08/16/2012 05:57 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Image of Vision


Tunnel vision. It's a term that we sometimes throw around to express either how focused we are on a project or when a person only sees something from their point of view. Meet Jamellia, a 19-year-old Africa-American female college sophomore who has, well, tunnel vision. But more specifically, she has a condition called retinitis pigmentosa, which causes her to experience tunnel vision.

According to the U.S. National Library of medicine:

Retinitis pigmentosa is an eye disease in which there is damage to the retina." The retina is the layer of tissue at the back of the inner eye that converts light images to nerve signals and sends them to the brain.

What makes Jay's story so fascinating to me is that retinitus pigmentosa among her demographic is very rare because it is most common amongst white males. I wanted to share her story because I felt compelled to include her in my "I am The Change" photography project.

While photographing and recording Jamellia, I had some time to talk with her to learn more about her life with retinitus pigmentosa, how she is the change she wants to SEE in the world, and how she still manages to excel in college despite her "tunnel vision."

So how old were you when you were first diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa? And tell me about the day you found out and the things that went through your mind.

I was 7 years old when I was first diagnosed. I only remember going to the ophthalmology center for a regular check-up and we ended up staying there for the whole day. They ran a bunch of tests on me. At the end of the day, my mother never told me what was wrong until I got a lot older.

What are you in school for and what are your career aspirations?

I am a psychology major, sociology minor with a concentration in vocational rehabilitation with hopes of one day helping to employ and counsel people with disabilities similar to mine, since we are often under-paid even though we have the capabilities to do just about anything.

How many other young people do you know of with retinitis pigmentosa?

I know two others personally with retinitis pigmentosa.

How is your life different from your peers who do not have RP?

My life is different in that it is sometimes hard to keep up with other people my age when I am unable to see things at night. Nightlife doesn't exist for me because I can't see at parties. That kind of dampers my college experience. I also can't drive, so it is even harder for me to do things in the day time.

Why do you think it's important for people to learn about retinitis pigmentosa?

It is important for people to learn simply for their enlightenment on a different perspective of what blindness consist of. Not all of us are completely without sight, nor will all of us lose all of our sight in the future, but we are still blind, nonetheless.

Want to learn more about RP? Please visit Foundation Fighting Blindness