I’ll be honest and say that this post took a lot of courage. I always said once I finally figured out how to shave my legs I would share how I do it to help other blind women. I am a smaller blogger though and wasn’t sure if I should make this post now or wait until my blog was around a bit longer.
Molly Burke and Joy Ross are two amazing women I have followed for quite some time now. You should follow them too if you are not already. I pray I can meet them someday. If anyone knows how to help with that, please reach out. Thanks. When I watch them being open with their fans, it helps give me strength sometimes to be vulnerable with my followers. I am all for helping people, but sometimes vulnerability isn’t easy. Molly Burke recently uploaded a video where she is learning how to shave her legs and that is what helped inspire me to make this post. Girl! More power to you Molly because waxing doesn’t freak you out and you’d rather do that than shave. You can watch the video below.
Shaving is one of the hardest things to do when you are blind. I can remember one of my best girlfriends and I having a conversation that went something like this. “How do you shave?” “I’m still trying to figure that out. How do you do it?” Before I get into how I do it and what razor I use, let me give some background. For the longest time I had help shaving. While I knew teachers at Perkins might be respectful, for me, shaving was too personal to learn from teachers there. I always felt better at home. Before I figured out how to shave a few years ago, one reader in college said she could help me since I lived on campus. She offered herself to me so I wouldn’t have to wait for help. But I couldn’t. Some might call this prideful and that’s fine. I say this was me being particular about my body. After all, it is my body. I control everything about it. Someone else shouldn’t write about it without me being okay with it. And if you have a disability, adopt these rules if you don’t already have them. What made this difficult was my mom and aunt weren’t quite sure how to teach me. This made for very frustrating discussions. I felt learning how to shave at school was too risky because they are always logging everything. This means everything is written down for the staff who fill different shifts. What if someone put what we worked on in the log? Teachers and staff are always talking to each other there. They say things can be private, but when you deal with staff for a while, you learn that’s not always true. What if they said they wouldn’t but what if it came out at one of my meetings? It is my body. I couldn’t risk my confidentiality being broken. As people with disabilities, we are used to having little privacy. Other than college, you always have an IEP. This is where everyone goes around the room talking about your strengths and weaknesses. They usually have a handful of people. To sighted people privacy is between two people. For a disabled person? Privacy means whatever is “private” is only known to those five or ten people. And as people with disabilities, we learn to get used to this. But if it came up at one of my IEPS, it wouldn’t really be private because of all the people there.
And then one day in the summer of 2014, it finally happened. My privacy was broken. My confidentiality was violated by a professional in the human services field. This will be surprising to those not involved in the disability community, yet not at all surprising to those used to hearing about disrespectful staff who could care less about the people they are working with. It happens all the time at group homes and in private care. Nobody really says anything out of fear of losing their job so I’m saying something. The few good ones who do, other staff like to talk crap and stir up drama about them so they leave. And it works. And you know what? That person with a disability you don’t give a crap about? That human being you can’t figure out? Last weeks check? They pick up on a change in staff and behavior. Yes, even those who cannot speak. And to those of you who do say something, thank you. I know it has to take a lot for you to do that. I remember once at Perkins these staff were talking about this one staff I liked. I privately told a teacher I really trusted and she told me to tell the staff I wasn’t comfortable listening to them talk that way. Thanks, Anne! ❤ I like my blog to be cause for discussion, so let’s have one. If a few good people say something and nobody really fixes the issues, are we really doing anything to correct those issues? Let me know what you think. It took me so long to feel my way through how hurtful having my confidentiality broken was. You better believe I worked extra hard on shaving after that! I worked on it before but what happened to me should never happen to someone else. I had a lady come to my house for an evaluation of my skills. This woman was required to take notes and write up a report for my state case worker at services for the blind. In this evaluation this lady also had to include what I could do myself and what I needed help with. She even included I can use the bathroom on my own! I happened to need to take a bathroom break for a second and later found out she wrote all about how during her evaluation, I went to use the bathroom and could do that all on my own. Shaving came up and I asked her out of respect for my privacy if she could please leave that out of my report. She said she wouldn’t mention it. For any teachers reading this, hi! Let’s talk. I understand you need to take notes when you evaluate students. I understand those notes and reports need to be shared with family and professionals on that student’s team with all the right release forms signed. Where do you draw the line though, between writing about what needs to be worked on and respecting that student’s personal request for privacy of their body?
A few months went by and I kept asking my case worker for a copy of my report. She wouldn’t give it to me. On August 15, 2014, she finally emailed it to me. I began reading through it and came across all about my difficulty shaving. I couldn’t believe it. First of all, it is my body and I can’t have my report? What is wrong here!!!!??? I also couldn’t believe I was told something would be left out and found out it was later included. If it absolutely needed to be included, have the guts to be honest with me and tell me you can’t leave it out. Never say something so personal will be left out if you cannot do that. I was so upset I needed a release. I got some music, went on my exercise bike and balled my eyes out all at the same time. I couldn’t breathe. This was all great physical and emotional releasing except that wasn’t touching my feelings. Part of the email to one of my lifelong friends who is also blind read,
“I’m crying while typing this. I was evaluated and asked the lady to not include in her report that I have difficulty shaving. She said she wouldn’t but she did! I can’t tell you how I feel because I can’t describe how horrible I feel right now. She even said I didn’t want her to talk about that.” When I called this woman and talked to her about it, she told me she couldn’t remove my shaving difficulty from my report because she no longer had access to it since she gave it to my case worker. She also told me she didn’t know what she was going to include in her report about me until she went back through her notes. It is no secret that my case worker is blind and also uses a reader from time to time. This means that if my case worker needed my file read to her for some reason, this reader can read her parts of my file. This also means that now, this reader also knows all about my body and what is difficult for me. Signing forms aside, this is never okay. Teachers, you may disagree with me. That’s fine. We’re all adults here.
Shaving can be so hard because every blind woman will tell you at least once that when your legs are wet, it is harder to feel what hair has been removed. Sighted people always have difficulty understanding this one, but even famous people like Molly Burke think wet legs are hard to feel. For anyone wondering, waxing freaks me out. I don’t like the feeling of hot wax touching me. Maybe one day I’ll get over that but for now I can’t handle it. If you are almost always very cold like me, I suggest filling the tub with tons of hot water. I’m talking lots of hot water. I like to sit for a minute or two so my legs can warm up. I have taught myself how to shave standing in the shower but I find sitting is easier. Try both ways and see what works for you. I suggest sitting and shaving first until you get the hang of it.
When it comes to razors, I like to use the Intuition brand. You can change the heads on it and they come with soap in them. I hold my razor in my right hand, splash some water on my leg, and use my left hand as a guide. I’ll hold my guiding hand a little above where I am shaving so I know where I should shave next. This razor makes it much easier to feel your legs than disposable ones. I like to split my leg into four sections. It is good to shave with your hair, not against it. This means when you move your razor, you want to make an upward motion with your hand. I start with my shins and knees. Then I move to my calves. Next, I shave the top of my thighs and finish with the back of my thighs. I then check my legs with my hands to make sure they are okay and do my best to shave spots I missed. If you are a blind girl or woman and you miss spots sometimes, sighted people do it too. I then double check my knees because those are harder for me. I hope this post helps some of you. Feel free to use this when teaching a blind girl. Remember to respect them the same way you want people to respect you. How do you shave as a blind person? Let’s talk! Shaving can be hard but sharing tips always helps.
Have a great weekend! Best,