(Pictured: Tyler, Helene and Miranda at the Perkins Gala. Tyler is wearing a purple shirt, Helene is wearing a red dress and Miranda is wearing a black and white dress. All three have huge smiles!)
On an evening in early May, Perkins School for the Blind held their 13th annual possibilities gala on their historic campus in Watertown, Massachusetts. This event brings together donors, parents, educators, students and alumni. I served as one of Perkins alumni ambassadors. As a representative of the school it was my pleasure and
responsibility to meet with parents and donors to thank them for supporting Perkins. Each ambassador was accompanied by a guide. Mine happened to be my therapist Lynne from when I was a student, and my lifelong friend, Helene, guided my boyfriend, Tyler.
I was able to catch up with friends and teachers. Comedian Lenny Clarke performed the live auction. Some of the items up for bid included lunch with the Co-Chair of the gala, and executive producer of Friends, Kevin Bright and a package to a Taylor Swift concert which I personally was very excited about.
The crowd was graced with the presence of Corinne Basler Grousbeck, the board and Chair of the event. She spoke about her son Campbell who is blind. Campbell began
high school during my senior year, and while our time together was short, we connected because of the very thing that separates us from many people. Our blindness. Isn’t it funny how the thing that makes people so afraid and awkward is the very thing that brings so many of us together? When people shared stories of isolation, part of me couldn’t help but quickly flash back to my many isolated experiences in college. During this portion of the gala, I kept thinking, “Yes. I know exactly how you feel”.
But you know what’s better than uneducated sighted people? What’s better than walking to your dorm dresser and wondering how quickly you can pack up everything and leave a college full of ignorant and cruel people? What’s better is knowing these problems exist but understanding we have the power to change them. Not just those of us who are blind, but you, too. Yes, you reading this. You can change attitudes about disability. Whether that’s helping a blind person cross a crazy road intersection if they need assistance, reading something not accessible, choosing to acknowledge the blind person in the room when everyone else stays away from them out of awkward fear, or proudly showing people that your blind friend can do what they can, you can make a difference.
Speaking of college students, I absolutely love that so many are becoming involved with Perkins. When I was a student there, college kids were always my favorite volunteers. When college students spend time on the Perkins campus, I truly believe it is a win-win situation for everyone. College kids are learning how to engage peers with disabilities and students with disabilities are gaining better social skills. A video worth watching is this one about Perkins Hackathon where college students work to solve
I love how one person mentions in this video how they have a best friend who is blind. I was so happy to bring my lifelong friend Helene to this event. She and I have been best friends since first grade. During the event Helene and I had fun meeting our new friend, Lizzy. It is my hope that our friendship inspires others to look past differences.
When I talked with parents, new people working at the school or with donors, I mentioned positive support from Perkins and that I graduated the University of Rhode Island in 2016 with a BA in English. I believe we need to use others as examples for those less educated to follow. I spoke about Maya, one of my readers my final semester and how she helps make my life better by pushing me to be my best self. No matter where we are in life, we can always be better. I believe it is so important to never settle. I also talked about Tyler Phillips, another reader my final semester. He taught me many life lessons in our short time together. I mentioned how he took his job with me seriously while also showing me respect.
It’s common right now for someone working with a person with a disability to not take them seriously or not treat them with the dignity they deserve. That is why now more than ever we need to speak about young people like Tyler Phillips and Maya who choose to see the person first rather than simply their white cane. One parent told me I give her hope for her children. I do not share my story to bring attention to myself but rather so that people with disabilities down the road know that if I am doing it, they can, too.
Thank you for reading today’s post. Are you friends with a blind person? Were you a
reader in college? Have any connections to Perkins? A fellow blogger? I’d love to hear from you! Please feel free to send me any feedback on this post or let me know anything you would like me to blog about in the future.
2 thoughts on “Seeing the Person, not the Disability”
Your elementary teacher was right, you have a gift for writing! I am so proud of you! You can do whatever you believe you can do, so dream BIG!
Thanks Mom ❤