by Denna Lambert
Editor's Introduction: Sometimes, equality for blind students must extend beyond the classroom. College is full of hard work and much studying, but student life must be mixed with a little fun as well. In this article, the president of the Arkansas Association of Blind Students, and a recent graduate from The University of Arkansas, with a degree in Business, tells us about a night in which a little more than just her positive attitude towards blindness was revealed. Below is Denna's memorable experience.
Have you ever been in those conversations that start out with the question, “Do you remember when we…?” or, “You know that time…?” As a graduating senior, I have noticed that recent events have become even more sentimental and valuable to me. It is my hope that my college experience has been like that of other students whether they are sighted or blind. Experiences such as hanging out at a favorite restaurant, watching a scary movie on a rainy night, or loudly cheering in the crowds during one of the most riveting football games of the season are typical college student experiences which I am very glad to have had.
One of my more memorable college moments took place on a trip with some friends to the Houston metropolitan area. A group of us decided to explore the entertainment options available to us in this exciting city. We were ready to paint the town after a full day of being confined in a small conference room. As a result, our level of adventure was unusually high.
All of us are young adults and possess the level of curiosity that comes with that age. After some lighthearted discussion and thumbing through the yellow pages under the heading of “Entertainment”, it was decided that we should go to an establishment for just that very thing. In other words, out of all of the places one could select, we chose to go to a strip club for women. The idea of going for the first time peaked my curiosity, and the prospect of shedding another level of innocence by visiting such an establishment, intrigued me as well.
In the moment of excitement, there arose some concerns about whether I would be able to fully enjoy the outing being that those venues are centered on visual items of enticement. I thought to myself that the concern was valid. I really did not know whether I would be able to enjoy the dancers and numerous other aspects of the club. But one thing rang clear in my mind. If I turned down this outing and let my blindness keep me from enjoying the time with my friends, then I was sending out a message that affected more than just myself. For me, it would say that blindness is more than just a nuisance and it should be a dominant factor in the decision of whether to take my friends up on an offer to hang out. It would also imply to my friends that they should consider my blindness first rather than taking advantage of an opportunity to build a closer friendship. I fear that had I turned them down, there would be other instances where my friends felt that an outing would also be too visual. I would run the risk of them not asking me to come along the next time something fun came around.
So, now back to our evening! I told my friends I wouldn’t want to pass up the opportunity. After applying the finishing touches of makeup and checking our sources of funding for sufficient amounts, Houston’s entertainment spot was graced by four women and a yellow Labrador guide dog. I am sure people noticed that I was the only blind person in the group. But more importantly, I am also sure that they noticed that I was having just as much fun as my friends.
As we walked into the club, we were introduced to what appeared to be a very muscular young man who ensured us that our night would be unforgettable. He led us to our table where we ordered a round of drinks to start the evening. Surprisingly, no one asked whether I needed help, or would I rather take an arm, or some other common gesture that often conveys the message “Because you’re blind, you’ll automatically need assistance.” I worked my dog to the table, the bar to get drinks for all of us, and later to the ladies room. I was taken aback briefly due to the professionalism of my new dog. In addition, I was pleased with my friends’ lack of concern for my safety once we arrived. Initially there was some worry about my traveling about, but after walking to the club, those concerns were quickly eliminated. They knew that I was just as capable as they were whether it was walking the six blocks to the club, going to the restroom, or carrying drinks from the bar.
One of the other dancers came to our table and described the style of dance currently being showcased on the stage. My little remaining vision was useless to me in the strangely lit club, but my imagination most certainly filled in the gaps. I didn’t have to be blind to notice that in actuality most women go to a strip club for the sheer fun of it and to laugh with or at their friends.
That evening of devious adventure was more than just going to a strip club and taking in the various amenities it could offer. It was sharing the belief that given proper training and opportunity, as a young woman who happens to be blind, I can actively pursue a lifestyle that includes a higher education, fellowship with friends, and even the occasional venue with some very unforgettable memories!
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