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What I Prefer
From the Editor: The following article is a slightly revised version of a list Sarah Weinstein prepared and presented at a New Jersey NFB workshop for classroom teachers and aides two years ago.
Today, Sarah is 14-years-old and ready to begin 8th grade in High Bridge Middle School. She enjoys swimming, bowling, attending Camp Marcella (a camp in New Jersey for blind children) and singing in school chorus. Recently, she spoke at a National Library Service Pre-Convention in Richmond, Virginia, about her experiences as a library for the blind patron.
Sarah aspires to be a Braille teacher. “What I Prefer” is credible evidence that Sarah is already an outspoken advocate for independence for blind students. Here is Sarah’s 12-point list of tips for classmates and teachers:
1. I like to walk independently. If I need directions, I want people to tell me with words (verbally) which way to turn. Touching and moving me with your hands without my permission is disrespectful.
2. When I do want hands-on-guidance, I want people to guide me the proper way. I will take your elbow. If I am guided from the back—that is, someone takes my arm—it feels like I’m being pushed, and I don’t like it.
3. My Braille writer, my cane, my Braille Lite, and my Braille watch are my equipment. They are not toys to be played with by my friends.
4. When you say hello to me, please tell me who you are. I don’t want to always ask, “What’s your name?” or “Who is it?” Even if you think I should know you, there are lots of reasons I may not recognize your voice.
5. When the teacher tells the other kids to get their books out, I want to go get my Braille books by myself, too. Don’t send another kid to get my book for me.
6. If I am stuck on a word and a teacher doesn’t know Braille, he or she can still help me. The teacher has a print copy of exactly what I have in Braille.
7. I want everyone to know my cane needs to be next to my desk. I don’t want others to complain about it.
8. I feel good when teachers say things like, “Rachel, you and Sarah can work together on this project,” or “Kevin, you and Heather and Sarah can walk together on the field trip.” When I hear them say, “Be Sarah’s helper,” I feel sad.
9. Please tell me if you are standing there holding the door open for me. And tell me which side (my right or left) the door is on. Then I can reach out and help hold the door as I walk through.
10. I would like it if people would not bend down and tie my shoes for me. Just tell me and I will tie them myself.
11. If you know I can’t do something, or if you think I can’t, you should still ask me first if I need help. This is an important way to handle everything.
12. I want people to let me be independent. If you’re not sure when or how to help, ASK ME!
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