So You Have a Disability? Part 3

Snellen

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

Part 3

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

“…we all fell in love with the notion that college was one big party and after four years of non stop fun and pranking you were sent out into the world and given a job…very wrong, and even more wrong for a disabled person.”

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 teenage years, this article will be focusing more on my adult life leading to now.  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.

College is not what you see in the movies and on television, I really do not think the makers of the show “Greek” understand that putting sigmas as the letter E’s makes it say “Grssk.”  Anyway, we all fell in love with the notion that college was one big party and after four years of non stop fun and pranking you were sent out into the world and given a job…very wrong, and even more wrong for a disabled person.  Unfortunately unless you fall into a very specific category you do not get preferential treatment or aid of any kind inside or outside of college.  I found that out very soon after I attended my first few classes as a freshman, I would go speak to professors and inform them that I had a disability and would need help; some would have no problem, others simply told me, go to disability services its not my problem.  Needless to say I made friends in classes fast, and after jumping through a dozen hoops and getting nowhere I washed my hands of disability services (if its government funded expect red tape…lots of red tape).  The Profs and fellow students who would help me soon became part of my large and growing circle of best friends.

When I was a sophomore I decided to take an accounting class.  I had an excellent teacher, but my disability held me back.  Instead of seeking help from my professor or other students I decided I would try to deal with this on my own, I unfortunately was going through a bit of a rough patch at the time, and it only led to my own demise.  The professor insisted on using excel on a projector on a screen twenty feet away from me and the font on the spreadsheet was about size 20 on a computer screen…so quite difficult to see for those with eagle eye vision let alone horrible vision.  My first test I got a 50% on (my first F in college), so I buckled down and beat accounting into my brain for a month until test two…which I got a 25% on…I was done.  I went to my professor and apologized and begged for help or a class drop, she was gracious enough to let me drop the class at no penalty to me.  Moral of the story is accounting is horrible, but also do not let your disabilities stand in between you and success.  I was a fool, there is no other way to word it, I could have found a dozen ways to help myself and pass the class but I was a foolish child and failed.  I think that was the day I realized that I had become an adult, I had no one to blame but myself and I took it like a man.  I stuck my nose in books from then on and pulled my grades up significantly.

Another part of being disabled is being humble, I knew so many people in college who used their disabilities as crutches to make sure they got their way when dealing with classes and professors, it was disgusting.  I can honestly say I never used my disability to my advantage to avoid work; meanwhile I would see people come in late to class saying that they could not finish their paper because they ran out of their concentration medication, then overhear them after class laughing about how they got so drunk or stoned last night they could not even remember how they got home.  I spent all night straining my horrible eyes reading and writing and got the assignment done on time, they got a couple more days.  I actually witnessed a student lie about being dyslexic to a math teacher in order to get more points on a math test, everyone knew he was not dyslexic and he boasted about using that excuse many other times with other professors.

You as the reader may say “why should a disabled person be humble?”  Because, it could always be worse, whenever I see people worse off than I am in terms of disability I thank the stars that I am who and what I am.  We should be happy we are alive, everyone has some type of abnormality, it may not always be physical but perhaps emotional or psychological.  Encourage others with disabilities, but more importantly if you are disabled encourage yourself.  Understand that you are here for a reason, everyone has a calling of some sort, some people do not find theirs out until they are 40 or 50 years old, others know when they are 10…everyone is different.

Being disabled changes potential career choices, but it is not a death knell for your life as a professional.  I went through a hundred career choices growing up because I would find out with my disabilities I could not do many different jobs.  But I soon found out there are hundreds if not thousands of opportunities for people of all disabilities, so buck up!  I have had terrible luck finding a good job, and I found that once offered the opportunity I truly enjoyed writing, and thus here I am writing as much as I can as often as I can about subjects that mean something to me as a person.  We all find out what we are good at eventually, it just takes time, patience, and an ounce of humility and before you know it you will have a job you will never want to take a day off from until they force you to use your vacation time.

photo by Daniel Novta CC BY 2.0

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