Hi I’m Sarah. I’m 22 years old and have just finished the first year of my Business Masters programme and athletics scholarship in the USA. Prior to this I studied Chemistry at the University of Birmingham, where I had an unforgettable and fun three years!
Sport has always been a big part of my life, with track and cross country running becoming a huge focus that has taken me to many exciting places!
I was diagnosed with Stargardt’s disease, a visual impairment affecting the centre of the retina, when I was eight years old and received support from the SCS until I left school. Although my reduced vision has provided challenges and some limitations along the way, I think the main thing I have learnt, and would share with others going through a similar situation, is that you shouldn’t worry about the things you may not be able to access or achieve in your life - you just want to continue doing the things you already enjoyed doing as normally as possible.
For example, when I was diagnosed I decided I wanted to continue playing tennis and hockey. Looking back these were not ideal sports for someone with reduced vision! However, I was able to adapt and continue enjoying it with my friends. Working in a Chemistry lab (during my degree) is not really designed for someone who can’t see fine detail, but I had support from a helper who would do all the fine measurements and anything I couldn’t see, under my instruction. That was important as science has been something I wanted to pursue from a young age.
Parents are likely to worry about how a sensory impairment is going to affect the life and options available to their children. Whereas I believe children and young people have an incredible ability to just get on with it! They work round their impairment. Usually the main priority growing up is trying to fit in and enjoy the time and experiences of being young.
I hope that what I have achieved so far can demonstrate is that, with support such as that from the SCS, you can adapt and find ways around the barriers that might stop you accessing something as well as a fully sighted person. The thing I value most from the help I got from the SCS and my parents whilst growing up, is that they never put me off trying things - even if they were not suited to someone visually impaired. Instead they helped me find the best possible way to access anything.