Oxfordshire charity worker discusses experience of being a blind member of LGBTQ+ Community

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Andreas Findlow is MyVision Oxfordshire’s Technology and Equipment Officer and has been part of the team since the summer of 2023, not long after moving to the UK from Sweden.

Andreas said, “My visual impairment led to low self-confidence and sense of self-worth, and as a result I put up with being treated extremely badly. I was led to believe that I couldn’t and wouldn’t be independent as a visually impaired person.”

Eventually, Andreas found a network of people that provided him with support and helped him gain a sense of independence; he also became involved with spirituality and started practicing reiki which greatly improved his mental health.

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In 2017 Andreas lost his sight completely. “It came about quite suddenly and was unexpected,” said Andreas. “I had surgery and then when I woke up, I just couldn’t see anymore. At first it was a huge change. I couldn’t do anything that I was used to. I had to re-learn how to do most things.”

Photo of AndreasPhoto of Andreas
Photo of Andreas

“I was very lucky I had great help and I had met other blind people in the past. Being blind is a big change and you’re allowed to feel sad; it’s a dramatic change but there is life after blindness as well. I asked for help, received brilliant help, and learned how to do things in new ways.” Andreas moved to Banbury from Sweden in 2022 to live with his husband and has had to adjust to moving to a new country with a visual impairment. “It’s been exciting. I’ve learned a lot,” he said.

Andreas first found out about MyVision when he was preparing for his big move and researching about the support he could receive in the area. He emailed a few times asking various questions and he was then told about our Banbury Social Group.

After moving, Andreas became very involved with the group; he went to many of their events, got to meet other people with sight loss who live in the same area, and made some very good friends.

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When the Technology and Equipment Officer job opportunity came up, Andreas was excited to apply. “I was overjoyed to get the job,” he said.

Photo of Andreas posing on a beachPhoto of Andreas posing on a beach
Photo of Andreas posing on a beach

In regard to being a visually impaired person of the LGBTQ+ community, Andreas said, “being LGBTQ+ and living with a disability isn’t something that’s talked about a lot.”

There isn’t a lot of visibility of people with disabilities who are also LGBTQ+ and the way to change that is for people to just talk about it more and make others aware. Try to think about inclusivity when organising events.” Andreas outlined that he really enjoys LGBTQ+ events and his experience has been positive, but it would be good to have more options available.

“With social media, it’s much easier to connect with other members of the community but people need real life connections as well.” Andreas then said that even online connection can come with its own challenges; many apps and websites lack accessibility features for visually impaired people. (Luckily, Andreas met his husband through one of the apps which did have accessibility features).

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When he found his community, Andreas said, “I felt that I had found a tribe where I belonged and felt accepted. I want people to know it’s ok being who you are. For so many years while I was younger, I just wanted to be “normal”, whatever that is, but I can only be who I am and that is perfectly “normal”.”

Andreas said that it is so important to have conversations about the things that disabled people and members of the LGBTQ+ community go through. “The important thing is that someone will have to start the conversation. It’s not rocket science; we just need to talk to each other.” He then talked about how starting conversations is so important for raising awareness and ensuring that no one feels isolated or insecure because of who they are or how they feel.

This is exactly why Andreas thinks Pride month is so important. He said, “it’s very important to celebrate who we are and to celebrate that over quite a few years in many parts of the world we managed to get a lot of rights we didn’t have before. We also celebrate Pride in solidarity with those in the world who can’t take part in Pride and don’t have rights because they are part of the LGBTQ+ community.”

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