Chris Field takes a morning walk with 14-year-old Sula, a retired guide dog named after Toni Morrison's book.

Although he uses a white cane and is accompanied by a guide dog, 17-year Mission resident Chris Field isn’t completely blind. With glasses, he can make out some of his surroundings as he walks through the neighborhood Tuesday morning. He’s even planning to help a friend move later in the day. 

“Here’s the funny thing: I go to the LightHouse [for the Blind and Visually Impaired], and there are people who have no vision. They would say I’m ‘high-vision,’” Field said. “But if I’m out here and I’m talking to you, you’d say, ‘Oh, you’re low-vision.’” 

After four retinal detachments about 15 years ago, he was left with just a patch of vision in his left eye, leaving him to “straddle the fence” between two worlds. “It’s like a little patch, like a tunnel vision. And it’s cloudy and it’s still low acuity. And there are missing pieces,” Field said.  

“Oh, I constantly get accused of being a fraud,” Field said with a chuckle. “One guy passed me walking by and he just said, ‘Wow, pretending to be a blind man’ — like that. I was like, I don’t have the time to get into explaining … Yeah, like, sit down, pull up a chair.”

“It’s hard to fit in because people expect — like, if they see me with glasses, they think I can see absolutely perfectly normal. But I don’t see anything out of this eye,” Field said, pointing to his right eye. 

“I have to go [out] at odd hours, when it’s not crowded, because I’m slow, [and] people get in a hurry, everyone’s in a hurry,” he said. Once, returning from the gym at midnight, he was near the corner on 20th and San Carlos streets and heard shouting and screaming. 

“I was using my cane, because it’s easier for me to just do a tapping motion like that. And that alerts people … so, I guess they heard that. And somebody came whipping around the corner and sized me up and down. I have the patch of vision and I saw them, and they looked at me and they saw the cane, and they just realized — this guy can’t do anything. So, they just went right back around into the shadows, beating up on somebody.” 

“I never had any trouble, for the most part. People are generally respectful. Tthey leave me alone. They see I’m kind of non-threatening,” Field said.

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Eleni Balakrishnan

Eleni is our reporter focused on policing in San Francisco. She first moved to the city on a whim over eight years ago, and the Mission has become her home. Follow her on Twitter @miss_elenius.

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