So You Have a Disability? Part 2

Snellen

A Blind Man’s Insights into Daily Life for a Disabled Person

Part 2

 By: Mark Stanford, Master of Arts in Teaching-MAT

Being a teenager is tough, now multiply that by two and you just entered the life of a disabled teen…it’s not fun.

My name is Mark, I am a masters degree holding teacher with some training in special education, but more importantly I am colorblind and legally blind. In my last piece I covered my early life, this article will be focusing more on my teenage years and early adulthood.  The most important part of this entire piece is this disclaimer; please read this before reading any further: All stories I tell about myself are meant to be taken lightly.  Please do not consider this a rant of a bitter, disabled man.

Probably everyone who reads this will have already gone through puberty, is going through it, or has children or knows children currently going through it, so the number one thing to do is be kind and understand that they, or you, are a hormonal mess and have little or no self control over their emotions. I was no different than any other teen, except for one major factor, I was practically blind.  I started my teenage years, in a slight depression that worsened as I neared the age of 15, which in the United States and more specifically in the rural south is the beginning of your freedom because you can get your driver’s license.  In short, I did not and still do not qualify for a license. I am living in the worst place for an immobile blind person to live, so those of you who live in a city and hate public transportation, remember it’s better than sitting at home and begging for rides from people.

What you as the reader need to understand is if you have a disability, have disabled friends or family, you will need to build a support system.  I was lucky enough to make some of the best lifelong friends, who would help me at the drop of a hat.  If you do not have a support system you will fail in life as a person with a disability.  If you have a disabled child, who will not be able to drive in the future and you know it, address it with them sooner rather than later. I basically figured it out the hard way one day that there was no way I was going to be able to drive.  This hits hard for many teenagers, they may even be depressed for a while about it, but do not let that make you feel bad. Even at twenty-six years old, I still get depressed from time to time because of my problems.

As I grew up, I began to find reasons why driving was not worth it and eventually overcame my depression as I exited my teenage years.  Look at it like this:

  1. No car payment
  2. No car insurance payment
  3. No risk of DUI
  4. No cost of gas (unless you are a good friend like me and chip in some gas money occasionally)
  5. Never the designated driver
  6. Get to the front of lines at amusement parks and theme parks if you make enough of a fuss
  7. Play off of women’s sympathies to score dates
  8. Lets face it, while being alone on occasion is great, it’s more fun to be with friends when going places
  9. No cost of car repairs
  10. If you find a significant other, who likes you enough and does not care about your disability, congratulations because in today’s superficial society you hit the jackpot and you need to put a ring on it

I have been lucky enough in my life to have friends, who instead of ignoring my problems, openly discuss and joke about them, which is personally how I like it.  I would rather people poke fun about me not seeing something than treat my disability like the elephant in the room.

As much as this sounds like a lawsuit television commercial, if you or someone you know has disabilities do not turn your back on them and help to build their support system.  Make friends fast and ask them for help, if they really are your friends they will not hesitate to help you even if it means they will not be able to do something for themselves.  I have had many friends put their lives on hold to help me in the past.  I had a friend, and fraternity brother, have me to his pre-wedding festivities with the bridal party even though I was not part of the wedding because it was the only way I would be able to go to his wedding.  Another brother, who was a groomsman in the wedding, took me down there to spend the weekend with friends and family, who I did not even know.  They took me in as though I was one of their own children, I felt so blessed and honored that they considered me so important to them that they would go out of their way to accommodate ME of all people.  When I was in high school my friendships got so close that before I could even speak up in a class to tell a teacher I could not see or read something they had written on the board, half of the class would blurt out “MARK CAN’T SEE THAT”, and instead of being embarrassed I was PROUD to have such great friends, who were thinking of me as much as they did and still do to this day.

 

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