I Took My Concerns To My Governor. Have You?

Hey friends,

How’s your Wednesday going? This is going to be one of my longer posts, but it is one I think you should read. I mean…Other than work, it’s not like you don’t have any time on your hands right now or anything. Right? Ha. 😉 What are you doing to keep yourself busy or to relax (whatever works for you.) during this quarantine? Staying home, I hope. Let’s talk. Tell me what you guys are up to.

 

I have been following my Governor’s briefings since they began. Do any of you follow your Governor’s briefings? Before I get into everything, I first want to publicly thank Governor Raimondo, her executive assistant, the data team and Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott. Thank you to the data team for working so hard to make sure that accessibility is included in your work for the state. Thanks to the Governor and Dr. Nicole for acknowledging receiving feedback. Earlier this month Dr. Nicole announced during one of the briefings that she received feedback from the visually impaired community that not everyone can see the information on the data dashboard screen. She went on to explain that they launched a phone line with up-to-date recordings of the visual information on slides shown during briefings. During another briefing, the Governor was asked about offering information to people in other languages. She said she received feedback from the “Seeing Impaired” community (I think it’s so funny she calls it that) and they have made adjustments, so they could do more for people speaking different languages. It’s great to see thought going into various communities.

 

I noticed that the Governor and Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, the director of the Rhode Island Department of Health, were announcing information on television such as new cases etc. Even though it is terrible that people have this virus, I thought making these announcements was a positive thing because without realizing it, blind people were not an afterthought for once. The afterthought mentality happens frequently, but we need to also speak about those working hard to make sure disabled people are not continuing to be left out of the conversation. If you are doing your part to make sure that disabled people aren’t left out, thank you.

 

One day earlier this month I noticed the governor and Dr. Nicole stopped announcing this information because they launched a visual data dashboard which would display the information they were previously announcing on slides during briefings. I understood that these conferences are packed with information; therefore, I could see why it might benefit them having a little less on their plate. I also knew that as a blind woman who has seen the afterthought mentality all too often, if I did not speak out about this, we would find ourselves with yet another politician who doesn’t care about the blindness community. This might seem way too harsh for the sighted folks reading this, but any blind person will tell you it’s true. While we have some good ones, it’s hard to find many who publicly advocate for this particular community.

 

When the briefing ended, I reached out to my good friend, Helene, to see who she knew who could connect me with the Governor. Helene knows more people than anyone I know, other than my friends, Gloria and Billy. If anyone can fill a room, it’s Helene. We go quite a while without talking, so I honestly wasn’t sure if I would hear from her. I knew that if she didn’t get back to me that I would find another way. Thankfully, she put me in touch with the Governor’s executive assistant, who has been great about corresponding with me. I thought I would share my questions, concerns and some of the responses I received below. I know a few very literal people, so if any of you following me are anything like the ones I know, if you want to know why I said, “recent,” in my note, send me a comment and I’ll explain what I mean. Depending on your comfort level with reading, this post is already long enough for some people.

 

Dear Governor Raimondo:

My name is Miranda Oakley and I am a recent URI graduate. I hope this finds you well during this crazy time. I have been a longtime supporter of yours and think you are doing an excellent job for our state. I am writing to you with hopes you may be able to answer a few questions I have regarding your daily press briefings.

 

During a time when blind people are being left out of the conversation surrounding the coronavirus and its frequently evolving data, I have always considered myself lucky as a young blind woman because your briefings have always been easy for me to follow. I noticed that recently you have made a visual shift in delivering daily and important data. I understand this makes it easier for you because right now you have an especially full plate. While this visual data dashboard is a convenient, quick way for the sighted population to receive necessary information, what are you and your team doing to make sure the blindness population in Rhode Island is not an afterthought?

 

As a young woman, I have the skills to use specialized technology that allows me to use the internet. While nothing is perfect, looking through the dashboard I noticed that it is not completely accessible with screen reading software. I can do some guess work to try and make sense of the information, but what are you doing about older folks who are blind who may not be able to use this specific technology, now that you will not be discussing as much in your briefings on television? I bring this to your attention because as time progresses, you and your team may decide to add to, or change the visual information displayed on the data dashboard on tv screens and online.

 

Thank you so much for your time and for working so hard to make Rhode Island the best it can be.

Sincerely,

Miranda Oakley

Raimondo’s executive assistant wrote back and said, “Miranda,

Thank you for reaching out and raising these questions. I will share your message with the Governor, our Communications Office, RIDOH, and the team behind the data dashboard.” She sent me another email explaining that they launched two phone lines with the visual information on the dashboard recorded for anyone who cannot access it. I’ll include those numbers here in case someone you know might need them. The line in English is 401-222-8280 and the Spanish line is 401-222-2385. I thanked her and let them know I think the media should include these numbers in their tv and written coverage. Yesterday I sent an email wanting to know what they were doing to make sure the data dashboard was accessible to blind people online. While I could read part of it, I noticed images weren’t described and as I mentioned in my original email, you needed to do some guess work to put everything together. I had ideas about what could be done about this, but I wanted to give them a chance to come through. I went back to the site yesterday to test it and found it much more accessible. Now you can find text that tells you about the information you’re about to read. It’s so wonderful to see people actually making changes so quickly. Again, I wanted to see what they had to say, so I asked for some follow up information. So many times, as advocates we hear sighted people say they weren’t aware of issues needing to be changed. I believe that’s true sometimes. Sometimes we need to give sighted people a chance to see what they bring to the table without us constantly always giving suggestions. She sent me the following. “Miranda,

Per my contact, the team added Alt Text to the graphics to make them more machine readable. Was that helpful at all?

They also offered to establish direct contact with you to work out a better plan. Let me know if you would be open to that!”

I let her know that these are great changes and I would be happy to help in any way I can. It’s great when someone you have supported for so long is paying attention to all communities and has a team working to actually get things done. I’ve seen a lot of blind people in particular (yes, I know, sighted people get down about this too,) really down about this whole situation. There are terrible things about this for sure, but I hope this encourages people with disabilities to keep advocating. You’ll eventually find people who listen. Eventually you’ll find people who help put change into action.

 

Thanks for sticking with me and reading all this! Is there anything I’m not blogging about that I should be? Let’s connect! Find me on Twitter at mirandaloakley or leave me a comment on my site. If you find me on Facebook at Miranda Oakley, please let me know who you are and how you found me. Thanks.

My best to you,

Miranda ❤

Respect During This Pandemic

Hey guys,

How’s your quarantine going? What have you guys been doing? I’ve been writing. I’ve watched a couple of movies, (yes blind people do that too) and I’ve been going on walks. Can we please talk about how awesome it is that artists are doing live stream concerts lately? If you need something good to check out, Kelsea Ballerini came out with a new album, Kelsea. It’s really good so you should give it a listen. Let me know what you’re doing these days and what you think of the album. While I personally believe it is good to be informed and stay on top of the news, I think we need to also find other things to do. I wanted to make a post about the importance of respecting one another during this crazy pandemic we’re all living in. Once this ends people are going to teach future kids about this part of history. Before I get into the main point of this post, let me say a couple of things. Guys, I get it. We all get it. The world we’re living in right now is scary. People are often comparing this pandemic to World War II and the Great Depression. Did any of you ever like the American Girl books? Addy was always my favorite, but lately I feel like I’m living out of Molly or Kit books. Molly lived during World War II and Kit during the great depression. This virus has caused lots of disappointment. I’ve had concerts canceled. I have to watch where I go as we all should be doing. My twin left early so we couldn’t hang out before she left. My other friend had to cancel an amazing trip because of this. I was telling this particular friend the night we talked how important it is for us to feel our feelings. It sounds silly I know, but it’s true. Once I learned it, I’ve been suggesting people do the same. As friends (insert other relationships here) whoever we are to people, I believe that we need to meet them where they are in moments. And they should learn how to do that for us, too. I had a few people do that for me, and trust me, it changed everything for me. I can bless it forward because of that small handful of kind students and professors who entered my life during college and took it upon themselves to meet me exactly where I was.

 

For those of us with disabilities or for older folks, this virus also feels scary because we’re putting others at risk when we have them go to the store on our behalf. For me personally, it’s mostly older people who help me anyhow, so I just have another thing to add to my prayer list.

 

Next, we need to talk about panic buying. Guys, stop hoarding. If everything is taken, that’s selfish and you’re doing more harm than good. Is that what we really want right now? Especially right now? What saddens me is how I keep seeing people online all talking about when they see empty stores, they think they should buy in a panic. What’s with everyone acting the same? I get it, we all go through it sometimes. In college so many people did it. They all had the same jackets, etc. I’ve gone through it too, thinking that being like certain people might get me treated differently if I got “in” with them. I just got to a point where it doesn’t matter if I’m “in” with them anymore. Let’s be our own people and think of others please.

 

Remember at the beginning of this post where I mentioned respect? Let’s talk about that now. Sadly, lately I’ve seen people talking about how mad they are that people are taking so many precautions and canceling events. It’s crazy, but it’s happening for a reason. Lets all do our part in slowing the spread of this crazy virus. Whether you follow the news or get your information through others, I’m sure by now you’ve heard everyone saying to flatten the curve. This is so important so we aren’t over whelming our hospitals. Please respect that my (or someone else’s) version of cautious might not look like your version of cautious. That’s fine, but please don’t automatically assume people are in a complete panic because they’re living out what their version of cautious looks like. Please wash your hands. Take this seriously. Try your absolute hardest to not touch your face. For me personally, when my eyes really hurt, (I know there’s blind people feeling me on that at one time or another) I just flashback to a funny memory when one of my best friends, Helene, was doing my make up saying, “Don’t touch your eyes! Really. Don’t touch them. Even when they hurt. Promise?” On behalf of those of us like myself who are at a higher risk for this virus, please, stay home. And tell others to do the same.

Stay healthy and think about your decisions please.

Miranda ❤

She’s…Blind and Thank You

Hi friends! Happy 29! I always find today so cool because I’ve always found leap years interesting. It’s true what people say, I really am an old soul and I find little things interesting. It is amazing what can happen in four years. Today back in 2016, I was journaling about the rough day I had surrounding some personal things happening in my life at the time, and about school challenges that aren’t typically understood unless you have a disability or are friends with someone who does. I also was thankful that things were going well with Phillips because at that time in life having a male reader made me a bit nervous. Funny how life works and he ended up being one of the best things to happen to me. God knows what he’s doing. Really. Now I am thanking God for many things including being published, graduation, reconnecting with some friends, those lessons we must learn for our own growth even if they’re tough ones, my list goes on. Whether you’re a believer or not, what are you thankful for today or for so far this year?

 

Today I wanted to talk about the importance of calling blindness for what it is. In fact, unless the person says otherwise, we should be calling disabilities for what they are. Recently I was at a party and while these young people are nice, I heard one whisper, “She’s…” and their friend whispers back, “Blind.” Right away, I called them on it. Not in a mean way, but I quickly told them they should just say it out loud. Yes, I’m blind. Yes, it can be awkward for people, but say it for what it is. Now I certainly have a few friends where we can finish one another’s sentences, but I believe that especially with young adults, we need to grab onto teachable moments and run with them. I made sure to let them know they didn’t make me mad, but I wanted them to know for next time.

 

Another time I walked into one of my nutrition classes at URI. I made my way into class and asked someone to help me find a place to sit. Any assistance I had at college often happened after classes. While I had directions to my classes recorded on my recorder and eventually planted them into my memory, URI is a huge campus and bigger classes were always harder for me to get myself to a seat. I walked in and one student whispered to another, “She can’t see,” and I was wicked tired that day so I just kept my conversation short and found someone to help me sit down for our lecture. If you have a disability then you particularly understand that some days, while advocacy and education are important, some days we have to pick our battles because everything we deal with in a day can sometimes get pretty exhausting. I laughed with friends later about it. I thought it was funny. I mean, in case anyone can’t tell, I can’t see. Surprise! =) No need to keep it a secret.

 

Now I’d like to hear from you. I think it’s so important that we help people understand it’s perfectly okay to talk out loud about our differences and disabilities. Go ahead and tell people. My best friend is blind. I worked for a blind person. I had a student in class who is blind and they made some great contributions to my course. My blind employee makes my company great. Whatever it is, tell someone about it. While everybody uses different language, (more on that in another post) you can speak about disability without being offensive if you learn how. What are your thoughts? Let’s connect! If I should be blogging about topics not discussed on my site, let me know. Find me on Facebook at Miranda Oakley, but if you connect with me on there, all I ask is that you please send me a message telling me who you are and how you found me. You can also find me on Twitter at mirandaloakley and you can leave me a comment on my website. =)

Enjoy today and have a great rest of your weekend.

My best to you,

Miranda ❤

Positive Experience Worth Sharing

Hi friends and a happy Thursday to you all. Happy 2020! =) I know, I know! It has been forever since I’ve posted. Thanks to those of you still viewing my site throughout my absence. Learning my new laptop has taken me much longer than I would have liked, but I’m at a much more comfortable place at this point.

 

I have always said and believed that we need to have a balance in what we are sharing. We absolutely should be sharing the negative stuff happening throughout the blindness community to bring about change. I also believe it is, and should be equally important to shed light on positive experiences because we can also bring about change that way. Recently I had a driver bring me to an appointment who knew to call my cane a cane. Most people who don’t know what it is often call it a walking stick. I thought this was great that he knew what to call it. He was trying to show me where the handle on his van was should I need to hold on to it. He asked, “Can I take your cane?” I said, “No,” and he said, “Okay,” and proceeded to show me how to find the handle he was telling me about. People often don’t respect choices of those with disabilities and often keep focusing on how the person is just trying to help and be nice. I was pleased that this person was respectful of personal space because the cane is an extension for people who cannot see. I thought people would appreciate this. If you are new to blindness, I hope you learned something.

 

Thanks for reading! Is there anything I should be blogging about? Let me know by leaving a comment here on my site or feel free to reach out to me on Facebook at Miranda Oakley. I just ask that you send me a message telling me who you are and how you found me. You can also find me on Twitter and send me a tweet at mirandaloakley

My best to you all,

Miranda ❤

My First Guest Post!

Hi!

I hope this finds you well and thank you for reading. A while back I wrote a guest piece for this amazing blogger I met through Twitter, Ami. We were asked to pick two letters from the word importance and write about how our mobility device (or devices) help us. I wrote about attitudes and acceptance surrounding people with disabilities and using a white cane as a woman who is blind. I would love to visit the UK sometime in my life. I share this guest spot with some other lovely, amazing ladies who also wrote really wonderful pieces for this post. A big thank you to Ami for including me in this great post! You can find a link to Ami’s website below. The post including me is her most recent one that went live today!

Let me know your thoughts. Leave me a comment on my website, find me on Facebook (if you connect with me on there just please send me a message telling me who you are and how you found me,) and find me on Twitter at mirandaloakley you can also find Ami on Twitter at

https://mobile.twitter.com/Ami_T1995?p=s

Go check her out and give her a follow.

My best to you,

Miranda ❤

https://undercoversuperhero2.home.blog/2019/10/09/the-importance-of-mobility-aids/

 

Helene’s Thank You Note

Hi Friends,

I wanted to post this sooner, but you have to love technology issues. Right? =) If you have followed my blog or other socials for a while then you know I was a volunteer on the Vincent for Boston campaign. I’m thankful for the opportunity to have been part of such a great campaign. I enjoyed door knocking and talking with people face-to-face about Helene’s campaign and the causes she stands for. Phone banking had its challenges because I found the website was not easily accessible with Jaws, a popular screen reading program that many blind people use. I was happy to reach folks though to discuss the campaign. What a race it was. Helene put in so much hard work and I’m so grateful for the experiences I took away from everything during this year and a half. Helene did not win, but she wrote a really sweet thank you note that you can find below. How sweet to mention me. I hope and pray our friendship inspires people. I always do what I can to talk about my lifelong friendship with Helene in hopes that it will encourage people to become friends with someone different. Take that scary chance and become friends with that different person the way Helene took a chance on me years ago. Come on. Yes, you. Try it! You might make a lifelong friend out of it. =)

 

Helene’s note:
Thank you so much for the last incredible 18 months. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have your support.

As you may have heard, we came in 3rd place in a 5-way race. It’s not the result we hoped for, but we are incredibly proud to have come this far as a first-time campaign.

I’d like to take a moment to thank each of you who helped along the way. 

Each of you has shared your world, your wisdom, and your generosity in different ways.

Thank you to each neighborhood: Mission Hill, Audubon Circle, Fenway, Back Bay, Beacon Hill, and the West End for revealing your unique identities and beauty.

Thank you to our financial donors who believed in our shared values enough to invest in this project.

Thank you to my kitchen cabinet (strategy team) who met every three weeks to strategize over pizza and beer.

Thank you to our volunteers who made calls, knocked doors, worked events, provided words of encouragement, and threw yourselves wholeheartedly into this project.

Thank you to my wife Alice, who supported me every step of the way and put herself outside her comfort zone daily by making calls and knocking doors.

Thank you to my parents, my extraordinary mother-in-law Wen, and all my sisters for traveling to Boston for every major event and pitching in to help out at a moment’s notice whenever I was in a pinch.

Thank you to our incredible campaign team: Krista (the best campaign manager anyone could ever dream of), Jordan (our operations director for whom no job was too big or too small), Matt (a fearless field director who showed up for work even while battling the flu), David (our communications director extraordinaire who designed our print materials and prepped me for every single debate, appearance, or op-ed), Spencer (the finance director who taught me that fundraising could be fun!) and Kalen (my field consultant who designed our field strategy and provided endless pep talks).

Thank you to my lifelong friend Miranda, who is blind and who kicked off my activism journey in the 5th grade as we dreamed up a public school for the blind where students would actually get the resources they need for a full education. She shows me every day what it means to show up and not let anyone tell you something is impossible.

And, most importantly, thank you to every single person I met on the 13,758 doors I knocked this year who took the time to share their hopes, dreams, fears, and suggestions with me.

I’m honored to have earned your trust and I will work hard every day to create a more inclusive, affordable, and accessible Boston for all.

In gratitude,
Hélène

District 8 Primary Election Is Today! Have You Voted Yet?

Good Tuesday morning!

I have a handful of followers living in Massachusetts so please share this post with anyone you know who can get out and vote today. I want to remind everybody living in District 8 that your primary election is today! Have you voted yet? Polling locations are open until 8 p.m. Can Helene count on your vote? If anyone needs a ride to the polls, reach out and I will connect you with Krista, our campaign manager, who can help you with transportation.

 

Mission Hill, Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Fenway/Kenmore, Audubon Circle, and the West End are all part of District 8. Can Helene Vincent count on your vote today? Please spread the word! Helene and I have been lifelong friends and I would really appreciate it if someone snapped a photo of the ballot with Helene’s name on it and sent it to me. If anyone can do this for me please shoot me an email or if you know me personally send me a text please. Thank you.

Friendly Reminder To Vote Tuesday, September 24!

Hi friends!

Just a friendly reminder that if you live in District 8 in          Massachusetts, your primary election is tomorrow, Tuesday, September 24! Polling locations are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. What’s your plan for voting tomorrow? If you set aside time and make an actual plan to vote you are more likely to actually go to the polls! District 8 includes Mission Hill, Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Fenway/Kenmore, Audubon Circle, and the West End. Can Helene count on your vote this Tuesday? If someone you know in the district needs help with transportation, reach out to me and I will be more than happy to connect them with our campaign manager, Krista, who can provide more details. Tomorrow I will make another post, so please share with anyone you know who needs to see this in District 8!

Under the Radar and Voting on September 24!

Hi!

As some of you may know, I am a volunteer with Helene Vincent’s campaign for Boston City Council. Just a friendly reminder that if you are in District 8 in Massachusetts, your primary election is this Tuesday, September 24! Can Helene count on your vote? Polling locations are open from 7 a.m to 8 p.m.

In the link below, you will find an interview Helene did with Under the Radar, (WGBH) with Callie Crossley, also featuring other candidates running for a seat on Boston City Council. Throughout the interview, Vincent speaks about the need for universal pre-K, the ways in which separate bike lanes would improve safety in District 8, and why affordable housing should be about human lives rather than only numbers. Please watch this great interview to find out what other issues Helene is fighting for to improve District 8.

 

https://www.wgbh.org/news/politics/2019/09/20/local-politics-boston-city-council-district-8-candidates?utm_source=Vincent+for+Boston&utm_campaign=6cc4a84edc-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_03_23_02_41_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_94e069a881-6cc4a84edc-20275817

 

 

Again, just a reminder that your Polling locations are open from 7 a.m to 8 p.m. Can Helene count on your vote Tuesday, September 24? All of us on Team Vincent want to make sure that everyone in District 8 has time and transportation planned out to vote this Tuesday! If you or someone you know needs a ride to the Polls, we would be happy to connect you with our campaign manager, Krista, who can provide more details about setting that up for you. If you or anyone you know needs transportation to your Polling location and need to connect with Krista, please reach out to me and I will put you in touch with her.

 

Please share this with anyone you know in District 8! Thank you.

Blind College Graduate Gives Tips On Going Back To School

Introduction

It’s that time of year again where in New England the mornings are getting cooler, and many people are going back to school. People suggested I make a post sharing my tips about going to school so let’s get into it. This is going to be long (Surprise right? Haha.) because I want to be accessible and real with people. If you only read this post and decide a different blindness blogger is for you, that’s okay. But please, please, read this one. Break it up into sections if you need to because it’s that important for you to read this entire post. For that reason, I’ve broken this up into section headings so you can read what you have time for and come back to read more later when you’re not so busy. I’ve decided I’m not going to hold back on this post, so I hope and pray this doesn’t offend anyone. If this is too harsh for you, then maybe think about why that’s the case. If not, awesome. I hope that this post inspires people to help make the educational system better for people with disabilities, and a whole lot better for blind people who made the crazy, yet rewarding choice to go to college.

 

Whether you admit it or not, while school can be great, whether you’re just starting out, coming from public school, or a blind school, it can also be pretty scary. I have learned it is perfectly okay to acknowledge your feelings out loud to people. I’m not saying tell everyone your business, but find a few people to share them with. As blind people we know our school stress gets pretty confusing and complicated for those who aren’t around disability, but I promise if they care, they’ll learn how they can help. I know, I know. You’re already not accepted. People won’t talk to you and people think you’re weird, right? You don’t want to share about that professor who won’t accommodate you, you’re struggling to get your state person to support you, that your books aren’t accessible and you might need a reader or a note taker. You want sighted people to know you for you and not all this stuff right? I felt that way, too. But sighted people talk about horrible papers, awful boy stuff, everything. Find a way to talk about and deal with your disability related stress. If you’re happy and you have great teachers and professors and students willing to help, celebrate that! Go ahead and talk about that awesome experience! Not many people who are blind graduate college and as blind people I personally believe we need to share our stories with other people who can’t see to show them that if they want a degree, they should go out and get it. We hear so often about horrible services, but we need to share with people that yes, people are helpful and want us to do just as well as those who have sight. I am not here to speak for every single blind person, but I know that many of us feel that when we get real and share how we really feel, (Despite what the feel good stories tell you, blind people aren’t always bubbly all the time.) lots of times those feelings are used against us. That’s a whole different topic about services for a different post. The thing to remember is that everyone gets overwhelmed. Sighted students, teachers, it happens. You’re not alone.  I’ll say that a few times in this post because my story is proof you can walk through hell and come out the other side. You’re not alone. Because we have so much to deal with as blind people going to school in a system often meant to fail us, it’s a little too easy to feel very alone. As blind people we almost always have to prove ourselves and why we belong in the classroom, but believe it or not, you’re going to eventually find those people who know we are just as smart as people who can see.

Taking Notes and Introducing yourself

 First let’s talk about introducing yourself and taking notes. Before every semester, I would find my professors emails, email them and tell them who I am, what course I was taking, and that I am blind. I explained that I would need book titles sent to me so I could see if they were in an accessible format and that I would need handouts or anything they shared with the class emailed to me so I could read them. Once class started, I would have someone guide me to them or find them by listening for them. Show your professors or your teachers you are interested in the material and that you want to make being in their class work for the both of you. If you need someone to take notes for you, you won’t know what to expect right away and neither will they. After a few weeks, you’ll learn what is important for each course. You might find different parts of the course important than the person taking notes for you, so exchange contact information with them if they are willing to do that so you can be clear about what you need from them.

It’s Okay To Get Lost

If you get lost, it’s fine. One time I thought I made my way to one of my English classes and I ended up in a Spanish class I had no clue how to get out of. Thankfully the professor helped me figure out where I needed to go. Sighted people get lost too. When you have mobility challenges that make it difficult for you to leave a place you got yourself to, you’ll be okay. You’ll eventually get yourself out of the situation you got stuck in. I found it helpful to record routes to my classes. My mobility teacher (for more on mobility, see my blog called So What Is Mobility Anyway?) recorded directions to my classes on my recorder and I also Brailled them as another way to get them stuck in my memory. When I was in college, the RA’s liked to mess with freshman and purposefully send them the wrong way because they found it funny. I told them to never do that to me and thank God they didn’t. Tell your RA’s! Do not send a blind person the wrong way with other freshman because you think it’s hilarious. It’s not. And while we’re on the subject of not messing with a blind person and their mobility, if they or someone helping them places markings on something to help them navigate, LEAVE THEM ALONE.(in caps) Really. Don’t touch them. I had felt on the wall when I started my Freshman year so I could find my way from my room to the RA office, and students thought it was funny to take it off even though my RA friend, Chelsea, told them not to take it off. I eventually learned my way and could walk there with or without my cane.

My Note To Voc Rehab Professionals

Next, let’s talk about state services which is different from school services. They both can be great or your worst nightmare. Not many Voc rehab people are going to read this, but I’m talking about it anyhow. Voc rehab people. Ease up on the stress. I can’t tell you how many times I had to fight with Rhode Island to get technology I needed or readers for classes that weren’t accessible. This is already long enough so if you’re not educated about voc rehab and you are interested, feel free to look that up. Before each semester, they would expect me to have everything figured out. I would always have to tell them I didn’t know how many hours with readers I would need each week because classes hadn’t started yet and each semester was going to be different. They say they want to help people, but anyone in the blindness community knows they don’t often actually do that. This gets people going I know, but no matter how you feel, please be nice. The last thing I would say to Voc rehab people is don’t shame people for doing things differently. Because there are so few blind people going to college, the schools all talk to each other. This is good if they’re going to help get creative about working with students, but it isn’t good to compare them. To any school or state voc rehab professionals, don’t shame people for working differently than the way you might get work done. That’s right, I went there. Don’t shame me. Don’t shame her. Don’t shame him. Don’t shame them. Don’t shame us. Technology is great and I used it to do certain work myself, but if I chose to have readers along with technology, that’s what works for me and you shouldn’t always try and take them from me. If you are blind and you need a note taker or a reader, whatever it is, don’t be ashamed to do what you need to do for yourself.

My Note for Readers

Speaking of readers, if you make time to be one, thank you. If you decide reading assignments is too much on top of everything you have going on, treat it like any other job and give two weeks’ notice. I had people who didn’t, and you don’t want to leave the person behind because you know you don’t like that feeling either. Before you quit on that person you’re working with, give it a month to figure out if the job is for you or not. If it isn’t, that’s okay, but don’t waste time. It often takes a while to find someone else so the sooner you can tell the person you can’t handle it, the better it will be for both of you.

If You See Something, Say Something

This post is going to focus on students, but I’m going to make another post for teachers that will be shorter. That said, students. You’ve heard of the saying, “If you see something, say something,” right? Please, apply that to people with disabilities. Sometimes my reader used to ask me why people kept looking at me while we walked around campus. I told her I was used to it and people do it all the time so it really doesn’t faze me anymore. She said she didn’t want to start anything if she said something about it. If you call people out for staring, it isn’t going to start anything but a much needed conversation about why people of all abilities belong on campus. I know people who used to see it and openly, right in front of them say, “I see you staring at a blind person! Miranda, people are staring at you,” and that’s not rude to call them out for it. People liked to watch me like I was a tourist attraction. Whenever URI would have tours and I would walk with my cane, people would watch me like I was famous or like I was some kind of pretty, cute animal they could look at but not get too close to. People could watch whenever they were curious, but they couldn’t talk to me? I’m not a tourist attraction and neither is any blind person you come across. We have white canes or guide dogs, and like you, we’re people too.

The Need for Normalcy

The next thing I want to address is the need for normalcy. As students who can see, you have a heavy college load just like we do. Some of you take tons of classes, work a job or two, and are trying to pay off loans or your car, the list goes on. As awkward as you might feel talking to a blind person without it being your job to be around them, it also can be uncomfortable for the person who is blind because we’re the ones often excluded. Until you prove yourself to us, we’re often wondering things like, Are they actually enjoying my company or are they just being nice because they feel bad for me? People do that and no one is going to actually admit they spent time with someone because they felt sorry for them. I had a few readers in college who unknowingly brought a version of normal to me that was missing because people couldn’t get over my white cane. Lots of blind people have trouble with balance and there’s a time and a place to laugh about things. Thankfully when I worked with Gianna, she learned quickly that I’m still a person even though my eyes don’t work. She knew that I made a funny face once when I almost tripped during a recording we were working on for one of my audio classes and that it was okay to laugh about it with me. Then there was Kaylan and Selena, who would talk about guys, schoolwork, and concerts. Phillips would tell me about who is sister liked to listen to, that he was playing video games, or what he was doing with his weekend. It’s too easy to get caught up in services BS, so it’s good to keep things light for people who often have a lot of heavy stuff to deal with. Do your part to bring people with disabilities some version of normal and before you know it, including us won’t be weird anymore.

Learning To Speak the Language of College Students

As blind people, we need to be aware that we are scary to sighted people until they get to know us. We live in a generation where many people have a, “What’s in it for me?” mentality. Because of this, I believe it is important that we learn to speak the language of college students, that language being, “What’s in it for me?” Offering opportunity to people with disabilities is often rewarded with incentives and I believe we need to be doing that for students who do really well with people like us. Anyone who knows me knows the kind of person I am, but I believe in giving people, particularly college students, something to remember. Here’s why I believe this isn’t wrong. Readers can decide if they will get paid from school or if they will get their pay from the state which is a little more, employers get tax breaks for hiring people with disabilities, and students sometimes get extra credit for writing about a blind person. Not to mention, being a reader or saying that you helped a blind person looks good on your resume. I believe in being nice to people, but when we find young adults who treat us the way we should be treated living in a world that tells them they shouldn’t, we need to thank them for living out what the world isn’t. If you’re blind and have a helpful reader or classmate, write them a note, get them lunch sometimes, buy them a coffee, whatever. Find a way to find out what they like without making them feel like you’re getting too much in their business. If you are sighted, let the blind person you’re around know you’re friends or helping them because you want to, not because you feel bad, you’re bored, or because you need to pay for your car or your student loans. It’s good to hear every once and a while because going to school can be so intense at times. Find a balance between helping them and accepting little thank you gifts, but also don’t take advantage of them because they can’t see.

 

I know this post is really long, but the topics written about here are important and we can’t bring about change if we don’t discuss them. Thanks for reading and I hope this helps you, whether you are blind or sighted. Please share this with students or anyone you know who needs to read this.

My best to you,

Miranda ❤