Hi, I am Renu and in March 2021 I joined London Vision as its very first Virtual Intern on a three-month placement. I am registered severely sight (SSI) impaired with a rare genetic eye condition called Achromatopsia. My condition basically means that I am ‘day blind’. No matter what the weather or lighting condition is, I will struggle to see during the daytime. I need to wear a pair of dark sunglasses to navigate outdoors during the day, and in some cases indoors where lighting is bright.
I have been partially sighted since birth and was registered SSI in May 2018. Having had a visual impairment since birth I have had to really work hard to become a confident and independent individual with a visual impairment. Through my journey of life, I have learnt to remain positive, optimistic and a strong individual, and I have embraced many changes and challenges in my life.
Up until recently I had not met many blind and partially sighted people, and had always felt somewhat isolated from this community, but I carried on with life with a smile. About 2 years ago I was introduced to the sight loss sector after visiting an event and in turn many more blind and partially sighted people. I now feel a part of a wider sight loss family I never knew I had!
I was also introduced to lots of useful assistive technology that I never knew existed. I took it as a challenge to learn and use new assistive technology for my personal development. Now, I use large icons and magnification on my phone, and my laptop or PCs I need to have high contrast and use voice over features on each device.
Embracing the white cane
I have newly embraced the white cane which I had never used in my earlier life. This was because there were cultural sensitivities around such tools, leading to me feeling embarrassed and vulnerable about using it. However, I now hold my cane with pride; I am proud of my visual impairment, it has taught me so much through my life and is one of the reasons I am a strong, positive, and optimistic person.
In fact, as a visually impaired individual, I often find myself supporting sighted people more than fellow vision impaired people. For example, I am frequently asked for directions (despite holding my white cane!) and I happily assist with a proud smile. These days, if anyone asked me if I wished to be fully sighted, my immediate response would be no. I can honestly say now I feel excited about achieving a lot more in life and I will continue to grow higher and higher. The sky is not the limit for me it is a goal for me to go above and beyond.
I have been working ever since I was 17 and my first job was working for Pizza Hut. I worked there for six years and I had my challenges but still thrived by remaining positive and strong. Since then, I have been working in administration for 15 years and with some reasonable adjustments, support and courage I have managed to achieve many skills and qualities that I thought I would never be able gain as a visually impaired person. However, in my professional life to this point I could feel something was missing until I came across the Virtual Intern role with London Vision.
The Virtual Intern role has given me a chance to explore my passion for the sight loss sector and the opportunity to carry out tasks that positively impact blind and partially sighted people. Since being a Virtual Intern for London Vision, I feel I have achieved so much in such a short space time. The London Vision team is a pleasant team to work for and again I feel like part of a truly passionate team striving to make a difference.
My motto in life is: keep thriving, keep learning and best of all keep curious.
Renu Walia, April 2021
Renu’s internship is part of the Thomas Pocklington Trust internship programme