Blind People Should

A few years back, there was a flash blog event that had autistic bloggers all finish the sentence “Autistic people should …”. I think the reason was to counter the hurtful search suggestions that Google made when people typed in “autistic people should”. I was reminded of this event when I read this weeks #theprompt, which is “should”.

I was also reminded of my own preconceived ideas about what disabled people should. A few days ago, I wrote to a disability support group on Facebook about feeling like I was setting a bad example for the disability community because I don’t work and spent years in an instituton. Shouldn’t I have to explain why I can’t work or live fully independently? The short answer is: no.

I was feeling like I should have a disability label to justify my every need because of what I learned whilst being part of E-mail groups run by the National Federation of the Blind, one of the two major organizations of the blind in the United States. This was in the early 2000s, mostly before I’d been diagnosed with autism. What I learned was that blind people, unless they have severe additional disabilities, which I’ll address later, should be able to achieve as much as sighted people do. For example, we should be able to read at the same speed, get around with a white cane completely independently, go to college (I think I picked up the term “college-bound” there), be employable, etc. I can’t do or be any of these things. Keeping the bar of expectations high was the motto of the parents’ organization of the NFB or so it seemed. I always imagined a candy bar put up on a star light years away and me being told to reach for the stars.

Sometimes, when people judged blind children or adults they only knew through newspaper articles not to be independent enough, someone would come up with the get-out-of-jail-free pass: “Maybe the person has additional disabilities?” This is a real possibility, since strangers usualy assume my every impairment is due to blindness despite my additional disabilities, so I assume newspaper reporters are no different. Yet does it matter? Should it? Apparently, sometimes.

In an old (like, late 1990s) issue of Future Reflections, the NFB’s magazine for parents of blind children, a blind adult reported his shame when he crticized parents of blind teenagers for not taking their teens to a seminar on independence. It turned out he was speaking to a roomful of parents of teens with multiple disabilities, so obviously they couldn’t bring their teens. I assume most of these teens had the type of disability that seems to have a monopoly on the term “multiple disabilities” when additional disabilities are involved: severe intellectual disability. After all, when I played the additional disabilities card after my autism diagnosis in 2007, I was told to look up Temple Grandin.

I may sound bitter and I shouldn’t be. After all, I do get the services I need now, even though they cater to, well, people with severe intellectual disabilities. That being said, I know I’m incredibly privileged now to have found my particular care agency, because most others would try to fit me into the mentally ill mold or the blindness mold or any other not-completely-fitting mold rather than looking at my needs.

This all brings me to my point, which is that blind people, autistic people, any kind of disabled people, any kind of people in fact, should not have to justify their needs. We are all human and all different, after all.

mumturnedmom

3 thoughts on “Blind People Should

  1. “Shouldn’t I have to explain why I can’t work or live fully independently? The short answer is: no.”

    If I want to explain, you want the explanation and you are entitled/have a right to that explanation, I will give it. Otherwise – it is a gift. And with gifts I expect no reprisals and am not responsible for them.

    “This is a real possibility, since strangers usualy assume my every impairment is due to blindness despite my additional disabilities, so I assume newspaper reporters are no different. Yet does it matter? Should it? Apparently, sometimes.”

    It does matter because of services and treatments and prejudices which come much more with one impairment than with the common experience of disability and ability. And, yes, newspaper reporters are no different.

    And “what caused your blindness,” some rude stranger or acquaintance might ask? This October it is Prematurity Awareness Month in my country.

    “In an old (like, late 1990s) issue of Future Reflections, the NFB’s magazine for parents of blind children, a blind adult reported his shame when he crticized parents of blind teenagers for not taking their teens to a seminar on independence. It turned out he was speaking to a roomful of parents of teens with multiple disabilities, so obviously they couldn’t bring their teens. I assume most of these teens had the type of disability that seems to have a monopoly on the term “multiple disabilities” when additional disabilities are involved: severe intellectual disability. After all, when I played the additional disabilities card after my autism diagnosis in 2007, I was told to look up Temple Grandin.”

    Would you have already found Dr Grandin? And when you realised that, for instance, you were more like Donna Williams/Polly Samuel, who is far better known in the European circles you and I would mix in.

    And teens with multiple disabilities have been some of the most emotionally independent and resilient people I know even though physical and social and familial independence may be hard for them in the mainstreamed world most Blind people move in or are expected to move in. I grab on that every day.

    Cognitive impairment, it is true, and perhaps forms of brain injury like cerebral palsy and all the neurological impairments. And wasn’t the connection between blindness and autism reasonably well-known by this time? Especially as it came to savant skills like music and calendar calculation?

    “I may sound bitter and I shouldn’t be. After all, I do get the services I need now, even though they cater to, well, people with severe intellectual disabilities. That being said, I know I’m incredibly privileged now to have found my particular care agency, because most others would try to fit me into the mentally ill mold or the blindness mold or any other not-completely-fitting mold rather than looking at my needs.”

    Yes! Facilities like this know how to be flexible and humane and person-centred. A lot of us do have *functional* severe intellectual disabilities/difficulties. And your agency is great from what you’ve written about it before.

    #blindpeopleshould #blindpeopledo

    Like

  2. Absolutely, we are all different, and we shouldn’t have to justify that to anyone. We should expect to be respected and treated well, no matter what. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with #ThePrompt, and I’m so sorry that it’s taken me so long to comment! I’ve had an incredibly busy couple of weeks x

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s