I’m Daniel. I live in the UK and was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at the age of 8.
A few years ago, I was featured on the BBC’s Saints and Scroungers talking about my experiences and the traumatic bullying I faced at school.
Whilst at mainstream secondary school, when asked if I was blind I would reply, “Not me – I think you’ve got the wrong person” as I didn’t want to admit my eye condition to myself, let alone anyone else.
I got angry with teaching assistants who would follow me around; I felt they were making my disability more obvious and not allowing me to interact with fellow students. I also got embarrassed that my handouts were in large print and would try to hide them. I felt that some teaching staff regarded me as being “trouble” and they didn’t really understand my difficulties.
I really wanted to join the police force and to drive a car – and the realisation that I wouldn’t be able to do this was devastating. I just wanted to be “normal” like my peers, but my aspirations as a young man would not become my reality. I became severely depressed and even took steps to end my life.
Blindness had very negative connotations for me and I felt worthless. Once, I became so angry with the world that I stole my mum’s car – after a number of failed attempts, I managed to get it started and steered it into a nearby car park with mum frantically chasing me! Luckily, no one was hurt.
My condition became my main focus and I started researching it and became fixated on laser eye surgery adverts and contacted several companies, only to be told it would not benefit me. However, the more I researched, the better my knowledge of what it is, and what I could expect, became.
At the age of 18 I enrolled with a college for the blind, full of trepidation; I had never seen a white cane, let alone 200 of them and guide dogs galore! This was a real turning point as I no longer had to hide my condition or be embarrassed.
I had support from experienced counselors and met people who gave me the confidence to realise my own potential and that there was life after blindness. I studied health and social care, sociology and business and went on to university, where I achieved a Foundation Degree in Rehabilitation Studies for People with a Visual Impairment.
I was now a young man on a mission to prove that sight loss did not mean job loss.
I was acutely aware of the lack of knowledge surrounding visual impairment, so in 2014, at the age of 22, I founded Visualise Training and Consultancy to help organisations and individuals become disability confident.
I now work throughout the UK and internationally with clients to empower them with solutions to assist people living with sight loss and/or other disabilities.
It took time, but the acceptance of my condition proved to be one of the most positive forces in my life and enabled me to focus on what I could do, rather than what I couldn’t.
For more of Dan’s story, you can follow him (and his guide dog Zodiac!) on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn. To learn more about Visualise Training, follow the company on Facebook and Twitter.