†Just One of the Class

by Billy Petrino

EDITORíS NOTE: Billy Petrino is the Treasurer of the Louisiana Association of Blind Students.

I am a Senior at Louisiana Tech University and a recent graduate of the Louisiana Center for the Blind.† I have been attending the University since September, 1998 and, during that time, I have faced various issues concerning my blindness.† I want to share with you one experience I had that, at first, seemed quite amusing but was, in actuality, a valuable lesson.

I am an education major and for one of my course requirements, I took a course entitled Education 310, Educational Technology.† One night, we were scheduled to watch a video, administered by a substitute instructor, as our primary teacher was away on lecture.† I sat in the front of the class, something I habitually did.† As class began, the substitute asked me if I would mind starting the video since the VCR/TV combo was directly in front of my chair.† Without giving it much thought, I felt around on the VCR, found the big play button, and we proceeded to watch the video.

When the video was over, the substitute asked me to turn off the video and rewind it.† I did so as the teacher dismissed the class.† As students were leaving, the instructor came up to me and told me thanks for helping with the video.† She further went on to say that she hated working the machine because the writing on it was too small for her to read.† I smiled politely and told her it was nothing.† Then I packed up my slate, stylus, and paper,† picked up my cane from the floor, and left for home.

At first, I found the situation amusing.† There I was, cane at my feet, a stylus in hand, taking Braille notes on the video presentation.† And there the teacher was, thanking me because she felt her eyesight was not sufficient to run the machine.†† The one part I could not get over was the fact that there I was, using Braille and a cane, and the teacher never realized, until I was walking out of class, that I was blind.

Upon further reflection, I learned from this experience.† The reason the substitute failed to see my blindness is that I didn't make a particular show of it.† It wasn't that I hid my blindness.† The tools on my desk and at my feet were fairly obvious.† But with my skills and knowledge, the fact that I was blind was not particularly significant.† I did not act like a stereotypical blind person and perhaps that was what made the substitute teacher so unaware.† She evidently saw me as just another student in a class of 40, which is fine by me since that is exactly who I am.

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