How do people react to losing their sight?
Julia Skorobohach Keeva Hindmarsh
When you lose your sight and go about your day normally, your heartbeat will increase from your resting heart rate and you will feel very uncomfortable.
Why does losing a sense heighten your other senses?
When you lose a sense, perhaps sight, your brain recognizes the gap and tries to fill it using your other senses.
If you were born without sight, or if you lost your sight early on, your brain “reroutes” the normal sensory pathways. For example, if you were born blind, then the area of your brain dedicated to understanding the visual world (visual cortex) would instead receive sound and touch information. This way, the blind are able to use touch and hearing to understand their world in the same manner we would use sight to understand the world.
In simple terms, the unaffected senses take up the duties and responsibilities of the lost senses.
In simple terms, the unaffected senses take up the duties and responsibilities of the lost senses.
Our independent variables are the people we use for the experiment.
Our dependent variable are the loss of our subjects sight.
As soon as our test subjects wake up, we will deprive them of their sight using a sleep mask. They will continue their daily routine as normal with their sight lost. We will monitor their heartbeats using our fitbits, and afterwards give them a questionnaire to fill out about their experience. They only lose their sight for 30 minutes. We will also record their heartbeat on a normal morning and document how fast and how diligently they complete their normal morning routine.
ISubject #1 (Jane Kerr)
- Our first subject commented on how much she had to visualize her surroundings to complete her daily routine.
- “I could visualize my toothpaste, the bed, the kitchen. Everything I had done a million times I could see in my mind” said Jane Kerr “I don’t think I could have completed a task independently if I was not 100% familiar with the task and my surroundings”
- Another thing Jane Kerr commented on was how her other senses heightened as she got more and more used to being blind. “I would say #1 was touch, and visualization, and #2 was hearing” she said “ I could hear everything louder and clearer, I could literally see everything in my mind.”
- Another interesting thing Jane Kerr told us was that “ now that I have my sight back, I feel that my sense of sight feels much more intense then before. I am noticing much more things than before”.
- In response to question #2 ( the emoji feelings chart) Jane Kerr circled the 😱 emoji (surprise) and the 😖 emoji (frustration)
- “ Until I lost my vision for a very long time, I never noticed how much you observe and rely on your ability to see. It never really crossed my mind. It was extremely surprising.
- “ I couldn’t do normal things that I didn’t even think about doing, they were really hard. It was very frustrating.”
- While we were observing our first subject, Jane Kerr, she was commenting on how much better her hearing was. she could hear Brian downstairs, even when we couldn't.
- Jane is visualizing her house, and said that if she hadn’t lived in it before it would be impossible to do anything
- Around the 15 minute mark Jane was asked if she was getting used to being blind. She responded yes, but knowing her way around the house played a huge part in it.
- She needed someone to tell her where she was going, where the toothpaste was on her toothbrush, she needed someone to get her toast out of the toaster, someone to tell her if it was buttered.
Subject: Nolan Hindmarsh
- Nolan had commented that his daily life was impacted . Many everyday easy tasks seemed to interfere with his ability to get things done, although he stayed tough on the outside he “found it quite frustrating” to complete simple tasks.
- “I hope I never have to live without sight,” he wrote, circling the 1st emoji on our chart (😕). “It would be very challenging”.
- “Going without vision for half an hour makes you think from a different perspective on people who are permanently visually impaired.” He said to us in response to one of our questions
- Nolan commented on how it slowly gets easier the more you live blind. Yet these subjects were only blind for half an hour.
- “I found my way around the house ok” he had said. ‘Ok’ is a lie. Nolan successfully made his way around the house, although he did build it and has lived there for a very long time.“but tasks that require finding things were very difficult”
- Nolan found that his “only comfort was knowing the layout of the place and being able to visualize it in his head”.
- When Nolan found big items like the couch, butcher block, table… he found comfort in remembering the layout of the house, how far away he was from certain items, walls, and rooms and being able to visualize it in his head.
- Subject #4 commented “Lack of sight forces you to listen better” he also noticed the increase in other senses such as hearing and touch while he was blind.
- After the experiment, Nolan felt ‘glorious’ and ‘relieved’. It’s saddening though, imagine living your life with sight, you would never have that ‘glorious’ or ‘relieving’ feel to experience of regaining or even gaining for the first time the sight that had been absent in your life before. That’s why we encourage you to donate to any local charity for the blind. Help them live that moment.
Subject: Aisling Mahalingham
- Out third subject commented on how losing sight affected her ability to complete even the simplest tasks
- “It was really hard to focus” Aisling told us. “I could not multitask or do things that required multitasking”
- An interesting thing that our third subject commented on was how it was more difficult to navigate when there were no objects around her
- “If there was nothing there to feel, it was really challenging” she told us “wide open spaces were much more difficult than confined ones”
- Aisling told us that brushing her teeth was something that she could do very well
- “It requires very little vision to complete” she told us “I was able to complete it all by feel”
- Another thing Aisling told us was how important a familiar environment was.
- “It would be impossible if if my environment was unfamiliar.” She said “ I new what to expect, and that played a huge role in being able to do things independently. I knew when to expect a turn or corner.”
- In response to asking Aisling if she had gotten used to being blind over the course of the experiment, she responded yes, somewhat.
- “Once I recognized that I needed to use touch to navigate, it became easier”
- After asking Aisling if any of her senses had been heightened when she was blind, she told us that her touch had gotten stronger, so that she could use it for navigation and heat
- Being around boiling water really concerned her, because she couldn’t touch it and understand it’s whereabouts
- She told us that she would have to have lots of safety nets and lots of extra care (people) to live blind.
- The last thing that Aisling told us was that after she got her sight back, she recognized that she was completely focused and in the moment, and that she had to be to complete her daily routine.
Subject #2 (Brian Skorobohach)
- Brian Skorobohach (out second subject ) commented on how he was very cautious of walking because he didn’t want to injure himself
- “Because I made every move deliberate, even the smallest tasks took very long. He said “Another big thing for me was knowing where things were located ( Glasses, bowls, shoes, etc) that way very important for me”
- Another thing Brian commented on was how a familiar environment was very important.
- “ Knowing where I was made me much more confident” he told us “ I knew what to expect next. A couple of times I got lost, and knowing where I was helped me get back on track.”
- When we asked Him if he had gotten used to blindness over the course of our experiment, he responded no.
- “ I definitely did not get used to being blind at all.” He had responded “ If I was permanently blind, it would probably take me weeks to get used to it”
- One thing that we noticed over the course of this experiment was how heavily Brian relied on touch. He used it to feel his toothbrush, how full his cheerio bowl was, the buttons on the elevator, he even felt the groceries in the fridge to find the milk. He also used touch to feel the walls and pipes, and this helped him figure out where he was.
- “Using touch, I felt I could relate to my environment.” He said “ without touch, I would be completely lost”
- Once I took of the mask, I was relieved” he told us “but it did give me lots of new perspective on the visually impaired’s life”
Our experiment showed that our test subjects were in fact, uncomfortable, although each person dealt with it in a different way. For some, they visualized their homes and navigated using that. For others, they used touch to guide them. The main thing, though, that each and every person felt was important, was knowing their environment well. In our questionnaire, everyone responded that they definitely needed to know their environment to complete their daily routines. If they didn’t know where they were, they would have been lost. We also observed that whenever a person was doing an unfamiliar thing, their heart rates went up. You can see in our line graph that everyone had a spike in their heart rate at least one time during our experiment. The coolest thing that we noticed was, and every person experienced this, was how at least one of their other senses was heightened throughout the duration of their blindness (it was mostly sight and hearing that was enriched).
In conclusion, our hypothesis was right. Our test subjects heart rates did go up while they were blind, all though for some not significantly. As we saw in our questionnaire, our test subjects were in fact uncomfortable, but the level of concern varied. One thing we learned throughout the course of this experiment was how some senses are heightened while people are blind. Each and every one out our test subjects felt that at least one of their senses (mostly hearing and touch) was enriched.
This experiment could be helpful to the world because it could show people it would be like to live blind. This way, people could develop a new understanding of what blind people go through. They may then donate to charities that benefit the visually impaired, like guide dog charities.
Sources Of Error
One of our sources of error was how our first questionnaire didn't include some important questions including:
Do you think that you needed to be in a familiar environment to complete your daily routine?
Did you get used to being blind over the course of this experiment?
Did any of your senses heighten over the course of this experiment? If so, than wich ones?
How did you feel after getting your sight back?
We realized our error after our first subject experienced imprortant things that were not in our questionnaire.
We would like to acknowledge our test subjects who were extremely patient and cooperative over the course of our experiment. These people include: