How See Differently has helped Nikita succeed in day-to-day life
The teenage years should be an exciting time for young adults, but for Nikita Grosser, they were full of challenges.
Nikita, who was born with a vision impairment, was diagnosed with an eye disorder called cone-rod dystrophy at age 13 after her vision began to deteriorate. By 16, Nikita had only two to three percent vision in her right eye and no sight in her left eye.
“My diagnosis was pretty hard,” Nikita, now 23, said.
“At the same time, my Mum was going through a divorce and so there were a lot of contributing factors at that point that got me into a pretty dark place.”
But it was while on a Blind Society SA camp Nikita discovered a little-known sport that would shift her life’s trajectory: goalball. The most popular sport for those with low vision, goalball is a mix of soccer and dodgeball.
Two teams of three people play on a court, with the objective being to roll a basketball-sized ball containing bells over your rival’s goal line.
Nikita liked the sport for several reasons, but mostly because everyone was on a level playing field. Like Nikita, other children and families also fell in love with the sport, which led to the creation of Goalball SA.
“I think it’s also a bit of an adrenaline rush when you can’t see anything,” she said. “You get to pelt a ball at people, and it’s probably a bit of an aggressive sport, but it’s quite fun!
“You also get to meet people that have the same disability as you and the same issues in life that you do. It really helps you make friends that you wouldn’t normally make otherwise.”
More than a decade on, Nikita has represented Australia on the international and national stage. She’s also playing with the Australian women’s squad and is hoping to qualify for the Paralympics in Paris next year.
“We have to win at either the IBSA World Games in August or our regionals later on in the year when the dates get announced. If we don’t make it to Paris, the next goal will be Los Angeles in 2028.”
Life hasn’t slowed down for Nikita outside of the goalball court.
Not only is she working part-time at a conveyancing firm, but she’s also helping her family out on their farm at Palmer, just outside of Mannum, and building her first home at Mount Barker.
To help her navigate her day-to-day life, Nikita relies on some of See Differently’s services for people with low vision.
These include using gadgets such as apps and GPS devices to improve mobility, occupational therapy, and optometry.
“Mobility is a really big thing and without that support, it would be a real struggle to get around,” she said.
“I live in a small town and we don’t have a lot of public transport, so a lot of the time you do have to walk and navigate your way around.
“You really need to know where the unsafe places are to walk and learn where all the road crossings are because some of the paths where I live are non-existent.”
She also uses assistive technology at work, including a curve screen and an electronic magnifier.
Nikita also found See Differently’s counselling services invaluable post-diagnosis to get her through what she calls a “pretty dark place”.
“I went from wearing normal glasses to wearing sunglasses which was a lot of changes for a 13-year-old to go through.
“I spent a lot of time with a counsellor from See Differently and they helped me cope with a lot of these things and learn how to deal with a lot of issues that come up. It was really helpful and probably invaluable to get me through a pretty dark place that I ended up in during that time.”