By Edward Bell, Vice President, National Association of Blind Students
It dawned on me one day while I was assembling a credenza, just how important it is to have the right tool for the job. A tool is anything one uses to get a job done. It's the hammer used to build a house. It's the law used by the lawyer. It's the scalpel used by the doctor. And yes, it's the person used by blind people to get the job of reading done.
There is nothing cruel or cold in this definition about the use of another human as a tool. Most people who are good at their jobs take very good care of their tools. The artist carefully cleans her brushes after each time she paints. The doctor respects the instruments that make his job possible.Without the rig, the truck driver would not be able to accomplish his job. And the best employer compensates and rewards her subordinates for a job well done.
The blind person does much of the same with the person he or she hires to do the job of reading. When we make good use of a reader, we must first start by establishing an employer/employee relationship. It is most often best to pay someone to read rather than depending upon volunteer help. When you pay a reader, you are compensating them for their time and effort.Paying them by the hour also influences you to be as efficient with their times as possible. This is important because the job of getting the reading done is number one on our list of priorities, however, the reader has his/her own life which puts your reading further down on their list of priorities. That is why it is so crucial to pay the person and establish this employer/employee relationship. When you are paying someone the agreed upon wage, and acting as the employer, the reader must do what you ask them, within reason of course.
Perhaps the most important element in this relationship between the blind person and the reader is the issue of control. Only the blind person knows exactly what he/she wants, needs, and the manner in which the job is to be accomplished. Only when the reader follows the directions and thoughts of the blind person is the job done most effectively where the blind person is concerned. Anyone who has depended upon their mother or other relatives to do their reading can probably attest to the frustration that occurs when one has a great deal of reading to get done. Obviously everyone is just trying to help, but it is the blind person who is stuck working around others schedules, and must put up with Mom's motherly nature and ideas. You see, Mom has always told you what to do, and when she becomes the reader, it can be very frustrating to try and make Mom read the way you want her to. So by hiring help, you are able to gain more control over the times and methods of reading.
Every professional must also contend with finding, and using, the most appropriate tool for the job. The student who strives to be a lawyer will try to get into Yale, Harvard, or some other prestigious law school. The teacher must constantly seek to find the best text books and material for her class. And the doctor must carefully decide upon the best procedure for a given operation.
So too, the blind person must go about the finding, and using of, a reader in a planned and methodical way. Depending upon the type of reading which is to be accomplished, one may find a reader by advertising on campus, in the newspaper, through head-hunters, or just by word of mouth. Because we cannot predict or affect many circumstances that arise, it is necessary to have back-up readers who can fill in when necessary. Often it is wise to have several readers, who are all flexible, and may be satisfied with only a few hours a week.
As we move through life, we find that we need different readers for different purposes. In college, we may need to find someone who is willing to put in late hours, has a flexible schedule, and has enough education to read the subject matter. When we begin work, however, we may need someone who can commit to a structured schedule, is very dependable, and can handle whatever level of professionalism the job brings.
On the other hand, we may just need a reader for home. In this case, a schedule may not be as important, procedure is more lax, and the level of reading is usually not as difficult. But they must be flexible because you may be calling upon them to take you to the airport, read very personal letters, or pick up beer at the grocery store. In every situation, what is crucial is that they be dependable, and take direction willingly. When this all works out according to plan, there is often some very strong and lasting relationships which develop from the simple task of reading. You should always be kind, courteous, respectful, and reasonable. But you should only keep the reader if he or she does what you want, and does it the way you want it done.
So whether you are just beginning in college or working on your Ph.D., whether you are a lawyer or a doctor, whether you are reading budget sheets, or reading Ann Landers, make sure that you have the right tool for the job.
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