Although I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at the tender age of two, I didn’t realize I was visually-impaired until later in my life. Growing up, I did so many of the things sighted kids do: I played football, basketball, and baseball. I rode bikes and competed in track and field. I played computer and video games and watched movies and television. I never thought that my limited vision would get in the way of those activities. But now at the age of 32, I’m beginning to see more signs of my eye condition — and I’m realizing the impact that it’s having on my life. I can’t do some of the activities I used to be able to do, which is difficult to come to terms with.
With that in mind, I’m lucky for all the moments I get to be part of. This is a new chapter in my life where I’m meeting people in similar circumstances and learning new things about myself. I’m constantly adjusting to a life with lower vision, but I’m willing to overcome this challenge.
I feel that I have to fight blindness every day. Whether it’s battling the stigmas faced by people with low vision or the challenges of accepting who I am, I will never give up hope. I refuse to let low vision alter my goals, but it would be nice one day to have sight — both for myself and for my sister, who has Stargardt disease.
I want the barriers that I face to one day disappear so I can reach my full potential. I want to be able to pick up a book and read. I want to play basketball with my friends. I want to see my family members’ faces again. I want to look back at old photo albums. I want to be able to watch my favourite shows, and to go for a run without fear. These are things that I believe will ultimately be possible, thanks to the work of organizations like Fighting Blindness Canada and the Canadian Council of the Blind.
Ben Akuoko is 32 years old and currently lives in Brantford, ON, where he’s a residence counsellor at W. Ross Macdonald, a school that provides education from kindergarten to secondary school for blind and deaf-blind students.