Sebastián Bruno Dalla Ba' writes about his evolving relationship with his impaired eyesight, how he navigates through daily life, and how he experiences the perceptions of others.
by Sebastián Bruno Dalla Ba'
Embracing the Beauty of Low Definition: My Evolving Relationship with Vision.
Since I was born, I was affected by high myopia - meaning I have extreme nearsightedness. Nobody realized this. Until I started 1st grade in primary school. I believed that the world was like I saw it: blurred and in low definition. Finally, when I was six years old, my teacher realized I needed glasses: she moved me from the back of the room to the front row. There was a time, when I was around 15 years old, I discovered contact lenses. A life without glasses was introduced to me. And in a connected way, I was discovering my sexuality as a gay teen. Being overweight, having effeminate traits, and being a nerd was quite a challenging combination for a child growing up in the 90s and early 2000s. However, I was only able to use contacts for a short period of time: my eyes got sore if I wore them too much. So, I had to go back to glasses, but this had pros and cons, as contacts work better than glasses if you have a stronger prescription (aka more diopters).
After high school, going to university wasn’t easy for me. Always in the front of the classroom and asking for help from my friends to read the whiteboard. While I was studying, it never occurred to me that I could have a disability - things had never been explained to me that way before.
In 2010, everything changed for me when I underwent eye surgery. This transformative procedure allowed me to bid farewell to glasses, bringing forth a newfound clarity and brightness to my vision. I can still remember that day leaving the clinic and noticing the difference in my sight. Everything looked so bright and sharpened, I had pain, but that sensation was unique for me.
For a decade after my surgery, life was truly wonderful. The significant improvement in my vision brought a sense of liberation. During this time, I enjoyed fulfilling relationships with my boyfriends, to more casual relationships, embraced my identity as a gay man by coming out to my family, friends, and colleagues. I even purchased a car, mastered my driving skills, and embarked on numerous exciting travels.
But, in May 2019, my blurred vision came back. In order to slow further deterioration, my doctor prescribed me 3 injections into my eye, one per month.
The Power of Acceptance: Embracing Life with a Partial-Sight Disability.
When my blurred vision unexpectedly returned, a new nightmare began: my health insurance refused to approve the costly treatment. I made countless calls, sent emails, and even resorted to sending faxes in an attempt to obtain their approval. I remember an employee from HR who suggested I get a disability certificate in order to make authorizations easier. This forced me to confront the fact that I do have a disability.
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a Swiss American psychiatrist, a pioneer in near-death studies, defined The Change Curve in 7 steps. From the initial shock until the last one, the part of problem-solving. When I decided to get my CUD (In Argentina, for the Spanish acronym of “Unique Disability Certificate”) it was an important milestone to accept my condition. Acceptance is not about resignation or quitting. For me, acceptance is owning my condition and trying to live the best I can under my circumstances and what’s realistically possible. Another interesting approach that was healing for me was summarized by another Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology, called Carl Jung. He said: “We cannot change anything unless we accept it”. In just eight words, he articulated my feelings and thoughts so clearly.
Navigating Society's Perception: Insights on Disability in Spain.
In May 2021, I finally moved to Spain. Some months later, I figured how to get my CD (“Disability Certificate” acronym for Spain) here. I faced the same situation that I did in Argentina. Here, I had to reply to several questions about my condition, my work, where I live, with whom, and a lot of personal questions that I was sensitive to disclose. Eventually, I got a letter from Social Services where they wrote down my percentage of disability, which determined the amount of support/adjustments/benefits I would be eligible to receive. In Argentina, it was just about upload documents and tests to an online platform and wait for the response. I didn’t face a personal examination to get it.
From 0 to 33% you are considered mildly disabled, then from 34 to 65% you are in the big group of affected people, and if you’re over 65% you are considered severely disabled. But, What happens if you’re 32%? Or 64%? I mean, just 1% more or less puts a person in a worse or better position under rights and benefits. Or maybe, between 34% or 63%, these two groups of people receive the same treatment under the law, but their condition is completely different.
This demonstrates that while percentages may serve as a practical means of assessing disability on a societal scale, it can lead to significant and disproportionate consequences for individuals who rely on state support to enhance their quality of life.
“I can host”: The Impact of Sight Loss on Intimate Relationships.
A couple of months ago, I started to chat with a random guy on Grindr. Some nudes and messages later, we decided to meet face to face. It was winter, and days were very short: the darkness of the night rises really early for me. He suggested meeting at his place, he gave me his address, I googled it and I discovered he lives in an area unfamiliar to me. As I am partially-sighted, I feel uncomfortable and vulnerable when I explore places that are new to me, especially at night.
Some parts of Barcelona are not particularly well lit and street sign names are quite small and located with no logical reason in a super high position. So, what am I to do? Do I need to explain all of these things to a new person that I don’t even know, and in person?
Or maybe, is it better to make up something out of the blue?: “Hey! I can’t meet at night but during the week I can because I’m doing an online origami course, do you prefer to meet up on weekends during the day?”
Instead, I said: “Hey! I have a projector at home, in my bedroom, would you like to meet at my place? It’s perfect for Netflix.” So instead, he came to my apartment. Chatting with him face to face was something forgettable: he left while the popcorn had been popping in the microwave. And that shows how I often manoeuvre situations to accommodate for my needs.
Illuminating Perspectives: Reflections and Insights from My Journey.
Unfortunately, living a life in ultra HD 8K clarity is beyond my reach. In reality, I can only perceive half of what a typical person can see.
I must confess, jealousy occasionally creeps into my heart when I witness others' effortless visual abilities. Countless individuals have never set foot in an ophthalmologist's office—no tests, no glasses, no contact lenses, no surgeries, no blurred vision. Yet, amidst it all, I’m aware that I am a privileged person compared to many others out there, and for that, I have a lot to be grateful for.
In the face of this reality, hope shines through. These limitations don’t overshadow my resilience. I adapt to the circumstances, finding alternative solutions and embracing the tools that facilitate my productivity. The desire for a richer visual experience drives me to explore technologies and accommodations that amplify my capabilities. I may not experience the world with pristine clarity, but I have learned to cherish the beauty that lies within the limits of my vision.
Sebastián Dalla Ba (he/him)
Sebastian was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in the late 80s. Since 2021 he has lived in Barcelona, Spain. He got a degree in Marketing and since then he had been working in the consumer goods industry. In 2022 he joined Amazon and he collaborates in creating content for vendors and sellers. He is an active member of different affinity groups, such as: Glamazon (LBGT+), PwD (People with Disabilities) and Latinos. Also, he writes for online magazines about retail trends, sustainability and urbanism. Three years ago, he co-found his own swimsuit brand oriented to gay and non-binary people.
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