“Being a visually impaired working dad is like one big adventure!” – Krishna Seshasayee
At BAME Vision, we are celebrating Blind and Partially Sighted parents from ethnic minorities, with the aim of contributing to the diverse representation of the vision-impaired community. In this series, we are looking to shine a light on parents who work and volunteer, as we find out more about this largely unreported part of society. We will discuss parenting, culture, mental health, support systems, self-confidence, and everything else in between.
This time we had the pleasure of speaking with Krishna. He is a blind father of two, whose children are in their thirties. Krishna is Indian from the Tamil Nadu state ethnic background and has incurable degenerative eye disease.
How would you describe yourself?
I’m a very positive minded person full of enthusiasm and energy. Wherever I go I spread the message of positivity and being happy. My motto in life is to be happy and get something out of every day. So that when I go to bed, I think “Oh my gosh it has been a good day!”. I have added something good to my day and had some fun.
So, culturally, do you feel that people expect something different from you as a vision impaired dad?
Culturally, specifically focusing on my own community there is not much understanding, and somewhat of a lack of sensitivity. Of course, they expect the worst, and when you are doing reasonably well in life, and you can provide something for them, there’s an expectation to do something for them even though you are visually impaired.
On the fatherhood perspective, with my own children as they grew up, even though my eyesight was getting worse, I was able to manage. They were supported and didn’t have to deal with any hardship. Thankfully everything went well. Sometimes you hear when you are a visually impaired parent you are unable to provide for your children financially, keeping them fed and looked after, but thankfully I would consider myself extremely lucky. I had good education and a good job and managed to keep the job going even though I was losing my eyesight. Even though I was suffering in a way that my eyesight was getting worse, I was still independent. I was not putting pressure on my children at all.
When did your vision start affecting your life more, in terms of mobility, work life and so on?
It was around the age of 60 to 65. You lose your vision up to a certain point and you don’t find it hard to manage because there is still enough vision to manage. But once it goes through that threshold that’s when it becomes difficult. So, for me that was the age of 60. Thankfully at that time both children had reached their twenties and one of them had completed university and the other was just finishing.
Coming up to 60 is when my mobility became an issue, and I was finding it difficult to go places by myself such as getting on a bus and be socially active.
What is your favourite blind dad hack?
We did everything with my children. We were very active. We even played cricket. Initially it was tricky, for example getting the ball was becoming more and more difficult. I didn’t really have any specific instructions with my kids, but they were very understanding and would go and get the ball for me and things like that. Looking back, how did I manage all of that? Playing with my children, taking part in their activities? I was very actively involved in their education, however, I failed to appreciate my son’s interest in music and the racism experienced by my children. But to their credit, they took everything in their stride and are doing well in their professional lives. Now that you’re asking me, I don’t know quite frankly! [he laughs] You know sometimes in life you just deal with disasters and come out the other side unscathed.
Do you have a Father’s Day tradition?
Well, every day is Father’s Day! Both of my children are grown now. One is married and the other is 31, so we mostly do special occasions like birthdays and such. But back when they were younger, I was very involved, and almost every day was Father’s Day. The four of us would go out for meals. We used to see a lot of movies, swimming and so on. Father’s Day really is like any other day. They would give me a card but because I could not read the card, I just told them to just give me a hug instead. Both of my children are very affectionate. So, every day was Father’s Day for me.
At some point of course they will want to spread their wings, but while we all live together as a unit, it is important that you have close interactions with each other.
Did you have any examples of blind or partially sighted parents or grandparents growing up?
No, I did not. I did all the learning by myself. I migrated to this country 30 years ago. I had hardly any family here. When my eyesight got worse, my wife noticed this, and I had to finally tell her. Initially I did not want to tell anybody because I did not want them to worry. I’m able to manage, it’s not like I’m going to die or anything, so I was managing it myself until she noticed and suggested we go to the GP to find out what the problem is with my eyes.
That was when I revealed that I had this untreatable eye condition, that would eventually lead to sight loss. Of course, I was in shock. I asked her what she thinks of the situation, and she said “Don’t be silly! If I was the one with the eye condition, would you leave me?!” I said “No” and she said “Well it’s the same exact thing! Nothing is going to change just because you have an untreatable eye condition, we love you and will support you 100%”
If it wasn’t for the support that I got from my wife, life would have been quite difficult. My wife took more of an active role in terms of taking me to places, and my children started slowly understanding that I’m working and socially active, but I still have this condition, so they too offered to accompany me places and so on.
So even though I did not get an opportunity to learn from any examples, it all came together well, because of the understanding we have between each other and our emotional connection.
Sometimes people tend to think that losing your eyesight means you have lost your ability to work or do anything and look down on you. I am lucky that my family didn’t see it that way, and because of their support I kept going and working to secure our future.
Even though I am now blind, I enjoy my life even more than I used to. I still get the best out of every day! I wake up and think “what am I going to do to have some fun today?” [he laughs]
You must initiate something for it to happen, because who is going to take my hand and tell me lets go and watch a movie? For me these are the things I do to make every day liveable and always look forward to tomorrow!
It is so important to have a support system in place because as positive minded as I am I can’t run away from the fact that I have a visual impairment and I need support.
Talking about the support systems, in addition to my wife and the children, I get a great support from my friend from Guide Dogs and due to her help, I am a regular visitor to movies, tandem cycling, museums and even a game of cricket.
What would you like to say to other blind dads or parents from ethnic minorities out there, and what would your advice be?
Firstly, just accept that this is the reality of your condition, your life, you are visually impaired. Accepting that is a very important step. There is no point in denying that. Agree that “I am visually impaired or blind and I have to manage my life”.
Secondly, be open. This is a problem particularly with ethnic communities. They don’t want to say it, especially where there is a disability. There is a stigma there. They don’t want to talk about it openly, thinking maybe the community will look down on them. It’s an old way of thinking. You have an eye condition not because you have done something wrong or have committed a crime. It’s just one of those things. Like the statistics of sampling, out of 100 products, 99 will be fine and one product will have a defect despite going through the same process. Unfortunately, that’s just the way life works sometimes, and in nature not everything is perfect. Don’t give yourself a hard time, you are not a criminal – and even if somebody is being harsh, give it back to them and say “No, there is nothing wrong with me. If I’m visually impaired, I’m still a person, I still have a life! I’m good as you are, honest as you are, work hard as you do!”
I am not a criminal, I haven’t done anything wrong, so I have no reason to be ashamed or hide. Be open, declare it to your family, and friends, then you can get a lot of support and help, which will open a lot of new avenues for you. New ways to live and have fun. Going through daily life will be less difficult. With that in mind, you will be able to contribute so much, not just to your family and friends but to society. You can be blind and have a full-time job, earn money and there are things I’m good at.
Thirdly, you could be a role model. Showing that disability is not the end of life. You can tell others, “Look at me, I am visually impaired and still enjoying my life” When you have gone through something, you are able to talk with honesty, originality and confidence. If I can do this, so can you. When you share your experience, you can make somebody else get better and enjoy their life too.
We will talk about this in more detail in the next interview, so no spoilers! Through your volunteer work as well as your professional work, could you briefly tell me what you like most about being a working dad who is also vision impaired?
Being a visually impaired father and working was a challenge to me, an adventure like climbing mount Everest! It involved a lot of learning, picking up a lot of skills, and most importantly requires a lot of courage.
In my case I realised, here I am, married, with two small children. I still must support them and give them the type of life they deserve until they can stand on their own two feet. It was challenging because I wasn’t like everyone else. I had this eye condition, which I realised ultimately, I’m going to be blind. This made my life an adventure which I was willing to take on like a hero.
So here I am now, not because I have done anything superhuman, but visual impairment gave me that challenge. I was committed to supporting my family and I had the courage to do so.
My mother was a very courageous woman. She would tell me “Krishna, you may lose everything in life, but just remember one thing. Don’t ever lose your courage”. This has stuck with me my entire life. With that spirit, I look back and feel I was on one big adventure.
Be sure to tune in for part two, where Krishna will be joining us to discuss more about his work, challenges he has faced, and services he has accessed to support him in his work.
Written by Sylvia Chengo – BAME Vision
South Asian man seated on a chair. There is a floral-patterned mug in front of him. He has short black well combed hair with a side parting. He is wearing a maroon and light grey buttoned shirt, with a checked pattern. He is wearing a silver watch on his left wrist. He is looking away from the camera. Both of his hands are holding a black desktop printer. There is a beige colour painted wall behind him.