What the Gift of Disability Has Taught Me – Part Two

Disability is often perceived as a negative, but in this two-part series, four blind and visually impaired people share their thoughts on the many positives of disability. Our second segment features writers Kathie Schneider and Annika Konrad. Disability has affected their lives in different ways, but for both, it has molded them into the people they are today.

‘Equal Opportunity Day’ Provides Funny Moment

By Kathie Schneider

One of the gifts of my blindness is the funny things that happen as I interact with sighted folks.

For example, I was walking to Mass this winter, guided by my seeing-eye dog, proceeding slowly and carefully because of patchy ice covered by new snow. Several people commented: “Be careful. It’s icy.” To one man, I replied, “It’s equal opportunity day; nobody knows where the ice is today.”

I need to go slowly all winter because I don’t know where the ice is, but suddenly my reality had become sighted people’s reality too.  He laughed appreciatively as he slipped on his way.

On the Outside Looking In

By Annika Konrad

I often imagine what my life would be like if I weren’t visually impaired. I usually envision myself in the driver’s seat of a car, wearing cool, black sunglasses with my left hand at twelve o’clock and my other hand controlling the music. Earlier in my life a similar fantasy involved a silver convertible and long, shiny blonde hair, but I suppose my dreams have become more realistic.

I also imagine that my social life would be different. I imagine myself saying hi to everyone I see on the streets or in hallways, and not having to worry about being perceived as standoffish and aloof. I imagine myself walking into a bar or restaurant and being able to immediately find my friends. I imagine myself driving to visit a friend in another city, or even taking a longer road trip.

But then I remember all the things I wouldn’t have access to if I weren’t visually impaired. I wouldn’t know how to go beyond what I call “can and can’t do thinking.” I wouldn’t be able to imagine creative and flexible options for doing things. I wouldn’t have met so many wonderful people, with and without disabilities, who really understand what it feels like to be on the outside looking in. Because the thing is that being on the outside looking in, which turns out to be a pretty interesting vantage point. I wouldn’t have as much faith in people’s abilities. I wouldn’t understand how systems need to change in order to make things possible for people. And most importantly, I wouldn’t often mistake my cat for a pile of clothing and accidentally throw her off the bed.

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