So You Have a Disability? Part 4

Snellen

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

Part 4

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

“I am not an old man, I have not led a full life, but I have lived with a disability, and even one day being disabled is like a lifetime for some people.”

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 previous pieces I covered my early childhood, teenage years, and early adulthood, this article will be focusing more on my ongoing struggle to overcome my disabilities.  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.

I am not an old man, I have not led a full life, but I have lived with a disability, and even one day being disabled is like a lifetime for some people.  I look around at the world and wonder what other people see, and they very usually ask me what I see.  Unfortunately, since I have never seen life through your eyes how can you expect me to tell you how it looks through mine.  I hear almost every single day “can you see that?” and I do not hate hearing it, it means I have people who are either curious about what I perceive or who genuinely care about me and my ability to partake in normal everyday things.

While I can not imagine what it is like to have other disabilities, I can say that my unique set of disabilities has given me a unique set of skills.  Being disabled should be about overcoming rather than being overwhelmed.  At a very early age I developed a fantastic memory for learning in school, simply because I could not see what the teacher wrote on the board, and rather than interrupt most times I would simply listen and write everything the teacher said.  I was not afforded disability programs and special education, I made do with what I had, and I did well.  Most of my friends, family, and previous teachers can attest to the fact that I can be stubborn and proud sometimes when it comes to my disability, but I have learned in my age that it is never outside the scope of reason to ask for help.

When I was eighteen years old I was invited to a conference for blind people.  I was the odd man out, plain and simple, when it was discovered that I was only colorblind and had very bad eyesight and was not totally blind I was almost outcast.  Not all of the people at the conference were rude and many were very nice to me, but when some heard of what I had they almost seemed to turn their nose at me for being at THEIR conference, some of the speakers spoke about their blindness like it was a gift from god and that they were better than those who could see.  I was taken aback, rather than offer encouragement to people these speakers were openly condemning those who were NOT disabled, I was ashamed to even be considered one of these people.  I promised myself I would never take part in another one of these “conferences”, that seemed more like pride rallies, and to become a bigger man than those who would so openly advocate hate against other human beings.

With disability comes jealousy, they go hand in hand, even if you are not willing to admit it, it’s the truth.  Everyone experiences jealousy in their lives, for those of us who are disabled we will always be jealous of the abilities that we were born without, or that were taken from us when we least expected it.  It is no person’s fault, no deity’s fault, it is just bad luck; sometimes you have to roll a hard six, but us unlucky ones get snake eyes, and yes that was a pun.

The point I am trying to make is never hold back, look forward towards a dream, and pursue it; but also know your limitations.  Despite what you were told all your life you cannot be ANYTHING, some people are not smart enough to be an astrophysicist, I cannot see well enough to be a professional eighteen wheeler driver, while it is essential to have lofty goals and dreams it is also important to decide what is and is not a good fit for you.  If you are colorblind, a SWAT team bomb diffuser is probably not for you; but who knows, you might be a great artist, and before you go and laugh at that think about this classic example, Ludwig van Beethoven was almost completely deaf by the end of his life but that did not stop him from writing some of the most awe-inspiring classical music known to man.  In conclusion I can only offer this to any and all who might happen to read this article:

“Always aim for the Moon, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

― W. Clement Stone

 

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