Seeing a Way Forward; Most of Us Take Our Vision for Granted but Not Everyone Is Lucky Enough to Have Perfect Eyesight. Rachel Mainwaring Talks to Two People about Nystagmus, a Condition That Means Their Eyes Are Constantly Moving

South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales), August 29, 2012 | Go to article overview
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Seeing a Way Forward; Most of Us Take Our Vision for Granted but Not Everyone Is Lucky Enough to Have Perfect Eyesight. Rachel Mainwaring Talks to Two People about Nystagmus, a Condition That Means Their Eyes Are Constantly Moving


MOST 17-year-olds relish the chance to learn to drive. But Angharad Butler-Rees says poor eyesight means she will never be able to get behind the wheel of a car.

But, far from feeling depressed, the Ysgol Plasmawr pupil, believes she has become far more independent as a result of being born with her eye condition.

Angharad, from Pontcanna, Cardiff was born with a condition called nystagmus, which means that her eyes constantly move and wobble.

As a result, she finds it very difficult to focus on things, which causes her to have problems with balance.

But the 17-year-old, who is studying the Welsh Baccalaureate and A-levels in geography, religious education and biology, doesn't let it hold her back.

She says: "My eyes are constantly moving which means I have difficulty reading everyday writing, and therefore need things enlarged otherwise my eyes become very tired and I experience headaches.

"I also don't have any 3D vision and scanning is particularly difficult so moving things are even more difficult to see. That obviously means I'll never drive a car but it doesn't bother me too much because I've always known that would be the case. It's difficult to miss something you knew you'd never have.

"I think, as a result, I'm more independent than other people my age and I quite enjoy travelling by bus. I'm starting to think about what to study at university and I think I'd like to do geography, and maybe become a teacher or a lecturer. And, even though Cardiff is lovely, I quite fancy moving away and I think living with a condition like this has given me extra confidence."

Due to her vision problems, Angharad, who has younger twin siblings Ffion and Rhydian, both 15, has never really been able to take part in sport in school but enjoys playing the harp and performing with UCan, a production company that allows children with visual impairments in Wales to be given access to the arts.

"PE is obviously compulsory at school but I found it so difficult because I couldn't see the ball properly in team sports and found it difficult to balance and stopped when I was about nine because it was just too much of a struggle.

"I do go to the gym but need to get back into it. Instead, I've really got into music and I love playing the harp, although, it is sometimes a little difficult to read the music.

"I play with a group called UCan productions and we've just performed at the Wales Millennium Centre, which was great fun. Living with poor vision just means I've had to adapt, although it's difficult to say how because it's something I've always lived with.

"I have also been diagnosed with ocular albinism, I have a lack of pigment, and as a result my eyes are very sensitive to light and my hair and skin are fairly fair so I have to be careful when I'm out and about in the sun.

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Seeing a Way Forward; Most of Us Take Our Vision for Granted but Not Everyone Is Lucky Enough to Have Perfect Eyesight. Rachel Mainwaring Talks to Two People about Nystagmus, a Condition That Means Their Eyes Are Constantly Moving
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