Get the support you need growing up blind or partially sighted

Post date: 
Thursday, 3 November 2016
Image shows Ryan and some of his colleagues

Ryan Compton is registered blind, and has glaucoma. He’s also an entrepreneur who set up the Centre for Resolution in the Midlands, an organisation that gives support to businesses and individuals who want coaching, mentoring, advocacy, mediation and other disability services. He's had nearly 70 eye operations, many which occured during his years of education and severely disrupted his schooling.

In his blog, he talks about what it's like growing up knowing you're losing your sight, and how to make the most out of the career support that's out there.

How Ryan sees

My name is Ryan Compton. My eye condition - or, my main eye condition - is glaucoma. I was diagnosed when I was aged six, and was registered blind at age 21. I also have cone-rod dystrophy, cataracts and macular degeneration, but let’s focus on the glaucoma as that’s the main thing that I have! It runs in the family. I have no light perception in my left eye, and in my right eye I can just see the odd shape or outline of things. It’s like a fog - there’s no clarity there.

On the school system and getting the support you need for your eye condition

Times have changed for the better in that there’s been more advances in technology now, standards across the board are better. For example, if someone has glaucoma and it runs in their family, you can pretty much guarantee that they’re going to be checked up on every year. It comes down to better practise, and that there’s now a better knowledge of conditions.

I think that in terms of schools and colleges, there’s now more emphasis on getting a young person using assistive technology. Although some people still fall through the cracks. Because I had decent vision in one eye, although I couldn’t see through the other, there wasn’t any recommendations for me to become familiar with assistive technology.

Having so many appointments in my school life was really disruptive. At aged 14 there got to a point where there were so many appointments, and my mum was taking so much time off work, I said - you’ve got to stop coming to these, or you’re going to lose your job. So I realised that I’d have to ask questions and find things out for myself. So I became a good communicator, because I was in a position that I had to ask questions in order to discover the options available to me.

But I didn’t feel there was a lot of support obviously available. For example, I only found out in the last couple of years that there’s an ECLO at the hospital I’ve been going to since 2005. It’s the hospital I’ve had the most operations in too! So even to this day, there are things that need to improve. There needs to be more signposting opportunities, and also an acknowledgement that two people may have the same eye conditions, have the same level of sight, but handle things very differently - one person might want counselling, other types of emotional support, the other person might want access to technology, information about local services - whether that’s RNIB, Action for Blind People, or whatever’s in the area.

Advice for young people making choices about school, college and employment

There are loads of options out there - for example, there’s not enough emphasis in this country about getting into self-employmentI set up the Centre for Resolution to empower individuals by giving them independence, and that’s because they choose the type of support that they want whether that's mediation, advocacy, mentoring, coaching or disability support. We’re able to focus on offering help that’s tailored to the individual to maximise giving them the confidence and self esteem to get what they want from life.

It’s a tough road out there, so when you’re in your college or uni days you need to make the most of all the support that’s available and really consider what it is you “can” do. For example, I wanted to work in music so I started looking for any job that was available in that area. You need to think creatively - so many people focus on the end goal, what they ‘want’ to do - but they need to focus on what they can do. They should do what they want to do as a side project, and if that progresses into something more then that’s great.

You need to be realistic in some ways - but also make sure you’ve explored all the ways you can get support, in terms of finance, as a lot of the qualifications visually impaired people might want that receive no individual funding.