It was July of 2019 and I received an email chain from my aunt. In it, she was corresponding with one of her students about pole dancing. Her student was an instructor at a pole fitness studio in the city I resided, and my aunt thought it would be a sport that would be of interest to me. However, there was one key question she was seeking to get answered. Is it an accessible sport for the blind? And why did she have to ask that? Well, I’m blind.
Two months later I was taking my first Into to Pole classes at Iron X Fitness. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with it. It was one of the first things I had done since the blindness that made me feel free.
Now I am sure you have many questions, so let’s answer some of those before we carry on.
How did you become blind?
I was 14 and diagnosed with a life-threatening condition in my brain called an Arteriovenous Malformation. Due to damage in the brain that was predicted and just, I was left with an acquired brain injury which included visual field loss to my right and the central hemisphere.
What do you see?
What I see is exactly what the average fully sighted person sees. However, my field is significantly less. Where the average person has a visual field including the right to left peripheral vision, I only have left peripheral. For example, looking at someone I would only see the corner of their right eye and over. It looks the same as your peripheral vision. So, back to why I fell in love with pole. Frankly, I have always been someone who appreciated using my body in a physical way. Sports have always been a value system that was ingrained in me. But the love was complex after 14. No longer was it about just using my body to have fun, but rather using my mind on how to adapt the sport for me. I felt different. Even going for a run involved planning and relying on someone or something to help me (my guide dog is the best).
I am grateful for the opportunity to have a dog or human help me out but with the pole, I can just move. Because I have the pole as a tactile grounding point, I never feel lost. Which, frankly, is a common feeling I have even after 12 years with the vision I have.
I won’t lie and say with pole it has always been easy. My instructors can attest to the times I have been in tears feeling disoriented, lost, or frustrated because I couldn’t see my space or what I was trying to learn. However, they have stayed by me in my journey and been patient with me in the process.
Seven months into my pole journey, the world shut down due to COVID-19. I was now at my dad’s home to ride it out and to help get through. Trust me, social distancing is a little hard to do when you aren’t able to see where people are around you. Now, I didn’t have a pole studio and my mental health was being impacted. I once again felt like the blind girl. The feeling I had gotten rid of when I was dancing. I needed it back.
With the support of my dad, he was willing to build a space to dance and get that feeling back. But I had to get a home pole. Thankfully Lupit Pole was there to support me further in getting a home pole.
Although the garage space my dancing studio will exist is still in the renovation, the pole has been installed into my bedroom and I have been able to move and feel the freedom pole has given me.
Thanks to pole, I am not the blind girl. I am just a girl who is able to move; freely, fluidly.