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Changing career plans due to disability

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When I was just a kid, all I wanted to be a was a pilot.

I was enamoured by planes and exhilarated by flight, and also being gay I always knew I was different and so drew comfort from the idea of being able to just fly away.

It all changed when I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at the age of 11.

Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is a degenerative eye disease that causes gradual vision loss, night blindness, severe tunnel vision and eventually blindness.

Being gay made me feel different enough, now add having a disability to the mix. I felt like an outcast and all I wanted to be was "normal".

Forging ahead with plan B

Knowing I would be legally blind by the time I was in my 20s, my dreams of becoming a pilot were dashed. So it was time to find plan B.

I decided to study a degree in mass communication which is where my creative streak came alive, and so I embarked upon a career in marketing.

I was fully aware I was choosing a career dependent upon my vision, and I decided to work on my graphic design and filmmaking skills to prove to myself that I can still do things against all odds.

Despite the talent and qualifications, the slow decline in my vision would always put a limit on career ambition.

More challenging than working with my disability was having to find organisations that would be willing to hire a legally blind marketer.

It must have sounded like a contradiction: on the one hand, graphic designer, filmmaker and brand manager; on the other, legally blind.

There were times I had to leave my cane in my bag before I walked in for the interview. There were also times where I got in trouble for "hiding" my disability only to be caught out later on.

Losing sight of my career options

As time went by my eyesight deteriorated further and that dreaded question kept haunting me: "What are you going to do once you can't see anymore?"

Increasingly I felt the need to find a career that didn't require eyesight, even though I loved doing what I did so much.

In one of my freak-out moments in my late 20s I took up studying psychology, only to quit after two semesters because it was something I "had" to do, not wanted to do.

Confronting the inevitable felt unfair. Not only could I not become a pilot, I now had to "look" beyond marketing for a career.

I felt a sense of shame that I had given up on studying after only two semesters. But I had convinced myself one way or another with my current vision I would somehow continue to work in marketing and perhaps move into consulting once my eyesight got worse.

My mother has the same condition and she lost her vision in her mid 40s, so being in my 30s I thought I still had more time to continue what I love doing.

Despite having severe tunnel vision, I managed to work because my central vision was still clear.

Until one recent morning I woke up with cloudy central vision — turns out it wasn't just that dewy morning mist, unfortunately.

I have now had to resign from my marketing lead role because I just can't see clearly enough.

I saw an ophthalmologist and not only has RP further deteriorated my eyesight, I now have less than three degrees peripheral vision and my retina is starting to thin — causing the cloudiness.

After an amazing 14 years in the field of marketing, I've had to say goodbye to that career, and hello to a completely new path.

This is daunting to say the least.

Karan marrying David. They are holding hands and Karan is wearing a dark blue suit and holding a microphone.
Karan says he is lucky to have the love and support of his husband, David, to help him adjust as he loses his vision.(

Supplied: Karan Nagrani


I am truly blessed with a loving and supportive network of husband, family and friends and have lent on the great support of organisations like Vision Australia to get me through this life-changing period.

I'm now 35 and a student again, studying psychology, determined to finish my degree and use my skills and life experience to help people as a psychologist when I graduate.

Not everyone is so blessed to have the kind of support I've had. I want to be able to do for others what has been done for me. I have started taking piano lessons to fill that creative gap too.

I guess what I would like to share with everyone is that one way or another you will get on the right path when the time is right.

Yes, my disability has affected my career plans, I went from plan A to plan C, but I have never been so sure about what I want and need to do.


Source: ABC

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