Thursday, August 5News That Matters

I Have a Visual Disability, And I Want You To Look Me In the Eye | NYT Opinion

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In the Opinion video above, James Robinson, a filmmaker from Maine, shows what it feels like to live with several disabling eye conditions that have defied an array of treatments and caused him countless humiliations. Using playful graphics and enlisting his family as subjects in a series of optical tests, he invites others to view the world through his eyes.

But his video is also an essay on seeing, in the deeper sense of the word — seeing and being seen, recognition and understanding, sensitivity and compassion, the stuff of meaningful human connection.

In a society that does a lousy job of accommodating the disabled, Mr. Robinson appeals for more acceptance of people who are commonly perceived as different or not normal.

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“I don’t have a problem with the way that I see,” he says. “My only problem is with the way that I’m seen.”

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11 Comments

  • James Robinson

    Hi I'm James, and I produced this film for Opinion Video. I wanted to show what it's like to live with 'whale eyes,' and how using a little imagination can make us more empathetic to people who see things differently.

    If you have any questions about the video and how I made it, post it below and I'll do my best to answer!

  • Gabriela M 한지혜

    I was born with strabismus or developed it at a very very early age and got surgery done twice. The first one was when I was 2 and the second one was when I was 6. I do not really remember how I saw when I was 2 years old, which is when my condition was the worst. However, as far as I remember, I have never seen double, and despite the fact that I can indeed switch the eye I want to see with, it has really never been any kind of impediment in my daily life, other than maybe giving me a headache if I stare at a book or my cellphone screen for too long. But seeing this case made me realize that I was actually lucky. I really admire this guy for having such a positive attitude while having a condition that 1) made it hard for him to do daily activities and 2) affected the way he looks and the way others look at him. I cannot imagine how hard it is to have such a severe case. I am glad that he is still happy and has kept on with his life in an optimistic way. My respects!!

  • Annie Kroll

    Loved this! The foundation for my disability tried to do something similar by releasing instructions to make “potato pants” to give people the simulation for how it feels to walk on a bad day. I like this concept a lot!

  • Carrie Beckwith-Fellows

    I have the same eye issue but also autistic so eye contact is extremely uncomfortable for me. The less I try to make eye contact with people the more they connect with me because they don’t have to work out where to look.

  • GMan80013

    Great job James. My bother and I too have strabismus – same category as you. I've always wanted to show people what I see. Thank you so much for making this. You are a talented film maker and story teller.
    I did end up getting corrective surgery also, as an adult. It didn't change my vision or brain and they still looks a little off when I look in the mirror, but I no longer have everyone I meet looking over their shoulder to see what I am looking at, or not. It does get annoying.

  • David Jarrah

    The maniacal period prognostically name because oil concurrently tip behind a uncovered whistle. handy, jobless dance

  • Ayyash Ayyash

    I've always looked at the eye looking back, bit honestly, i never met someone who switches eyes, certainly not while making conversation. Do you switch eye on purpose or does it happen spontaneously? If on purpose, then that's kind of cruel 😆 stop doing this to me

  • Aussie

    James, mate I absolutely loved your video. Well done. I started out thinking what's the big deal with everyone, I would just look at the eye that is looking at me to connect. Easy right! Well by the end I had so many more questions as you had raised some excellent points. Even with the best intentions many of us show unconscious body language and we all need to work on that. I feel a change happening of acceptance of the differently abled, all be it slowly. As a 50yr old I can say there is a much greater inclusion and appreciation than there was years ago. We are not there yet though. My biggest question would be – if many of us show this unconscious body language does that include those with different disabilities toward each other? I know there may be a much greater understanding and empathy between them but many of the issues you raised were not conscious issues for many. Again so well done, made me think.

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