Guide Dog Padawan & College Freshman to be

The school I go to right now is basically training for being blind. Everyone there is older than me and most of them had some incident later in life that caused them to be totally blind or severely visually impaired. For me it’s a little different. Partially at the urging of my parents and encouraged by the knowledge of the degenerative nature of my eye disease, I decided to take a year in between graduation and starting college to attend this program. Basically, I’m learning to transcend sight and become one with the force.

A few weeks ago, a spokesperson from Guide Dogs for the Blind came to our program and talked about, well, guide dogs. It was super interesting for a lot of reasons. The actual presenter was a guide dog user himself and brought his dog, Forley. He wasn’t totally blind. I always thought I had too much vision to get a dog or that I wouldn’t work well with one but during his talk I started having second thoughts. He talked about the relationship between guide dog and owner and how it is more about trust and allowing your dog to help you. The only technical requirement to be eligible is to be legally blind. So I haven’t officially made a decision but I’m really excited and there’s a strong possibility that I’ll be spending two weeks at the guide dog training camp. If I do, I’ll definitley write about the experience.

Oh, I almost forgot! What sparked me to think about getting a dog again and to write this post? This week, I got my acceptance letter to Seattle University. Not only that, but a generous scholarship that makes it possible for me to afford going! I am -so- incredibly excited for 2016.

 

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Eyes Wide Open

A room covered in boxes, wrappings, and bows accompanied by piles of just-opened gifts. The remains of a hearty dinner filling tummies and like a lullaby, pulling families into naps after all the anticipation and excitement. The thing I forgot about the most wonderful time of the year is that it is also the prime time for sickness. As I’m being reminded of this fact with a sore throat and the feeling of my body giving a definitive feeling of UGH, I try to think of the last time I felt this terrible. 

I don’t get sick often, but I have some memories of periods where I became part of the couch living on crackers and Gatorade. 

Surprisingly, these aren’t what comes to my mind first. I realized that the feeling that comes to my mind first has nothing to do with a bacterium or virus. Honestly, it’s much more crippling. 

The worst thing I have ever felt in my life is feeling like I was less of a person because of my physical disability. 

It’s hard to think about, hard to even write that sentence. I mean, why should I feel bad about something that I have absolutely no control over?

It seems ludicrous but I felt this way, and not just for a little while. I’m talking years of my life. I couldn’t make friends in middle and high school, at least not real ones. I ended up hanging out with any crowd that would accept me, and even there I was an outcast. 

I’m not the only one. Over the years I’ve made friends who deal with the same things I do and the story is often similar.  

So now, years later, I’ve finally realized the truth. I’ve realized that I actually have incredible value just like all of my legally/totally blind friends. But why did it take me so long to figure that out? 

Because when I was growing up there were no commercials and models and general media showing blind individuals as we truly are. 

People. 

Not an anomaly, not “wow that’s incredible they can do x,y,z considering they’re blind”. 

I wasn’t exposed to this and neither were my peers,or the peers of my friends. As a result impairments become like that curse word that even those who swear a lot refuse to say. 

 This isn’t just the case for visual impairment. Across the board physical impairments are displayed as an oddity. An oddity in itself considering that in one car accident, anyone could become a part of our underrepresented group. 

I say all of this not to be bitter but to be honest. I would never want someone to go through the isolation that I experienced during school. No one should have to because after all, this is the Information Age. Media does so much to negatively affect younger kids, giving them misconceptions about how they should look or act. Why not make it into something positive? Teach them that physical impairments happen and that those who deal with them are getting through life just the same as everyone else. We can help people to see, we just have to open their eyes. 

Gold Rush

This is a little rusty but it’s my first one so they can only get better, right?

This took me literally FOREVER to format this in a way that would work so I wasn’t going to ditch it.

Honest thoughts are appreciated. ❤

I See You Looking at Me

I lead a double life. Because I’m visually impaired and not fully blind, I’ve had phases in my life where I’ve carried a cane and times where I have not. Even above all the painful surgeries and physical challenges, becoming okay with using a cane was one of the toughest things I’ve struggled with due to my impairment. Finally, my senior year I moved to a new school for a fresh start. I decided to use my cane and I was asked some pretty interesting questions.

1. How do you have such a good fashion sense?

This was asked of me by my AP Psych teach in front of our ENTIRE class and I honestly didn’t know how to respond. You would think a psychology teacher to be a little more sensitive or at least know not to ask such an ignorant question. As a suggestion, if you’re ever asked this reply by explaining how you taste your clothing in order to decide on outfits.

2. Does your boyfriend drive you everywhere?

Because I have to have a sighted boyfriend/chauffeur? It’s kind of an implication of dependency, like because of my impairment I need a sighted person to take care of me. In fact, I find that relationships with people who also have a visual impairment are incredibly beneficial because you never have to worry that they won’t understand at all what you’re dealing with.

3. Should I have opened the door for her?

This was actually not asked of me but about me within earshot. The answer is yes and no. If you feel like being polite and opening the door for someone carrying a cane, by all means do it. But you shouldn’t do it because you think there is some unwritten social rule that says you need to.

So these are just a few of the questions I’ve been asked. I’d  l o v e to hear if you guys have any personal experience to add. Feel free to put ’em in the comments. ❤

 

 

Han-di-crap

It’s kind of a ritual for me to freak out about college approximately once a week now. It’s not the going to college that stresses me out but the $ involved that sometimes makes me want to curl up in a ball and eat Ben & Jerry’s for the rest of my life. Anyway, the other night I was having one of these weekly stress sessions and my boyfriend, being the wonderful human he is, directed me to this site. It’s a scholarship for students for disabilities which is pretty cool. The first essay was accompanied by this video that I thought was incredibly accurate and relevant. The site is called Incight if you wanna check it out but even if you don’t you should take a minute to watch this accurate-if-a-bit-cheesy video.

XOXO,

Court

The White Elephant in the Room

For me, it’s the Christmas season. I love this time of year and honestly, who doesn’t? This year is tougher than most because of a recent death in my family, and I find that getting gifts for the ones I love is really helping me to get into the spirit. A thought occurred to me yesterday as I was shopping for one of my closest friends who happens to be totally blind. She had full vision up until about a year ago, and I can’t imagine what a change that must have been. She’s courageous and positive and I admire her so much. Anyway, I was thinking that a change like that could making something simple like knowing what you want for Christmas somewhat of a challenge (and by default, make it harder for family members to choose a gift) We are a sight-oriented society and when your sight is lost, there’s no denying that your world changes. In light of this I have decided to make a list of my favorite gift ideas for this season that are great no matter how much vision you have.

1. Shut the Box

This game is great and fun to play in a large group or solo. The numbers would be an easy fix with jumbo dot sticker or tactile number stickers depending on the person’s braille proficiency. You can find it on Amazon here.

2. Scentsy

Pretty much any scentsy product is a win. They revolve around making spaces smell wonderful plus unlike a candle scentsy uses light bulbs so there’s no danger of getting burnt by an open flame. Visit their site here.

3. Bath & Body Works True Blue Collection

I love B&BW in general, but their True Blue Spaa line is greath. The products are soothing and make your skin feel oh-so-soft. These products are a great way to pamper someone on your list. Browse the collection here

4. Braille Jewelery

3 Sisters Braille Necklaces // Braille Inspired "SISTER" Necklace // Sister Necklace // Family // Braille // Big Sister Little Sister

Braille jewelry can show someone special that you love them for all of their unique qualities. The pieces can often be personalized. There are tons of great options here

5. Talking Measuring Cup

Product Details

For those who love to bake. Get it on amazon here

6. Ambutech

This place is great for any and everything to do with mobility needs! They have tons of options so you can get something truly unique. Visit the site here

Of course there are tons of other options for someone on your list who has a visual impairment, but these are a few out-of-the-box ideas you may not have considered. I wish you all happy shopping and and an abundance of joy this Christmas. ❤

 

 

The Blind Side

For someone with a visual impairment, navigating socially can often be one of the trickiest things. I think that part of the reason for this is that it is hard for someone with a visual impairment to explain how they see or what it’s like to the average person. The person trying to explain might not really have a reference point for “normal” to base their explanation on.  There is no Dictionary of Blindness with neat definitions of levels of blindness. Visual impairments as a category are a wide spectrum and it is hardly tangible for people who have had pretty good vision their whole lives.

This is why, if you fall in that spectrum, it’s important to have a group of friends in your life who deal with visual impairment also. You may not have the exact same level of vision loss but I guarantee it will be easy to see eye to eye on a lot of the obstacles you face. It also gives you a lot of perspective and helps you not to feel alone, which can be the worst part of having any kind of handicap. They won’t let you throw parades off pity for yourself but they will talk to you about the frustrations of blindness and often have good suggestions on how you can solve a problem you’re having.

I’m not by ANY means saying that you should only be friends with people who share your physical impairment. (see: Civil War) I am saying that there are people out there who understand. In this era of technology, there’s no reason not to be connected to some form of support whether your impairment is visual, mobile, auditory, or anything else. Being a smaller group means we need each other even more. By valuing each other, we can rise above those who want to write us off. (That’s right I’m talking about you Donald Trump)

I just wanted to put this out there as a reminder of just how important friendship and support is when you deal with some kind of impairment. I’m so thankful for all my friends from YES2 so shout out to you guys, you’re all amazing. ❤

 

*Photo Description: bl-eye-nd-niss: an ability to gain insight*

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Sound Gem

Tonight I had the pleasure of enjoying my sister’s high school orchestra performance. It was so wonderful, I always feel so proud going to support my sister because she is blossoming into the most beautiful woman. This concert in itself was special because it was her first concert in high school, and again, I can’t express how incredibly proud of her I am. There was also something else unique.

My sister’s orchestra and one from another school joined together and collaborated with an indie folk band.

It was kind of spectacular. They’re called The Hunts and they’re comprised of 7 siblings. They seem incredibly genuine and are definitely talented.  If you like great new music that has good vibes, check them out!

Edyoucation.

It is a story seldom told, but the life of a physically impaired student wading through public school is more like swimming through quicksand than anything else. If you’ve been there, the phrases “IEP” and “accommodation” are as familiar to you as your own home. And soon enough, these words start to feel like what you live within. They become the island you live on because often, a particular school only has a few students who suffer from a purely physical or medical impairment. In fact, only about 12% of students nationwide.

So, what does that mean for those who happen to fall within that category, completely capable of being independent learners in the right environment? In my experience, nothing much does happen. School administrators just don’t know how to deal with this tiny sub-group, nor do they want to spend the funds trying to. As a result, someone who is like me, (visually impaired with academic ability) are pushed to the wayside. We end up living in an in-between world even more than we already do, sometimes participating in the mainstream Gen Ed. and sometimes going to one of those classes. Not self-contained but in some back hallway. We take these “academic help” classes in order to fufill accommodations for extra time and specialized materials. However the other students alongside us are not typically there for the same reason. The majority of students in these types of classes have mild to severe learning disabilities and or behavioral problems. As you might imagine, the student having a meltdown is the one most likely to get the attention of a teacher. Meanwhile, those unique students, the ones like me, again fall by the wayside. We get our accommodations on paper but how about on a day to day basis? We have to work three times as hard as the average student to succeed. It’s not just about doing schoolwork; it’s about figuring out how we are going to access that work each day.

This is a framework based upon my experience but I am not the only one who has gone through school this way. So, why does it matter? The education of 12% is far from the majority and furthermore, if you’re reading this, it’s likely that you aren’t even a part of that statistic. It matters for two reasons. 1) Impaired or not, we are Americans and under the law we are entitled to a free public education just like everyone else. 2) Disabilities don’t discriminate. This might not be you, but it could become you. Or a friend, or a loved one.

What should you do about it? Talk about it. Write about it. Your voice is your greatest asset. Dream in 20/20, and things will come into focus.

 

 

 

 

Not Seeing, Still Believing

A while ago my friend introduced me to this YouTuber.

Her channel is called YesterdaysWishes and she’s completely blind. I cannot express how amazing she is. She shows how people with visual impairments and blindness can be normal and can do everything that sighted people can do. I personally love that she does make-up tutorials! It can be difficult to do your own make-up when you can’t see well, but it’s not impossible by any means, and if you’re like me, you feel naked if you don’t have your make-up done. I also relate really well to her struggle of trying to accept herself and her blindness once she lost her sight and she was really candid and accurate about a lot of the challenges that come about when you are differently-abled. Anyway, she’s adorable and super positive and is a really wonderful example of ability awareness. I would highly recommend watching her videos whether you’re visually impaired or not because a lot of her tips are universally wonderful. Check her out below

UPDATE: She also has a WordPress blog called Yesterdayswishes which is equally wonderful