American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults
Future Reflections
       Fall 2016       ADVOCACY

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A Step-By-Step Approach to Getting Involved

by Lizzy Muhammad

Reprinted from <>, the blog of the National Association of Blind Students

Lizzy MuhammadFrom the Editor: Lizzy Muhammad is a student at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, where she is majoring in international studies. She won an NFB National Scholarship in 2014.

In the NFB, we often encourage students to get involved on campus--mostly using the positive but vague "just do it" method. I thought it might help to give students some specific tips and tricks to use when becoming more active. Perhaps you're a shy person; maybe you've tried jumping right in, but someone or something left you discouraged; or maybe you just can't stop the feeling of anxiety that comes with putting yourself out there. (Note: In this article I'll use the phrase on campus, but it could be interchanged with in your school. This advice is for students of all ages.)

Step 1: Find a few activities on campus that sound interesting to you. Be sure to think about important factors (such as time commitment, transportation, and how an activity fits into your current schedule) when deciding whether or not you want to do it.

Step 2: Think of how and why you want to participate. Do you want to participate purely for fun? To gain knowledge in a certain area or field? Because you're passionate about the subject? General interest? The why is important when deciding how serious you are about participating in the activity. As for how you will participate, it really depends on why. Are you joining a singing group purely for fun? If you are, you might be able to get away with just learning songs by ear. However, if you're joining a serious choir because you want to become a vocal coach, you'll probably want to use Braille music for sight reading material, and you should prepare for that accordingly.

Step 3: Think about if the activity requires any sort of audition, tryout, etc. How can you show the panel that you are on the same level as your sighted counterparts? Is it even necessary to prove yourself? Do you need to do any legwork, accessibility-wise? This can vary greatly depending on the activity, so refer to number 4!

Step 4: If you're feeling nervous or have the slightest doubt about an activity, run your idea(s) by trusted colleagues or friends who may have experience in the area you're interested in. * Cough cough *, reach out to your fellow Federationists with questions! (Depending on your personal situation and depending on the activity, you may be able to skip this step, but honestly it never hurts.) We love to talk about our past experiences and help each other. Remember, we're walking alone but always marching together. Post to any of the listservs (there are a ton of them) with questions you might have going into a new experience. Be sure to check out the archives if you think a question has already been asked in the past.

Step 5: Have a positive outlook on things. Think to yourself, I can and will do this; there must be a way for me to participate in this activity.

Step 6: Don't worry about what people will think of you, the possible social blunders that could occur, or what people's reactions might be. This does not mean that you're just walking into the situation unprepared for accessibility issues that may come up. It just means that you won't be worrying yourself with things that may not even happen. I find that most of the time overthinking things is what leads to anxiety, which leads to stress and culminates in a negative attitude. If you constantly think that things will go wrong, it is more likely that they will, so be positive.

When you go into any audition, new sport, or interesting activity (after following these steps), you will be well prepared to handle any challenges that may come your way. So what do you have to lose? As a student you have the right to participate fully in activities in your school or on campus. Remember that, and don't let anyone discourage you from living the life you want!

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