Ableds Are Weird but Aren’t Blind People?

Today’s post takes a look at the hashtag that’s been gaining some popularity lately. If you’re like me, you have probably seen it all over Twitter. If not, read on. People with disabilities recently started the hashtag #AbledsAreWeird as a way for them to discuss the awkward and strange encounters they have had with people who are not disabled. This discussion has caused some debate among the disabled community. Some advocates have no issues with it, while other advocates like myself think there’s another approach to share this same story. I’m not saying that blind people or people with other disabilities should always have inspirational speech. I’m not saying blind people should always be kind and never slip up. If you search the web, you will learn that sighted people often expect blind people to deliver everything with composed, calm, flowery speech. This is a bold statement to say about sighted people, I know. Talk to people though. Once you take the time to really get into a conversation, you will find others with disabilities driving my point home. I mean, are you, as a person without a disability, always flowery all the time? I’ll let you in on a little secret. Nobody is.

 

Yes, strange things definitely happen while you’re out traveling when you are blind or in a wheelchair. Just this morning the driver, who did well, taking me to my appointment got out of the car while I was walking with my cane and said, “I forgot you have trouble seeing.” One time in college I was looking for a study room in the library with my reader, Selena. The lady giving us a room said, “If you have trouble with the seeing, you should probably take the elevator”. Selena and I joked the rest of the semester about it. I mean, “Trouble with the seeing?” You don’t often hear that! The last example I’ll give here is again something that happened at college. I walked into my Nutrition class and asked for help to find a place to sit. Because of my specific mobility challenges, (each person is different,) my mobility teacher suggested I be guided around the bigger lecture hall classes. I did better on my own in smaller classes, where most of my English courses were. Once I walked in to Nutrition, these students started whispering among themselves. “She can’t see,” I can’t? Thanks for ruining the surprise! =) I’ve had many times in life where people can’t for the life of them figure out how I would accomplish things without sight.

 

If you look around the internet, you will read about people with disabilities being grabbed by non-disabled people trying to help them. In case you missed that memo, PLEASE, ASK BEFORE GRABBING. (In caps, for my blind followers.) To me, (And my friend Ashley, linked below) calling able-bodied people “Ableds” seems like a silly thing to say. I get it though, they are people without disabilities. Yes, people can be mean. Yes, people can be nice, too. I know plenty of great “Ableds” as they are lately being called. I believe though, when we call them, “Weird”, we are potentially pushing them away. I mean, let’s not make excuses. Sometimes we all need to be put in our place. We’re not all alike, thank God. I’m human and I’ll be honest and say that certain people around me get me better than others, but while sighted people not taking time to get to know me gets exhausting sometimes, differences can also make life interesting. I’ll be honest and say while I appreciated all of them for different reasons, I worked well with certain readers better than others. It just comes down to the fact that certain personalities click better. Not everyone is going to be like Kaylan and Lindsay. And not everyone will be like Phillips. But really, they should be. That aside, I believe that sometimes it can be awkward for those with sight to interact with those of us who, well, have a little trouble seeing. I think we should find a way to address this, other than just saying, “Well, they don’t know.” That’s fine, but let’s work to come up with something. Why would we want to potentially push sighted people away when we’re trying so hard to prove how normal we are? Think about this. So many sighted people meet one blind person and then have it in their head that we’re all the same. So if they meet one person who uses some technology with human eyes mixed in, then all blind people do that, right? If a blind person is left inside (until they’re over) during college firedrills, everyone of us must be right? Incorrect. Like you as an able-bodied person, we’re different too. But if they think this, then what do we do when they come across #AbledsAreWeird and they start thinking all blind people are mean or don’t want to interact with them? We spend so much time showing sighted people how “just like you,” we are to the point that it almost isn’t normal. I feel like what may have started out as harmless, (calling something weird isn’t always meant to be mean but can be said to say something is different) we may in fact make those with sight upset. I think this really depends on the person’s opinion. So what do you think, sighted people? I know for a fact (other blind people can back me up here) that if the hashtag #BlindPeopleAreWeird was given attention like #AbledsAreWeird is, certain advocates would absolutely go off. This would completely split us right down the middle. Half of us would point out that, yes, blind people have “weird” things about us. Blind people’s brains don’t always receive certain signals, but it is weird to see people rocking and spinning isn’t it? Yes it is. I don’t have many blind mannerisms, and most of my friends are sighted, but I have friends who do those things. I will say every once in a while I’ll need to reset myself sensory wise but there are better ways to do that than rocking and spinning. No offense to my blind friends, really. You do you and I’ll do me. I’m just simply saying that sighted people find those behaviors strange. There are nice blind people and there are mean blind people. Let’s come up with ways to break down some of that awkwardness. We’re all worthy of friendship and other relationships, aren’t  we? Of course we are! If you are interested, I am linking a few articles below about the #AbledsAreWeird topic. NPR has an article you should read right here.

https://www.npr.org/2019/03/20/704956960/-abledsareweird-people-with-disabilities-share-uncomfortable-encounters

My friend Ashley wrote a great post about this you should definitely check out. If you’re not following her blog, go ahead and do so. Give this a read:

http://shortshady.com/ableds-are-weird/?fbclid=IwAR1k7mGDthXMU23aAUNfS5Itav8XtwRhmSkZJyZ0meZF6FZogWkdURgMews

Lastly, here’s another great article worth reading.

https://unseen-beauty.com/2019/03/19/why-i-have-a-problem-with-theabledsareweird-hashtag/

Let’s talk! Do you think the #AbledsAreWeird is offensive? Do you feel weird around blind people? Is it weird having them around you and your friends? Let me know by leaving me a comment here on my website. You can also find me on Facebook at Miranda Oakley or on Twitter at mirandaloakley

Best,

Miranda ❤

That Time My Fingers Saved My Life

Happy Saturday! I hope you’re all doing well. This is more of a Storytime type post. Let me tell you about the time that my fingers basically saved my life.

 

Recently my pharmacy brought me (having it delivered is the easiest option for me) the wrong medication. As typical of blind people, I know how to really feel things with my fingers. I mean they are my eyes, so I hope I know how to use them! When I opened the medication, my fingers told me right away something felt off. I noticed that the pills were a similar texture to the ones I take. My fingers told me that they felt a little bit rougher and a little bit more powdery than my usual medication. If you are blind, then you know how important it is to study objects carefully with your hands. I felt the shape and noticed the wrong ones were a little round on the bottom and a triangular shape. Sometimes they change the shape of pills, so I wondered if that might have been the case or if I had been given a generic version. You never want to be too sure, especially with medication, so I called my pharmacy. I understand mistakes happen, but this is not the first time this particular place has messed up my medication. Other than that, they are a great place.

 

They brought me what I needed and I obviously disposed of the one I don’t take. The point of this post is to (especially to my blind followers) always make sure you really use your fingers. If you take any kind of medication, learn how they feel. I never consistently took medication until I started college, but I remember at Perkins (where I went to high school) they would do med checks with the students. I always thought, “Interesting,” but never gave it much thought after that. I know people make med errors though so I think doing checks like that is a good idea. Sometimes they would ask what the student was feeling so they would know if it was correct. This is really smart and definitely a good thing. I think so even more now that this happened to me. Thank God I knew what mine felt like. If you ask a few questions to figure out the information you need, that’s okay. It is much better to ask questions.

 

I hope this post wasn’t completely pointless, but I thought I should share. Thank you to everyone who has just started following me and to everyone who’s stuck with me for these last few months. If you think there’s anything I should be blogging about, please reach out. I’d love to connect with you. You can leave me a comment right here on my website, or you can find me on Facebook at Miranda Oakley. I’m also on Twitter at mirandaloakley.

Thanks for reading today’s post and have a great weekend!

Best,

Miranda ❤

Blind People Don’t Do Science, Do They?

“Blind people don’t do science, do they?” When you first see this, you probably wonder why in the world I would ask a question like that. Of course I know blind people can have a career in science or take science courses! If you search the internet, you will find that now more than ever, it is easier for blind or visually impaired people to have careers in science. When I was in public school, this was not always the case.

 

Science in middle school was interesting. My seventh grade teacher was wonderful. She did what she could to include me and always found the Braille Lite I used interesting. She liked how the machine I used at the time spoke. They no longer make the model of the machine I mentioned. I took notes in class and did homework like everyone else. My teacher would show me certain materials we worked with so I could see them in a way that makes sense to me. Using my fingers! I really believe sometimes your personality comes out in your teaching. Once I hit eighth grade, my science teacher asked that very question opening this post. “Blind people don’t do science, do they?” This teacher mentioned a few times that I should not be in the class because I am blind. This person would collect homework and completely skip over me. My aid caught onto this one day and started keeping track so she could call this teacher out on their behavior. The funny thing is, this teacher shadowed me for a day before I started eighth grade. This is where this teacher followed me around for the day so they could try to understand how I did work as a blind student. Now let me be clear about something here. When I write about experiences or things people have said to me in school, it is in no way to attack those people or that person. The truth is, people can be rude. People can be sweet. People can be uneducated. If something has happened to me, if somebody said something to me, chances are it is (or has been) indirectly or directly said to someone else. I write to educate, inspire and inform.

 

Thankfully Perkins helped me learn everything I missed from eighth grade. I found I remembered pieces of what we were working on from the year before in public school, but I was glad I had the chance to basically take the class over again at a blind school. I loved my science teacher at Perkins. And no, not because I’ve written for or spoken on behalf of the school. She really was awesome. I’ve never been a good test taker, but I loved her approach. In fact, I’ve never found another teacher (science or otherwise) to view teaching in this way. If all the students did not do well on a particular quiz or test, she would throw out questions and said she obviously needed to teach that material again. In Perkins science classes we were given Braille textbooks and we all had to go around the room and read different sections of the reading we were assigned. We used Braille periodic tables and reference booklets. I’m so thankful to everyone who has followed or read my blog. I’m learning that some of you really find it interesting to learn about education at a blind school versus public school. Because of this, I have included a review and article about the periodic table and reference booklet in Braille for you to read. Here is a review of the Braille periodic table and reference booklet.

http://www.perkinselearning.org/accessible-science/products/periodic-table-elements-and-reference-booklet

Perkins eLearning has a great article about using the periodic table when students are blind. Read about how it can be used in the article linked below.

http://www.perkinselearning.org/accessible-science/activities/adapting-aph-periodic-table-indicate-major-element-groups

We also watched videos in class like this one.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ai2X4GZyYYo

Yes, we watched videos at a blind school as a part of learning. Blind people watch all sorts of videos, just like you do with eyes that work.

 

I’m not sure if this is a case-by-case situation or how it actually works. When I was at Perkins, I was told that people usually take chemistry followed by biology. I was told I should take bio first as a way to convince my public school district to keep me at Perkins. One of the amazing women on my educational team told me that taking biology first meant we could tell my district that I needed to stay at Perkins because they would not be able to provide for the chemistry I would be required to take the following year. I’ll be honest and say I’ve never really been a science person. It can be interesting, but I always found literature classes to be easier. I remember my ex-boyfriend being so good at Braille formulas and I was much better at building models. Part of the reason I passed the class was because I’d often ask, “How do you do (Braille) that formula again?” Ha! He would help me that way and I would help him build the models we created in class. Maybe it’s because one side of his family is science engineering type people. Maybe it is because when you are building, you are creating. And when you are writing, you are also creating. I don’t know.

 

In class we used used molecular model kits like this one.

https://www.amazon.com/Arbor-Scientific-Student-Molecular-Modeling/dp/B000701AWK

For a long time, I thought these kits were only used at Perkins, but my friend and ta (teaching assistant) at URI (where I went to college for any followers who are new) told me the nutrition department on campus had one. My ta Andrew found my blindness very interesting so he would help me understand concepts using this kit. I say this to say, inclusion does catch on eventually. Another ta, Alex, I had started helping me like Andrew a few times throughout the semester by using the kit or my hands to explain material. I hope you enjoy my post for this week and that maybe you learned a thing or two. Did you take science as a blind person? Have anything I should be blogging about? Let me know! I love hearing from my followers and readers. You can find me on Facebook at Miranda Oakley, on Twitter at mirandaloakley or you can always leave me a comment right here on my website!

If you read my blog and decide it’s not for you, that’s okay too. I take any feedback because it all makes me better. =)

Miranda ❤

So, What Is Mobility Anyway?

Happy Thursday! This week I thought I would write a blog post about orientation and mobility, often called O and M. Mobility, or O and M, is how a blind person becomes familiar with the environment they are in. The instructor walks with the student down hallways or across streets, helping them map out where they need to go. Each blind person is different, so not every lesson is going to be the same. What works well for me may not work as well for another person who can’t see.

 

In mobility the teacher may work on cane skills, sighted guide, or how to use your hearing to listen for cars. When a blind person crosses a street, they can listen and figure out if the car is crossing in front of them or turning down another road. When I travel to the city to visit friends, I’ll admit that traveling on busy roads makes me a little nervous. That’s not to say that I cannot do it, but I think listening to cars can help with your line of direction. Sighted guide is when a blind person will hold the sighted persons arm while they walk. The sighted person can move their arm slightly behind them when approaching doorways so the blind person can follow them. Children usually hold your wrist and older people hold the persons elbow. Mobility teachers work with the student to determine when it is appropriate to use their cane or when they should use a sighted guide. I was in college for six years and most of the time I went without a guide. While I am all for doing what you can on your own, sometimes for me personally it was easier for me to have a guide in certain situations, particularly when I dealt with fatigue. God always got me through. My last two years of college my mobility instructor told me to have the students working as readers (for information on these, please see my last blog) guide me to and from classes. This came about because in the English building at my university they have several different staircases. I often used one at the end of the hallway that was quiet and hardly had any traffic. Since the students frequently used the staircase that is always extremely crowded, the students helping me had difficulty finding me. This was because I use different landmarks so they couldn’t figure out how to get to where I was. The students working with me didn’t even know that quieter staircase existed until working with me.

 

These instructors will use objects or certain sounds as landmarks for the blind person to follow. When I was in college, my mobility teacher would walk to my classes and figure out the best way to show me how to get to them. I had her record how to get to my classes on my recorder until they were planted into my memory. I found having the recorder with me helpful if I got lost or on days I was struggling with exhaustion. An example of landmarks would be passing a trashcan on your right before finding the door to make your way outside. I spent a lot of time in the English building at my university since I was an English major. My teacher taught me that once I went up the final flight of stairs and walked down the hallway a ways, I would feel a floor plate under my feet. Once I walked over the plate, I knew I was halfway to my classroom. Other times I would listen for the sound of vents or vending machines. Once my cane came in contact with them, I knew to cross the hallway and move over towards the other wall, and make my way into class. I’ll share one final example here that sighted people might find interesting. I always could tell when I arrived at my audio classroom because the door felt different. The door for my audio classroom was flatter than the ones where I had most of my English classes. Mobility teachers help their students learn the orientation of a room, but your friends and family can learn how to do this too, if they really want to learn. You can walk around the room and tell the person who is blind what the room looks like and walk with them so they get a chance to explore their surroundings. My teacher would tell me how tables were set up and which doors to enter the room if more than one was available. I find this particularly helpful and wish I had more orientation as a child. The article I am linking below mentions that you should orient blind kids to the playground at school which I think is wonderful. Playing is a form of education, too. I feel like that would have been helpful for me, but I hope that people reading my blog learn a thing or two. =) Since I live in such a small state, there has only been one mobility teacher. Sometimes when I was a child, I had no mobility because there was nobody to teach me. I ended up teaching myself the floor of my eighth grade building. This happened by trial and error. I learned the hard way sometimes because the signs on doorways were not always Brailled correctly. When I heard male voices in a female labeled room, I knew quickly the sign was not Brailled correctly!

 

If you would like to read more about orienting a blind person, great! Here’s an informative article about orienting blind students to their environment.

https://www.teachingvisuallyimpaired.com/orienting-student-to-environment.html

Did you grow up blind or sighted with a friend who is blind? I’d love to hear your stories.  Have any mobility stories to share? I’d love to hear them! Send them my way at Miranda Oakley on Facebook, mirandaloakley on Twitter or please leave a comment on my website.

Miranda ❤

 

Should I Listen To My Gut? If so, click me!

Happy Friday! If it is a different day where you are, I hope you’re having a great day too. I’ll admit I’m a little nervous posting this, but I’m an honest person. Plus I know someone will need this. One of my followers sent me a message yesterday thanking me for my dignity post. If you haven’t checked that one out, please do. I talk about some stuff in this post that’s not often talked about. That’s why I’m doing it though.

 

Have you ever had those moments when you have a feeling for some reason and decide to go with it? You’re not sure why, but something is either telling you something doesn’t sit right with you or sometimes you have a feeling that everything will work out? Some call this intuition or gut feelings. I call this a few things. I believe in intuition and use that term for situations in my life. I’m also a believer in God and the Holy Spirit, so I personally believe that guides me. I’d like to thank one of my dear friend’s for inspiring this post. Let me say for those of you who don’t believe, I’m not trying to push religion. In fact, I think pushing religion on people isn’t right. In my opinion, there’s a difference in talking to someone and being too pushy. I know sometimes with reading though, it helps when points are repeated to help some people process them. I’ll do that for you here. I’m not here to push religion on you. If you’re not sure if you’re still interested now that I brought up God, I hope you will take away these two things. Always listen to your gut. ALWAYS. (In caps.) If you don’t know how, talk to someone who can talk to you about why this is so important. I believe we don’t teach young people and people with disabilities how important listening to themselves really is. In fact, people with disabilities are almost always talked out of it. Secondly, if you really love your friends, please respect them enough to understand you’re not always going to agree on everything. Notice I said respect and agree. I didn’t say go ahead and tell your friends what they want to hear all the time. In fact, if you do that you’re helping no one. We should be honest and tell people what they need to hear, even if it is difficult. Even if we think they’re sensitive. We should also respect our friends when they might disappoint us. If you are going to wait and see if my next post will be more interesting to you, thank you for reading this far and I hope you’ll come back for another post. If you decide to stick with me through this much longer post, thank you.

 

My mom taught me from an early age to always listen to my gut. In church my pastor (who I consider my adopted dad, so in this post I’m calling him that.) talks about listening to the Holy Spirit. He teaches that this is the advocate inside all of us. We all have access to it should we choose to figure out how.

 

One of my best friends had a birthday party last weekend. She had another awesome event planned that for months now I tried taking part in. It will happen this year though. Another friend and I were going to do stuff that weekend. Part of me thought it would be a fun weekend. The bigger part of me kept thinking, “I don’t know why, but something tells me I should stay home.” I also believe a lot in thinking things through. I think it’s important sometimes to sit with things, give them time, pray and see what happens. I’m not saying wait around forever and never take action. I went back and forth a lot that week, going through the pros and cons over and over in my head and talked about them to a few people. I finally said “Okay, I’m going.” Then that feeling hit me again. I went to church and talked to my dad about it. He prayed for me and said he’d love me no matter what choice I made. Later that night, I texted my friends I would be staying home.

 

The night a friend and sister in Christ would have taken me to the train, I ended up going to dinner with a dear friend. I would have had fun with this dear friend (not sure yet if she minds me mentioning her yet so we’ll leave out her name.) or with the other people. We had a great time at dinner like we always do visiting this friend. After dinner, we went back to her place and enjoyed each other’s company and laughing. I’m so thankful for all my followers and all the views around the world I’ve gotten, but there’s nothing quite like your real life friends.

 

After a little while, this friend says that she was thankful for our company because three years ago that night her husband was passing away. She was by herself and the only person checking in was the CNA. I knew then God was using me. For the longest time I had no idea why I got this gut feeling but after she said that, it all made sense. It was not only me but I’m glad God used me to brighten things up for her.

 

I said above that I believe people with disabilities need to be taught how to listen to their gut. In many situations, you will find when a blind person says no to something or something doesn’t feel right, people in the disability field will try to convince them otherwise. I know I’m getting into hot water here, but that’s why I write. I started my blog to be a voice for people and shine a light on issues. I want people to know they’re not alone and to know it is okay to speak up about issues. People won’t speak up about this one for many reasons. Fear of losing their job, backlash from someone in the field, the list goes on. That’s okay. I was in your shoes once. I’ll speak for you. I will write for you. I have many viewers outside the U.S and I am so thankful for you! I have no idea what things are like there, but I know that sort of thing definitely happens here.

 

Let’s be clear about something here. There’s a difference in saying no to something simply because you don’t want to and saying no because something about it feels funny. I’ll never say the place here, but let’s take a certain center for the blind for example. I went there in 2003 before we knew I got into Perkins. There were not many nice people and I didn’t like how they treated the people they were serving. Fast forward a few years. It was suggested I look into this place again. I listened to this person even though we don’t usually get along. I said I’d look into it but something always felt funny. Even as a teenager when I was there, something didn’t feel right. This person told me to have an open mind and I was told not to be negative. Why is it when a blind person says “I’m uncomfortable,” or, “No, I’m not going to do that,” we’re always told we have a negative attitude? A good friend went to this place a few years later. I always say though that just because I had a bad experience, don’t go off of me. Try for yourself. You might have a better time. This friend would tell me everything happening to her, knowing I’m a writer. Just because I write about many topics doesn’t mean everything gets out in the world. She’d tell me about awful and positive events happening throughout her time there. She had a lot of issues there too, and again, I found myself going back to that feeling I got. I knew something wasn’t right! I told her about the feeling that place gave me and talked to her about listening to her gut.

 

I won’t lie to you. Perkins isn’t perfect and I hated one of the cottages. Notice I said one of the cottages, not any particular people. For those who don’t know, cottages are like dorms, but Perkins calls them cottages. I didn’t like how the staff ran the place, how they treated students, and felt bad for leaving my friend when I moved up to the cottage for students about to graduate Perkins, but part of me was so thankful to be out of there. I realize talking about Perkins like this may be a little risky. I was one of their poster kids and there’s many great things about the school. I won’t lie about things either, so I said what needed to be said.

 

I have one last example I’d like to share. I know, this post is already long! What can I say, certain posts end up longer than others. When I was in college, I had many readers. This is a term in the disability community that talks about paid students helping blind students with visual tasks. Reading materials not accessible to them or helping them upload assignments on websites they can’t use themselves. My last semester, my entire church was praying a reader would come forward. My school found a few but said they were finished looking and no other students were interested. I knew with a big school like mine, there’s no way that was true. Disability services connected me with this young woman. We had one phone call. And what happened? That “no, no. This isn’t right,” feeling came over me. Even though I had a bad feeling, I kept it professional. She told me she was scared of graduation. I told her if I could graduate college, she could do it. Being blind, I know right away when my blindness makes someone uncomfortable. We only had one call mind you. We hung up and I said, “This won’t last.” Again, let me say, there’s a difference in a negative attitude and a gut feeling. Then what happens? Not too long afterwards, disability services emails me. It is to tell me that this student won’t be helping me. The semester hadn’t even begun and she already quit.

 

I dealt with a lot of students and stress in college that you don’t understand unless you are blind trying to make it through the disability services hell. Knowing students usually don’t understand this, and hoping at least one will see me for me rather than the white cane I use, when speaking to readers by phone, I always kept it together. I made a mental list. Did I ask them about themselves to pick up a little of their personality? Make sure you ask them to read a little of something so you get a feel for their voice while they’re reading. Did I ask about school stuff like when they can start working? If disability services didn’t hire the students right away, I began my semester without any help. By the grace of God, my final semester they all started right when school began. I knew it had to be God. I tried to always not make it obvious I had a lot going on so they’d get to know me and not my mess. I have to say, there was three times in six years my gut told me these particular students weren’t in it for money. It happened with Phillips (he told me once I could call him that. This way I can make it clear what Tyler I’m talking about.) It also happened with two young women. Phillips was the only male helping me, so as to not hurt any feelings, I won’t mention the ladies. I knew these three were going to help me in all areas and make me a better person. I was right. I could tell from our first call that these three just understood me. I believe God allows me to have these gut feelings and teaches me to pay attention to them. It’s certainly nothing I’m doing alone. All glory to God here.

 

Whoever read this entire post, thank you. Like I said, always go with your gut. If you don’t know what that is or how to do that, find someone who can help you learn about it. Speak up for those with disabilities when others won’t.

Miranda ❤