Braille Monitor                                             July 2015

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Helping Those I Meet Look Beyond My Differences or Conditions

by Jeanette McAllister

Jeanette McAllisterFrom the Editor: How many of us can relate to the frustration generated when people talk with us about our blindness and yet will not name it, calling it our condition or situation or our challenge. It can be difficult when they imply that it is a shame that we can’t visually observe something beautiful or that we are blessed because we do not have to look at something terrible. It is difficult to explain that we too have things to appreciate in a sunrise or sunset, the beauty of a stream, the flapping of a flag, and the wonderful feeling that comes after a rain, whether or not we see the rainbow. Whether we see the horror of the war on our television screen or witness the picture of the starving child halfway across the world, we know these things exist, grieve about them, and search in our souls for a way to change them. How do we get people to understand in their hearts and in their minds that blindness means the loss of physical sight but need not make radical changes to who we are and does not alter our innate humanity? It is one of our characteristics but by no means the most important.

Jeanette lost her vision suddenly in December of 2010 after a head injury exacerbated a dormant eye disease. Since then she has worked hard to learn Braille and about various adaptive technologies. She owns a staffing company where she not only assists both blind and sighted people in finding employment, but also spends time educating employers about the capabilities of the blind. She was recently appointed to the Employment Committee of the National Federation of the Blind and has also been asked to serve on the State Rehabilitation Council for the Virginia Department for the Blind. Here is what Jeanette thought it better to write than to emotionally say to her family and friends:

After several conversations with family members and acquaintances about what they so lovingly refer to as "your condition," I have to clarify some things. Let me start with a few questions:

I have the same needs, wants, and desires as you. The only thing that keeps you from clearly seeing this is that I often do things differently and may appreciate things differently from the way you do. Please allow me to elaborate:

Before you conclude that I can't accomplish something because of my "condition"—what exactly do you think my condition is? Obviously it is much more than the fact that I do not see. You assume a great many things based on my lack of vision—bless your heart. So let’s channel your concern, your goodwill, and your desire to help into areas that will really make a difference. Watch me and learn what it really means to be blind; then take up my cause, join me in the good fight, and together let’s change the attitudes that are the single-largest problem I face. Together let’s change the world, not only for me but for others who are blind.

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