Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

“I Am Going Blind. This is What I Want You to See:” Expanding the Definition of Blindness

Yvonne Shortt is legally blind due to retinitis pigmentosa (RP), an eye disease that results in progressive sight loss. In a recent Opinion video piece in The New York Times, Shortt’s experience is chronicled by filmmaker James Robinson, showing how she, like most people who are legally blind, live “a nuanced existence between those who see well and those who can’t see a thing.” In his short film, Robinson describes and provides simulations of how Shortt navigates “her world with progressively declining eyesight but also recognizing what she has gained even as she has lost something precious.” Shortt describes her experience, noting that people might be thinking, “You don’t look like you’re blind” as she talks about how she has adapted to changing vision. The filmmaker provides several visual simulations of what occurs with vison loss from RP, explaining the workings of the retina and what occurs as the disease advances, showing blind spots in the visual periphery. One of the visual simulations, by a researcher who has the condition, illustrates clear central vision, with blind spots around the periphery. The narration and visuals depict a number of scenes from the visual perspective of a person with RP, such as street scenes and children walking. Shortt explains how she has emphasized and relied on her other senses, like hearing and tactile experiences, while learning adaptive techniques like scanning and the use of the white cane. She shares that in using her white cane, after her initial reluctance to “go public” with her vision loss, in navigating through a crowded group of people, “it was so amazing to have them just scatter to the right and left. I felt like Moses at the parting of the sea.” For more details, and to view the film, visit The New York Times Opinion video series page entitled Opinion: I’m Going Blind. This Is What I Want You to See. It’s also available with audio description on You Tube as What a Legally Blind Person Can See. For descriptive video, go to settings – audio track and select “’English descriptive.’”