Navigating and overcoming challenges of everyday life as a visually impaired person – Dagmar Jamieson
In this episode our guest is Dagmar Jamieson, a mentor and life coach at CNIB. We discuss the challenges in everyday life as a visually impaired person, how that affects our social skills, are there any professional limitations and how does Dagmar cope with all those challenges.
About the guest:
As a young, skinny 12 year old, sat in the back of the class room at St Mary’s elementary school so happy to reconnect with my friends that I’d missed seeing all summer. Sitting at the back of the class with friends was cool – I fit-in! This is the year I became aware that something wasn’t quite right. I was unsure why the teacher’s face was somewhat blurry and the words on the blackboard were hard to read. Was there something wrong with my sight I pondered? I hadn’t noticed anything wrong with my sight during the summer holidays, at least, nothing that became as prominent as my first day back at school. Was it nerves? My expectations in grade six were normal for my age; I was a stick like girl hoping to fit in with the cool girls and expecting to flirt with the boys. I was not as voluptuous as the popular girls. Striving to be popular in grade school was unfamiliar to me.
Weeks later, sitting in the ophthalmic chair, hearing the doctor voice the words; “You are losing your sight.” was alarming. The first time I had ever faced a challenge as frightening as this was when, I moved with my family from Czechoslovakia to Austria at the age of eight. There I was expected to integrate into a classroom in which I didn’t speak the same language. With an audacious imagination I, strived to resolve solutions to problems. I tried hard to speak this language, but couldn’t figure out how to reorganize the letters to sound like German, as I did with pig latin. It was a common game I played with my friends trying to develop secret words. In time I learned how to speak German but I expected a lot of my self through this adaptation of fitting in with the rest of the students, that spoke and understood the language. When report cards were being distributed ,by the teacher Frau Stirn, tears filled my eyes staining my cheeks. I was afraid that I wasn’t going to pass the grade and what would I say to my parents? Life was difficult enough, I lost my friends, relatives and ,most of all my grandma, when I left my homeland Czechoslovakia. I felt scared and alone dealing with these challenges. Not only eight months later my parents started to speak about moving yet again. I was beginning to grasp the language and my grades reflected the success I was achieving. I just wanted to fit in. Now I am in Canada starting from scratch , learning to speak a foreign language again. Fellow students are laughing at me for mispronouncing “potatoes” as “bodado“, Which sounded the same to me. While sitting in the Doctor’s chair I imagined myself navigating the world while being blind. Despite the fact that I was diagnosed legally blind at the age of 12, barely able to see the large letter E on the eye chart. I insisted to overcome this trauma , by adapting just as I did learning to speak firstly German and then English. I did it then, so why could I not learn to do it again. Why not learn to adapt to not seeing. I proceeded to ride my bicycle, ski black diamond runs, figure skate dance and many other activities that other teenagers engaged in. Most people didn’t notice that I was blind. This started to become my secret. Of course some thought there was something awkward about me, especially when I didn’t recognize others waving at me or trying to engage with me. Being a teenager,I preferred to be identified by others to be different rather than blind. A mature person may think that is a silly compromise. however I just wanted to be like everyone else. Being different meant unique which I reframed into a good thing. By adjusting to new ways of being, I developed new neural pathways. I became entrepreneurial. I explored being a proprietor in various ventures. As an out of the box thinker I deliberated with many creative ideas. “You are blind,” some would say. I am a visionary, sight is not necessary. As a visionary that can not see, I learned that I could see with my imagination. I simply enhance my imagination in order to cope with being blind. At the age of 45 I met Dr. MacDonald, who inspired me with the future hope in research that is striving to cure blindness; which opened my mind to possibilities. I am a dreamer, no matter how long it can take to bring my dreams into fruition I believe anything is possible. I am always hopeful because when you put your imagination into action the possibilities are endless. I wanted to be part of the quest to find a cure to end all blindness so I asked Dr. MacDonald to connect me with the Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB). They informed and educated me about the various inherited forms of blindness. I wanted to help so I did by organizing various fundraising events to raise awareness regarding the ongoing research as well as to raise funding in support of these research ventures. Research takes time and money but the hope is definitely evident. I know somehow someway blindness will be curable. There is much promise in some research developments such as gene therapies. In many ways technology has afforded me much ability to function without sight. I use the GPS as not to get lost navigating cities I am not familiar with. Speech to text aids my ability to write. Key echo is also another tool so I can hear what I am typing. Voice over features on computers read text within many computer applications There was a time where I dreamt about being able to navigate a computer screen. I remember being in front of a computer typing yet I couldn’t read nor see the text dreaming one day this will become a reality for me. I heard of this possibility but it was only a dream at that point. There was talk about text to speech on computers as the technology was showing promise in the 1990’s. My world is now open to knowledge, communication and connection. This is the miracle I dreamt about many years ago before text to speech was a common function. Autonomous vehicles are also becoming a possibility to amplify my independence. The FFB introduced me to Dr. Stell who sat on the advisory board for research. Dr. Stell then introduced me to Dr Yve Solve as well as many other brilliant researchers. It is exciting and very empowering to meet these exceptional individuals. I am a bold dreamer, and I never underrate the possibilities of dreams. With a lavish imagination my dreams are audacious. My favourite quote by Albert Einstein, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.” I believe anything is possible one just needs to focus their mind on the possibility. Dagmar Jamieson: Personal Transformation Coach If you’re seeking meaningful change in your life, as a life coach I can help you bring it to full fruition through intuitive inquiry and insightful strategies. If you don’t realise, you’re stuck, you can spend years ‘thinking positively’, but you won’t be able to move past it to achieve the transition you’re seeking. I understand what it’s like; not just to feel stuck, but to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Legally blind, I started losing my sight as a teenager, but didn’t let that stop me in becoming a successful wife, mother, business owner and community leader as an adult. My natural ability to really hear, interpret and help clients identify the root causes of their issues drove me to success in all these roles, and today makes me a powerful partner in your personal growth. As well as being a certified life coach, I am certified in mediation and conflict resolution, and skilled in creating a calm, safe space for relationship discussions between partners as well as individuals dealing with internal conflict. Combining this with the principles of neuroplasticity and evolving science connecting the brain, emotions and actions, I can help you make the transformative shift from automatic, reactive behaviour to considered, intelligent actions: Empowering you to take control of your own life.
If you are: Struggling with conflict in your relationships. Experiencing conflict within yourself . Confused and unable to see your path . Unhappy in your work . A teenager struggling with anxiety or depression. Feeling that there’s something more for you somewhere out there… I can give you the tools and skills to liberate the innate knowledge and strength within you – because your success is my reward.
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