When I’m sitting in front of you, I can see you and your outfit, but I can’t see what’s next to you. Most people are able to look around up to 90 degrees without having to turn their heads. My visual field is about 30 degrees. I see so little details that if we were to meet again tomorrow – and you would wear a different outfit – I wouldn’t recognize you anymore.
I always tell people: “I put my nose on the paper to see up close what I have drawn. When I look at my screen my nose would leave marks on it.” As a child, I always enjoyed drawing, and I quickly realized that my drawings were quite different from those of my peers.
Because of my bad vision (between 20% with glasses and 5% without), which I had for my entire life, almost everyone thought that I was crazy [for wanting to work in the creative industry]. That’s why I started studying psychology. Unfortunately, proper assistive tech wasn’t available back then and the few audio books I had access to were often outdated.
In addition, excessive reading caused me headaches [i.e. eye pain], so I eventually had to quit. I was weighing different options for a while, however, I still couldn’t let go of my dream to become an artist/designer. So one day I decided: I’m just going to give it a shot and sign up for an art [design] school. If they won’t accept me, I’ll then would have let go of my dream forever.
Armed with a portfolio full of [random] drawings I went to the meeting. It felt a bit like an interrogation. They asked me a lot of difficult questions and I also faced some criticism. Just when I was about to give up, I got the news that I got enrolled. As you can imagine, I was in shock.
During my years in design school I tried to keep a low profile but that proved somewhat difficult, since older students always kept asking me to help them out with their artworks.
I [still] lived in Germany when I started working. At first, I had to deal with a lot of distrust and intolerance [towards my capabilities/skills]. I certainly don’t want make generalizations about all Germans, but many of those I met were completely convinced that what they didn’t think was feasible, simply wasn’t possible.
On the other hand, some people treated me with a lot of compassion, sometimes too much for my liking. I don’t want to be defined by my disability, I would like to be appreciated [as a person] and taken seriously as a professional. All I want is a regular job to be able to support myself.
In the last years I have worked in Thailand and the United States. I have beautiful memories about Thailand, because there I was judged by my work and talents, which got me great opportunities. Here in the Netherlands I’m also doing well, even though I encounter laws and regulations that can be quite hindering.
For example, I have been offered jobs a number of times but employers wanted to apply for a job subsidy. Though I understand their point of view, there are disadvantages for me. I’d be under the thumb of the UWV [Dutch employment agency] and get paid only minimum wage, while all my sighted colleagues make a lot more [for the same work]. Obviously, I don’t want that.