Important Resources

Hi friends!

Can you believe it’s October already?

Part of this post is more for those living in my state but the other link I’m going to share is important for everyone. Let’s start with the Rhode Island one first. If you are not familiar with In-Sight, they offer great services and workshops for blind and visually impaired people throughout Rhode Island. You can learn about In-Sight here. (This is not sponsored by the way, they really are wonderful).

Recently they held a workshop on voting information for those of us who are blind or visually impaired. It’s absolutely worth your time. Give it a listen here.

While all of this is important information, among the many great topics surrounding voting, they talk about how for those people who have difficulty signing their name, they would like you to put an x rather than use your signature stamp because the signature on your stamp may look different than the signature they have on file. All of the information in the above link is especially important to pass along to anyone you know who is blind or visually impaired because this election is more important than ever. No matter how you do it, vote, vote, vote!

Moving on…Recently one of my favorite women on YouTube, Lauren Lipman, (Her Taylor Swift videos are pretty great) posted about her experience with Corona Virus. She was very descriptive in the whole process and I felt it important to pass along in case God for bid you know anyone who might need it. No matter what, let it serve as a reminder how important it is to be safe, whatever that looks like for you.

Watch Lauren’s story here.

Stay safe, stay healthy, WEAR YOUR MASK (in caps for my blind friends) and MAKE SURE YOU VOTE!!! MAIL-IN BALLOTS REALLY DO COUNT. (Again, in caps).

My best to you,

Miranda ❤

Victory In My Case!

Hi friends!

I’m so delighted to share with you that we have a victory in my case! Removing the two-witness requirement will help so many Rhode Islanders who wish to send in their ballot by mail, and I’m so grateful to have been a part of such an important and necessary moment of history for our state.

Read about it here.

Stay healthy and please wear a mask.

Miranda ❤

I Decided To Be a Plaintiff and Advocate for Voter Safety Across My State

Hi friends!

Hope you are all doing well and staying cool during this wicked heatwave we’ve been living through.

I have some exciting news to share. Earlier in the month I decided to join a couple of plaintiff’s in a lawsuit against the state to remove the two-witness and notary requirement on mail ballots during the September and November elections. These requirements were removed for the June primary and I could not understand why they were not removed again during a pandemic. I thought about all the older people I care about, as well as how this would impact everyone across our tiny yet great state. I thought about the challenges this would bring for people with disabilities. I thought about how disabled people are all too often not given a proper seat at the table, especially at the political table. I have always believed that no matter what side of the aisle you are on, we all (including public officials) need to find a way to sit at the same table, understand that we have differences, but come to the agreement that human lives should be more important than political agendas.


Through all this, I basically got a mini course on election law which has been a great experience. I would like to publicly thank Kate Bowden from Disability Rights Rhode Island, Jonathan Diaz and Simone Leeper from the Campaign Legal Center, (CLC) as well as Steven Brown, the Executive Director of the Rhode Island ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) for being so great about answering my questions along the way. I would also like to thank Corey Goldstone at the CLC communications team for being so open about accessibility. Before my piece came out, we talked about how just mentioning a persons age and town in a photo caption is not as descriptive as it could be. He asked if it was okay to mention the color of my shirt in the photo and I told him it was and thanked him for asking. I explained that it would help if they explained that the photo is a headshot, I have a red shirt on, and I am smiling, lets those with screen readers know more about the photo going along with the story. He said he would pass that information along to his team and would make more changes like this moving forward. I am happy and blessed to be a part of such an important conversation. Sometimes for me personally it helps having someone read something out loud along with reading it with my technology. Simone and Corey were great about reading everything. You can read about the case here.

Find the press release here.

You can find their web update here.

Yesterday the federal judge in this case said that removing this two-witness notary requirement was reasonable but the Republican Party is appealing this case. Everyone has different outlets they like, so find what 10 put out below.

Please think of each other. Please save a seat at your table for a disabled person. Not because you feel bad for us. Not because you are bored. Not because you’re trying to make yourself feel better or because your friends think you’re so nice for being friends with that one friend with a disability. Give us a spot at your table (personally and professionally) because like you, we deserve to be heard. We deserve your friendship. We deserve opportunity. And we most certainly deserve a seat at the table discussing the decisions that affect our country.


Petitions That Need Your Signature! Please Share All the Links In This!

Hey friends,

As you can probably tell, with everything going on lately, I have put my “In the Dark” and Perkins posts on hold. It might be harder for me to write about the show now since the CW deletes episodes shortly after they were put up for streaming, but there are more important things I need to be writing about.

While I cannot go to rallies in person, I am with everyone protesting peacefully in spirit. I want to tell disabled people that even though we may not be able to go to rallies, we can still show that #BlackLivesMatter to us in other ways. Educate yourself. Talk to people. Read about what black people are facing and remember what you learned as a kid about how horribly they were treated? Think about that and make yourself part of the conversation that shows through your actions you are helping to end racism. I am posting a few more petitions below and please join me in signing and sharing them.

Also, see

Read about another here.

Here’s a way you can donate (if you can, and if not, share, share, share!) and help Color Of Change help black people register to vote and get the information they need about voting where they live. Voting is important to all of us isn’t it? Voting is more important now than it has ever been.

Please share this post with everyone you know in life and on social media!


Sign This Petition and Demand Justice for Breonna Taylor

Hi friends,

I am sharing this petition in hopes you will join me in demanding the officers who murdered Breonna Taylor be fired. Today would have been Breonna Taylor’s 27th birthday.

Thank you for signing and sharing. Let’s keep doing what we can to let people know that #BlackLivesMatter




Miranda Oakley An Interview With Susan Brand


I recently did a Q and A interview with the editor and creator of my textbook, Susan Brand. You can read about that here

Since classes have been online because of the pandemic, Susan posted my interview on her course website this week. I thought I would share it with you here. Thanks for allowing me to share my story and asking such great questions, Susan.

We talk about everything from my early years as a blind girl, to time in college and about my writing these days. I hope when you read about my friend, Chelsea, you will learn to include blind (or insert disability) people into your circle in your college squad. I hope when you read about my lifelong friend, Helene, and her parents, I hope you learn friends come with all abilities. Helene’s parents never worried about me. I hope your parents don’t worry about their friend who has a disability, either. Lastly, let me just add, I share my story not because I’m a victim, but because I want to show people you can be a person who is an outcast and who most people brush aside, and then people can learn about what you stand for, your work, and that we really all do deserve everything sighted people do. As a writer, (and even doing PR for my high school,) you learn to humble yourself enough to know not everyone is going to like you, and that’s okay. Some people like my style and my message, others prefer bigger names like Molly Burk, and some like both of us. One of Susan’s students, Celeste, took the time to leave me a comment under the comments section here after reading about me, and it was really nice, so thank you and I’d love to connect. If you learn something, tell someone about it. Let’s change the way people perceive blindness. One person at a time. ❤



Miranda Oakley: An Interview with Susan Brand

  1. Please tell us about yourself!  We’re interested in learning about your home, your family, your personality, and your hobbies and interests.


I’m the first person in my family to have graduated college. My sister graduated CCRI with an Associates degree in Arts and went on to pursue Dental Assisting. My mom was the vice president of a construction company and eventually worked as an assistant manager of a group home for mentally challenged adults. Now she works as a caregiver for the elderly. I’ve lived in Rhode Island my whole life. My sister and I were fortunate to grow up with a pool, and I live close to the beach, so that always works in my favor during the summer. =) Once you get to know me, you’ll learn that I’m an outgoing person. I love going to concerts, being outside in nature, and I am a huge fan of the TV show “In the Dark.” If you haven’t seen it, you must watch it!  After you read this, of course. 😉 I’ve also been collecting foreign coins since I was a kid.

  1. Please share with us information about your school experiences in elementary education. In high school. What were some challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?

Elementary School: First of all, when I was in elementary school, apps did not exist. I had a TVI, (Teacher of the Blind and Visually Impaired) that would act as a go-between, who worked with myself and my classroom teacher. My TVI taught me how to use an abacus made for the blind to teach me about number place value. Nowadays, like with everything, there’s an app for that! I would Braille notes in class, but I also recorded classes on cassette tapes. Does anybody taking this class even know what those are?

I met one of my best friends, Helene, in elementary school. I always appreciated how her parents didn’t worry about me. When kids see we are not worried about something or someone, they don’t worry. Her parents weren’t scared of me. Helene learned not to be scared of me, too. People, even later in my adult life, have been afraid to include me in social activities sometimes out of fear that something might happen to me. Helene’s parents have never been held back by my blindness. They let Helene grow up with diversity, and since they accepted me, they taught her that it’s okay to be friends with people of all walks of life. If I needed to do something differently, they always came up with on the spot ways to make it so I could participate. They still do that to this day. My aid in school had to Braille materials by hand on the manual Perkins Braille machine. She became like another mother to me. She worked with me from kindergarten through eighth grade.

High School: High school was amazing. After eighth grade, I left public school and began attending a School for the Blind in Massachusetts. I met the same requirements as my public school, and I also had special classes where I could improve my blindness skills. Special classes included Braille, mobility, which is where an instructor teaches you how to safely get to places as a blind person, and life skills like cutting my food. While some students take academics, they also teach students who have various disabilities. This school grades assignments but doesn’t assign grades as you progress each year. One of the greatest things about this blind school was the fact that during the six years I was there, I was known for anything but my white cane. I worked on my own TV show and I participated in theater. At one point I was the captain of my track team and cheerleading squad. Our track had guide wires we could hold onto as a guide. As you ran, they would loosen up and tighten up when you got to the end. The indoor ones had tape so we could follow so we knew how many laps we were doing. We would travel and compete with other schools for the blind, and that was always fun. People decided whether they liked me or not based on my personality rather than my disability. Like with anything, this school isn’t perfect.

While I was away from home on weekends and vacations, some challenges included being away from my friends at home. Oh, and my dogs at the time, too. Because you know, animals are friends, too. This school has smaller classes, so my class had sixteen students. I was the only one in my senior class going to college. Because of this, sometimes I felt like I was doing everything that comes along with applying for college alone. In the beginning it was hard knowing I had to share my teaching assistant because she was like another mother to me. I understood that other students needed her help, too, but for a little while it was hard to hear about. As I grew into my own more at the school, I learned to be happy for all the students my assistant was now working with in public school. Shakespeare’s Hamlet was also really hard for me!

Cottage Life: Students at this school stay in cottages, so in a way I learned how to live in a dorm. Most people were friendly when I was there, but I did not like one cottage, in particular. I really didn’t like how most staff treated their students in this one cottage. Sometimes I found it hard to express how I felt to people there because I didn’t want it to seem as if I was not adjusting well. Students stay in different cottages depending on their age. It was hard finding a balance between what I felt like I could share with them and being in this cottage, it began to teach me what I value and what I don’t in the people around me. I’m thankful for those staff, though. Other than the one cottage experience, this school was great for me since I wasn’t receiving proper services in public school anymore.

  1. Please share your college experiences with us. What was your major? What was it like living in a dorm?  How well did the academic and physical accommodations meet your needs?  What was done well?  What could have been done better?

Majors, Dorms, and Roommates: When I began URI, I originally entered the University as a journalism major and eventually changed to English a few years later. I lived on campus for three years and commuted my final three. I was given the accessible room, so I had the room to myself. My room was like a mini apartment. For many, college is their first taste of freedom. I had to think about everything when considering a roommate. If my roommate needed privacy, where was I going to go to give them space? I only really had my friend, Chelsea, and it was much easier for said roommate to go somewhere else than it was for me. Living in a dorm was both a blessing and a terrible experience. Not many students talked to me, and the ones who did kept conversations brief. Blind people across universities share the same experience in that it’s as if people don’t know how to hang out with a blind person. Taylor Swift’s music was great company because I was alone. A lot.

Student Assistants: I worked with students on campus that were paid to help me and the University put extra guest passes on my card so they could help me through the dining hall so I could get food, although later on I eventually ended up bringing my own food and eating alone in my room. It was extra responsibility added to their work, but the University used it as an incentive for them to help me. If you help Miranda get food, you don’t have to use your meal plan because you’ll be covered.

The students were also paid to help read what wasn’t accessible to me in an audio or online format. While I have become friends with a small few of them after graduation, at the time they weren’t paid to be my friend. They were told to keep it professional and just read, scribe for me if need be and leave. Obviously, people need to do their job. I’m a person, though, and most of them were friendly. One told me after we graduated the struggle of finding a balance between doing their job and being a friend. It’s hard. Do you do your job, or do you connect with that person with a disability and hope you’re not getting in trouble for being too personal? I always appreciated the SMALL handful of students who put me, Miranda, the sophisticated woman, first. If you’re mature enough, you will learn there’s a way to do your job and see people for who they are. At the same time.

Friendships: I didn’t get out much, so sometimes I had students working with me bring me to the library to work or take me on a walk because I was so isolated. The dorm was also a blessing because I met one of my good friends, Chelsea, my Freshman year. I always say she was the first one at URI to take a free chance on me. She was an RA and decided to get to know me. Miranda. She never took a penny for anything. Absolutely anything. Chelsea wasn’t ever ashamed to openly be friends with me and include me. I grew to trust and learn she is for real and doesn’t have pity on me. She included me in games, brought me to some of her meetings just so I could get out, and wasn’t afraid to advocate for me. Students always found it hard to advocate for me. They might think, “When do I advocate for somebody being mistreated on campus? She’s a nice person, but I need money this week, so what do I do?” Chelsea didn’t care about any of that stuff. She was brave enough to go to a few disability services meetings with me and advocate for me, physically and emotionally. Everybody needs a Chelsea.

Disability Provisions: While I fought a lot with disability services to accommodate my needs, something they did do well was working with housing so I could have the same dorm room each year. This made it easier on me mobility wise because the state only had one teacher who taught younger kids through the college level. Each semester I only had to learn how to get to different classes, and it helped not having to constantly learn a new dorm room. As far as academic accommodations, I found working with professors, even the difficult ones, better than working with disability services. I had to fight disability services to get my math book in Braille because they said another girl who is blind at a different University didn’t need one. I also had to fight for my student assistants each semester and constantly explain that I really did need them because not everything was accessible. I would start every semester, (except my last one!) behind because my students hadn’t been hired yet or my books were not scanned in the correct format, so I didn’t have any books. I found professors either wrote me off as too complicated or they accepted me in the classroom. Professors were good about the fact that I needed to sit up front in class and emailing me certain assignments. The Sakai site (now BrightSpace) was often difficult with my screen reading program so they were great about understanding that students sometimes needed to help me submit assignments. Sometimes they let me email them, instead. One challenge working with students assistants was that none of them were English majors, and this made it hard for them to explain certain English language conventions. In literature, that can be really important.

4. What are your career aspirations?

I’m working on finishing my memoir. My goal is to change perceptions of people with disabilities. I hope people who read it will make a positive change and be motivated to make disability a positive conversation instead of a scary, negative, awkward one. I’m also working on expanding my speaking opportunities as a motivational speaker for children and adults.

5. Tell us about your life’s accomplishments.

One accomplishment I am particularly proud of is that I got to be included in Susan’s textbook! It was such a full circle moment for me to be in the same book as one of my great professors. Also, I worked on my lifelong friend, Helene’s campaign last year when she ran for office in Massachusetts. Phone banking was great, but door-knocking was my favorite! It was great going around and meeting people and talking with them face-to-face about Helene’s campaign and issues that were important to them. It was also great to show others that people with disabilities have opinions, too. We’re not just something pretty to look at. We’re not just your daily inspiration. Some of us get political and some of us don’t.

6.  What recommendations or advice do you have for sighted people in dealing with people who are blind?  What stereotypes should be overcome?

  • These are such great questions! First of all, blind people use words like see, look, and watch. You won’t offend me using everyday language.
  • Sometimes we might need help and sometimes we don’t. If we refuse, we’re not being rude, and we appreciate you. Sometimes, even though you have good intentions, we learn specific landmarks to help us with travel. I learned, for example, once my cane came in contact with a lamp post outside Swan Hall, that told me how many turns I needed to take in order to make my way to the door.
  • Sometimes helping us can throw us off if you leave us in a different place. If you leave us in a new place, be sure we are clear about this location and know how to get to the next location.
  • If you’re not sure of something, ask, and don’t avoid it. We can’t read your mind, and we don’t expect you to read ours.
  • Some of the best advice I can share is to please remember that not every blind person is the same. Is anybody the same? Lots of people approach blindness with a “one size fits all” attitude, and that’s simply just not true. Just because I like or dislike something doesn’t mean every blind person you meet is going to like and dislike the same things. Some people have low vision, meaning they can see to a certain degree. Others, like myself, don’t have any vision. My vision isn’t really lost though. J
  • If you see a blind person at a table alone at an event, don’t think they are being antisocial. It’s hard for blind people to mingle without a guide, and people often misinterpret that as we don’t want to meet people. Come and say hi, and if you’re walking around enjoying whatever it is, offer to guide them. Ask what works for them, and you might make a friend.
  • Don’t be afraid to use your eyes and see for somebody. Some of us don’t care and some, like myself, love a good description.
  • People often think people who are blind are not as intellectually capable as people with sight and that’s not true at all. If a sighted person gets help on a paper that’s fine. If a blind person does the same thing, that’s not okay. That’s always been so crazy to me!
  • Just because we do things differently than you doesn’t mean we should be left out. Blindness (or any disability for that matter) isn’t always scary or sad, so don’t make it that way. Introduce yourself, and we will eventually learn who you are. Please don’t think we remember every single voice we hear.
  • Don’t be afraid, and don’t be ashamed. It’s okay to be friends or have relationships with a person with a disability.
  • Lastly, please, please, tell somebody when you are leaving a room. Sometimes it’s funny, but sometimes having one-sided conversations can be awkward!
  • What might we not realize about people who are blind? Even though society tells you so, my cane doesn’t define me. People with disabilities deserve everything you do.
  1. 7.  In what ways might we become allies for people who are blind?

Get to know the person and decide if you like them based on if you vibe well or not. When you’re not afraid, eventually your friends, your colleagues, and your family are not afraid, either. If you become close to a blind person, if you work with a blind person, if you have a blind neighbor, don’t be ashamed or embarrassed to let them into your circle when you’re not being paid for it.

8.  Please share anything else with us as you like.

I know that was a lot. If you actually read this entire thing, thank you so much. I would love to meet you! If you’re interested or learned something today, tell people about it. I’d love to connect with you. Check out my website, and leave me a comment! My website has all the ways you can find me. Thanks for your time, stay healthy, and I hope this changed how you view equality.


Have You Signed These Petitions and Sent An Email Yet?

Hi Friends,

Have you signed these petitions telling people that you are adding your voice in demanding #JusticeForAhmaudArbery and #GeorgeFloyd yet? If you haven’t sent an email to the Minneapolis police department yet adding your voice to the conversation, you can find a link with how you can do that below. While it is great all four former officers are being charged in George Floyd’s murder, it was shared in today’s press conference that evidence is still being collected in Floyd’s case. I think it is important that people sign these petitions and email the police department demanding justice even with today’s news because we need to tell them that these former officers should be prosecuted at the highest level possible.

You can find links to the petitions below.

As I said above, you can send an email to the Minneapolis police department demanding that justice be served here.


Let’s all do our part in using our voice and platforms to speak up about the things that matter. Racism needs to change and let’s do our part to show people we will not tolerate it.

Miranda ❤

Please make sure you are voting in the presidential primary election!

Hey guys,

Just a reminder that if you are living in Rhode Island thepresidential primary election is today! I mailed in my ballot and I wanted to make a post to remind people (whether you’re living in Rhode Island or not) to vote. Find out when your primary election is and make your vote count because voting is so, so important. Especially now more than ever!

My best to you, and please stay kind.

Miranda ❤

Violence Is Never the Answer

Hey guys,

Like most of the world, (unless you’re not human) I’ve had a pretty heavy heart lately. Given everything going on lately I can’t personally write about anything else before I write about this. This is my friend, Helene’s, favorite kind of my writing. I typically like to plan out blog posts and somehow prepare what I’m going to say. This also applies to my talks. Those come from the heart too, but usually anything I’ve written without preparing it first is only reserved for my journal or VERY (in caps) few people for feedback so I can either leave it or make my final edits.


It has been a week since George Floyd was horribly murdered. I’ve seen protest footage that made me pretty emotional. This terrible mistreatment of the African American community rightfully so upsets us, as it should. I keep thinking, “What if this happened to Dad or to any of my friends?” George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery were someone’s friend. Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd were a part of someone’s family. You don’t need to see any video to know what happened was wrong. Hearing it brings up the same emotions. Hearing for blind people is your version of seeing. We still say words like see or watch though, promise. I will never forget watching CNN Friday as protesters caused a ton of violent destruction. As a blind woman, I particularly like CNN for their descriptive reporting. Politics aside, I personally feel like they do a great job of taking people to places and the reporters describe everything, as well as the descriptive reporting from the reporter back in the studio. I also saw footage last night from NBC. No matter your favorite news outlet, no matter whether you’re living in a red or blue state, no matter what side of the isle you are on, violence and destruction in my opinion is never the answer. I have seen people on social media say riots are the way to bring about change. I’m not here to push politics or force my opinion on you, but people like George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery were terribly killed. Why would people who were murdered want people to protest with violence when violence is the very thing that took their lives? As a blind woman, I can empathize with discrimination. I also know though that I’m privileged because I’m a white woman. We need to be using our white privilege to show we fully believe justice needs to be served, but black, white, blind, sighted, whatever it is, we are all the same. Last time I checked, we all go to bed and wake up each morning the same way. When the CNN Center was damaged and the Amni Hotel was vandalized, the reporter had to change location because he and his team were no longer safe. He was telling Chris Cuomo how he has a wife and a daughter he’d like to get home to. A reporter was arrested for being black. Would that have happened if that same reporter was white? No. I never imagined racism would still be an issue in 2020, but it is and it needs to change. No matter who we are, we all have someone we call family. We all have those friends we know we’d never make it without. You know right now reading this there’s people who just popped into your head. I keep repeating myself here because this is so important. I may not be as big as blind advocates like Molly Burke or Joy Ross, but I believe whether our platform is big or small, we need to be using it for good. I know people are angry. Throwing water bottles, causing fires and breaking windows is not the answer.


If you are upset like me and want your voice to be heard in a peaceful way, please join me in signing petitions like this

and like this.

You can also read about how you can send an email demanding that justice be served here.

I’m going to put the following hashtags in caps because when they are written that way it is easier for screen reading software to read them for people who need that.















Sign these petitions, send an email and join me in letting your voice be heard.

Guys, please be kind to each other.

Miranda ❤

Perkins Career Launch Day 2


Hey guys!

It has been forever since I’ve last posted about my time at Perkins last June. To recap, please see my post about test drive two, day one, here.

For a brief post about some funny moments that happened throughout the week, see

I have very purposefully waited a while to post about the rest of my experience with the test drive. I wanted to give enough time after my time at the school to make sure my thoughts and feelings were still the same. While we can’t control how others respond, I wanted to give people who might read this time, too. Let’s be clear. Perkins has done a lot for me and I appreciate all of it. I too, have done a lot for them, so I know from personal experience how the school has evolved. Last June taught me firsthand how Perkins has completely changed. I know I am taking a risk here because let’s be honest, it’s Perkins. Openly discussing flaws about such a famous school can have a lot that comes with it. I’d rather people know the truth and not support something then donate because they were given false ideas. I’m not always right, but people have shared my feelings behind closed doors so I know I’m not alone in my thoughts. I pray they get to a place where they can share their feelings. I’ll gladly be the first one to speak out about it. I’d like to thank my friends, Kaylan and Amber, for their support and lending me an ear as I worked through how to put all this together. I didn’t want people to think I was just upset, tired (hardly slept there! All of us found the beds EXTREMELY (in caps for anyone who is blind) uncomfortable) and not taking the new changes well after being away for so long. When you have a disability, you learn people are often quick to hear what you say and automatically start coming up with thousands of reasons why you’re saying what you’re saying. Who can relate? Comment and tell me about it. I still have the same feelings and questions now as I did during the test and after I left. I took a ton of notes and have gone through them all and will do my best to take you through each day. As a writer, it’s my responsibility to share as much as I can and also in tricky topics like Perkins, (or any situation for that matter) to cover both sides of situations the best I can. This will be a longer post, but let’s break it down. I have broken it into sections so you can find topics should you need to finish reading this later. Like I have stated, this was a test, so what they were going over with us was to be taught at a later developed program in September. This test was to get feedback on what worked and what didn’t so they could go ahead with their launch. If anyone is interested in the program, you can find information about it online, along with information about the staff.


Opening and September Program Description

Every morning we started the day with an opening question that was given to us to reflect upon the day before. This particular morning though, we had a conversation about our strengths. I thought this was a good idea because it started the day off on a positive note. It reminded me of one of my favorite people working at the school in Secondary Program (Perkins high school for those who don’t know) who always began our group class (where a few of us would talk about our feelings and give ideas on how to support each other) with having all of us go around and say something positive happening in our life. Even if we were going through a rough patch, she kindly understood, but gave us time to come up with something even if it meant sharing last. I’ll talk about Jen a few times throughout this. I said so many times throughout the week to Amber that Jen should have helped run the program because it wouldn’t be such a mess. Not just because she’s so awesome, but because if anyone had her lead your IEP, (individualized educational plan) you know exactly what I’m talking about. For everyone else, I always felt like she was very organized, clear about expectations and whether she agreed or not, she was always respectful and never mean. During our conversation, we were given a little time to speak in order to stay on schedule but we didn’t always stay exactly on schedule. I spoke about how I felt like I have good communication skills and am good at building relationships. Amber talked about being able to listen to people and relate to them. Each staff person taught different lessons. It seemed like, though, that one had the most which was interesting. We’ll call her A.


They explained to us that the program would give young blind and visually impaired adults the opportunity to learn and practice interview skills so they can land employment. For anyone who doesn’t know, the unemployment rate for the blind is ridiculously low. Amber and I felt like a lot of what we were learning was things we learned in college, (minus the blindness specific things) but I’m glad I had the experience. They talked about the importance of thinking about the way you answer questions in job interviews to show you have confidence. People with disabilities always have to sell themselves in life and interviews are no different. Sure, sighted people need to stand out too, but it’s completely different when you are blind. We spend our whole life proving we belong and I pray this changes someday. Thank God for the few people you have who you don’t have to sell yourself to. And if you don’t have those people in your life yet, I pray you find them. They came for me. They’ll come for you.


We were supposed to visit a company to learn about their work and hear answers to questions but that never happened, so they replaced that with testing another of their lessons. This was good to a degree but appeared to be a last-minute decision. A lead discussions often and we were only aloud to ask questions at the very end with only a few minutes left. Even though this was a test, I felt this was not handled well at all. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I’m not always right, but think about this. If a company backs out, and your back up plan doesn’t work out, you should have a plan c or a plan d. If those don’t work out, okay fine, but people with disabilities have to do this all the time. In fact, we plan so much sometimes we need to be reminded to live. Sighted people don’t plan the same pile of stuff we do. One time in college I was planning out hours with one of my readers because I needed to tell people about them. She asked if we could take it week by week rather than planning so far ahead. Sometimes planning ahead is great, and sometimes you have to slow down. Sometimes yes, life happens. But, when you’re planning a program like this, you need to plan things out and not fly by the seat of your pants all the time. I cannot tell you how many times staff would fly by the seat of their pants. They often would talk in front of us about what to do because something didn’t work or something was off schedule. I know it was just starting and nothing is perfect, but you can only take that so far. And not for nothing, but this is Perkins. Maybe they really are losing money, but really? The problem is, all of the staff in this program were very new to the school and it was very obvious they weren’t aware of the resources around them. We certainly want to give people a chance to learn blindness, but we also need to be smart about who belongs in the field and who really shouldn’t be there. I’m not trying to attack anyone. I’m strictly talking professionalism here. Perkins loves marketing. Having been one of their poster children, I know all too well how they use the blind kids to make people consider being generous with their money. If they can have marketing come to give out free pizza and take photos to make the program look a certain way, they could have worked with marketing to make visiting a company a reality. All they have to do is put out an email or a call to marketing. It’s good PR for the test drive and for the actual program. This is part of why things should have been planned way earlier. Perkins also happens to have a ton of volunteers who could have helped out if this was planned correctly. This isn’t about myself or anybody else being entitled, but it really doesn’t make your program look very good. I realize some people might read this and think I’m complaining (or anyone else who speaks up about this program) but I’m just trying to play devil’s advocate here. If people with disabilities are always expected to plan everything and always expected to be organized, why is the expectation different for staff? I’ll say that again. If a blind person discussed ideas with a person providing services to them ever shared ideas but they were a mess because the person was still working through them, we would never hear the end of how we need to be more organized and plan better. Then they would talk about all the skills we needed to improve on.


They talked about recruiting and about the questions employers may ask to make sure interviewees are best fit for the position, and what employers are looking for from the people they hire. They wanted everyone to think about questions such as how does this information help me, my resume, and my interview skills? What is the company looking for, and how am I matching that? They talked about the importance of asking questions and engaging in your interview.


Hearing From Perkins Panelists

Next, we listened as a panel of mostly sighted staff talked about job experiences. Again, A did most of the asking and wanted to move very quickly. I personally wish we had a little more time with certain speakers. I will say though, even though some of us struggled with A, in a way I do feel for her a little bit. It had to have been really hard to be A. Even though she wasn’t always nice to people, she (and others too) were pretty clueless about the population they were working with. You could clearly tell the staff didn’t quite understand the difference between total blindness and visual impairment. I don’t want to excuse anything, but I also want to acknowledge how hard it must have been to always wonder if you’re sticking to your schedule.


The panel consisted of a security director (we’ll call her Carley), while another trained in assistive technology, (we’ll call them Peter) and another a patient communication manager. They took photos with A, the director of the program, (we’ll call her Megan. Anyone using Jaws, enjoy your laugh since Jaws can’t pronounce Megan spelt that way.) and everyone else. The manager, we’ll call him John, talked about the importance of working on teams. He talked about the importance of connecting with patients through their insurance process. Each speaker talked about their previous careers in customer success. One working in social justice, another a counselor for the blind, among others. One talked about how people thought a blind employee interview would be extra work. One talked about how they used a typewriter to type their answers at Providence College but how they needed help with papers. They talked about struggling at first but eventually found their place on their team of coworkers. They didn’t have paratransit so they needed to use public transportation. Another talked about the importance of knowing who you’re working for as well as the team you are working with. They shared the importance of knowing what kind of employee you want to be and knowing what you can bring to the table for the company. They also said if you find you’re not curious about the company during an interview, ask yourself why not? They also mentioned not to waste time during your interview.


Carley talked about how she made up her job as she went as a security administrator because Perkins didn’t have one. She did her own research and discovered that Perkins had outdated safety documents. She said the most updated document was from 2011. She started in 2016 and talked about how she worked with a woman (who I know by the way and was always great) at Perkins who helped create her job. This is great, but how come Perkins will help a sighted woman make up a job out of nowhere but they have never done this for someone who is blind? When you really talk to people, (yes, I have) you will learn that sadly, Perkins is becoming more like a business these days. One of the speakers who was blind talked about how they had to lower their expectations of sighted people. That’s so sad to me to have to lower your standards. He was used to people handling his blindness well but then discovered that people didn’t understand what blind people are capable of. He talked openly about how the district manager during one of his interviews asked who was going to shave him. Part of me couldn’t believe this. Sighted people would never be asked personal questions like this during job interviews. Part of me did believe it though because I know that blind people aren’t always treated the same. He talked about how blind people can do anything sighted people can. Sure, we do life differently, but we still do life. One talked about the importance of building relationships and being loyal to patients. They talked about not arguing with customers but stating facts to them as they are, and making sure you bring the conversation back to the topic being discussed. They also said not to take it personally when they get upset. He said to remember in moments like that that it’s not you they are upset at, but rather the situation. He explained that each call with people is different so taking time to breathe through difficult calls is important. He discussed the importance of helpful experience and how that might help conversations with customers. I think connection is important no matter if that’s personally or professionally. He mentioned the importance of reading articles on emotional intelligence and the importance of receiving feedback from your supervisor about your behavior. He talked about how both educated and uneducated customers have equal rights to good customer service and the importance of forgiving yourself when you don’t handle situations well. He talked about the importance of how you talk to customers and the body language you are using. Body language is important, and we definitely need to be talking with blind people about this. Some of us might know certain social cues but some blind people are behind on things like this. Not because they’re stupid, but because sometimes you miss a lot when you cannot see. It’s so important to have good sighted (or visually impaired) people you can talk to who can teach you these things. One speaker who is blind talked about how cassette players had just come out and he used readers who were paid to help him but said there wasn’t much accommodations. They talked about the importance of volunteering if you cannot get a job. I think this was great to bring up because I know people who are blind who think volunteering means nothing. I’ve felt that frustration of having lots of volunteer work but having no paid work, so I get that. Experience is experience though and we should never make people feel as if their experiences are not valuable.


I’m going to split day two into two posts, so next we’ll finish talking about the panelists and I’ll share what was discussed in the staff’s session about taking notes.


Thanks so much for reading. I realize people might not like some of the questions I have raised or some of the points I have written about here, but if we don’t speak up about issues or inequality, we’ll get nowhere. Change won’t happen if we keep our mouths closed.

If you want to talk about your experiences with the Career Launch Program or anything related to inequality struggles, let’s connect. I want my blog to be a platform where we can all speak out about the things that matter to us. Find me on Facebook at Miranda Oakley, but if you do, please reach out to me and tell me who you are and how you found me. You can leave me a comment here on my site or you can find me on Twitter at mirandaloakley

My best to you,

Miranda ❤