lot of change to be done. When it comes to society, work, brands, etc. I want people to see me as me. If you look past my disability, I am just a regular woman who loves it all; travel, shopping, working out, food and just living life. See me for me. We need more of me and all of us out there to be honest. Let's be real, you barely see someone like me who has a disability in magazines or in photos across social media, modelling for clothing brands. There’s not many of us. And I bet you I can do a better job than a sighted person too, because I know I am special and we deserve better in all aspects of life. I deserve better and I matter.