Society likes to label and categorize people, especially at first glance. Out in society I’m the “blind girl” but that doesn’t define who I am as a person. Of course I do have vision limitations, and that has caused many obsticles in my life; however, it’s important to distinguish the difference between my blindness and the obstacles it has caused. My blindness is not who I am, but the obsticles I have overcome because of my blindness have molded me into the person I am today.
When I was in elementary school I had trouble admitting my limitations, and at times I would try to hide it. Back then my vision was a lot better, I was born with vision problems but the eye condition I have just gets progressively worse over time. So because at that time I could hide my disability, I did so as much as I could. I never wanted to “stick out” which meant I never used a cane, and I never used my adaptive technology in public. This lasted up until the fourth grade. At that point my vision started to change more and I was able to hide it less and less. I started using a machine that enlarged my work so that I could see it. When that happened, I shut myself out, and usually just did my work and didn’t talk to anyone. In 5th grade I started to get a little used to using my adaptive technology in public and didn’t close myself off so much. That quickly changed halfway through 6th grade when I lost complete sight in my left eye. I woke up one morning and couldn’t see anything out of my left eye, just like that from one day to the next. I had always known that I could eventually lose sight in one or both eyes but knowing and experiencing something are completely different. When it happened, I again shut myself out and soon went into a depressed state. I started writing my experience with vision loss and turned it into a book. My school district had a writing competition called Young Author’s Celebration, and I ended up submitting my piece. Writing my experience down helped me cope with losing sight in my left eye.
High school was a nightmare for me. My freshman year wasn’t so bad. My teachers were understanding and quick to make accomodations for me. The issues began my sophmore year when I started having eye pain after doing a lot of reading which made it difficult for me to complete assignments. During the first half of the year I pushed through the pain, but eventually I was just making the situation worse. Because I was pushing myself to continue reading even when I began having eye pain, the eye pain soon turned into horrible migraines. My teachers (some not all) were not so understanding of my situation. Now that I’m older I realize that they didn’t know better, but too “proud” to admit their ignorance. A meeting was held with all the teachers as well as myself and my mom; it was decided that I would be given less work (for example if it was a worksheet with 20 problems, it should be reduced to 10). Most of the teachers followed this, however 2 of them didn’t and it was starting to affect my grades. Then there was the Pre-SAT exam… someone requested my accomodations too late, so I had to take that long exam (which was supposed to be read to me) without any accomodations and because that test had so much reading, it caused my eye pressure to sky rocket. My pressure was so high that I needed surgery to help bring it down. When my mom found out what happened at school, she was very upset and called for an emergency meeting. After that meeting, it was determined that I should no longer be doing any type of school work visually.
I then had to learn how to type non visually, and I also had to learn a screen reading program called JAWS. The transition from being a visual learner to an auditory learner was extremely difficult. Especially with very visual subjects such as math. My experience my sophomore year was very hard to manage, at one point dropping out of school even crossed my mind. But I have never been the type to give up. Instead, I found a way to graduate early.
I’ve talked about the difficulties I’ve had to overcome, but now I’d like to shift gears and talk about the accomplishments I’ve made because of those challenges. Despite the challenges I was facing, I gave back to the community by volunteering, which has brought me much joy even to this day. I also ran track my freshman year. I graduated at the end of my junior year, as a member of the National Honor Society. My experience during my sophmore year motivated me to do everything in my power to graduate early. I had enough credits, and the only requirement I had to complete was English 12, which I took in the summer. I then took a semester off and then started college in the spring of 2018. My experiences have motivated me to study social work, my plan is to get a masters degree in social work and become a clinical therapist. I currently volunteer at my former high school helping the blind students that are there. I never thought I’d step foot in that building again, but I know what it’s like to “stick out” and I know what its like to deal with the frustrations of teachers not being accommodating to your needs. That’s why I go there, every week giving either adaptive help or emotional support in hopes that I make their high school experience a little better than mine.
In January of this year (2019), I lost the rest of my vision. It was a hard adjustment, but luckily I was prepared and worked hard with a orientation & mobility instructor to be able to travel confidently. Now i’m ready for a guide dog, and that is what this blog is all about!