How much can I see?

Technically, my eyesight is 20:700 in the left and 20:400 in the right. With eyeglasses on, I can see 20:250 in the left eye and 20:200 in the right. What this means is that if a normally sighted person can see something 400 feet away, I can see that same thing just as well as soon as I get only 20 feet from it.

I see like a 1930's movie, only in color.

Practically, what this means is that I can walk around with no difficulty and avoid obstacles using various tricks one develops through years of practice. For street signs and such, I carry a pocket monocular. This picture of me at a computer conference in May, 1996 appeared on the front page of the business section of the San Jose Mercury News the next day.

Picture of me using a monocular

I'm extremely good at navigating crowded laboratories and junkyards. I ski pretty well. I sail. I can sweep a floor in an orderly pattern and see if I got a lot of dirt, but not if I got only a bit. I can recognize people I've seen a few times, although not always in a crowd and this can be especially difficult at fairs and rock concerts and so on. Primarily, I recognize people by their voice, their posture and build and clothing.

More importantly, I cannot see people's facial expressions further away than intimate distance. I have noticed both in experience and popular culture that there is a great deal of energy assumed to be gained by being able to look people in the eyes. I was not personally familiar with this feeling until at a HAI workshop a couple years ago, I had the opportunity to look into the eyes of a large number of people - which for me, meant being almost nose-to-nose with them. I was amazed at the incredible amount of simple physical intimacy I experienced -even with those who were practically strangers- in this way. I still don't get the opportunity to do this with others besides close friends, but I now do ask my close friends for this kind of intimacy and we have had all the better times together therefore.

Because of this, I am less of an extremely tactile person than I used to be. I have always learned about people to whom I was introduced when I hugged them or touched their hand. There is a surprising amount of detail I can learn about how you feel about yourself and what experiences you've had from feeling your posture, your back, how you hold yourself and what you feel like. Perhaps this is less or more information than what people get from meeting each other and looking into their eyes- I don't know. It does seem to be a bit of different information, though.

I have always liked to read, but it has always been a very difficult task. I can read over 100 pages of either fiction or non in a day, but it gives me a headache and makes my eyes hurt and I have to rest my eyes the next day. I do not like large print. Because of Nystagmus, (Gee, that's probably not how it's spelled) I have to get just as close to a book or computer monitor no matter how big the print is. So if it's small, I can see more of it at a time.

Using computers is somewhat easier. I have stands upon which sit the CRT monitors at home and work. The ones at work sit on shelves above the keyboard so I can place my face directly in front of them; the one at home is on a swing arm so I can freely move it up to where I'm sitting. Yes, my nose touches the screen regularly. Yes, this has been really bad for my back. I've gotten lots of isometric exercise from bad posture over the course of the last 15 years of this career. It's given me terrific pects and shoulders. :o)

Here is some discussion about how this has affected me.


Various relations -mostly on my mother's side- have had different eye troubles and a number of them culminated in me. A former girlfriend of mine (who was interested in mating) did genetic analysis and determined that I will only pass on to female children the gene to create a child with vision such as mine. Any direct children of mine (including females) will have normal vision. I am not at a stage in my life right now at which fatherhood appeals, but it's interesting information, none-the-less.

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