“I want you to see more than just my blindness”

If you haven’t signed up to follow BlindBeader’s Life Unscripted blog yet, I highly recommend you do. BlindBeader is a gifted young writer who lives in Edmonton, Alberta, with her husband, 3 cats and guide dog Jenny. This past week a video in honor of World Down Syndrome Day narrated by a young woman who has Down Syndrome (and portrayed by an actress named Olivia Wilde, who does not) motivated BlindBeader to write a post on Life Unscripted about how she herself would like to be seen by others. You can read BlindBeader’s post in its entirety on the Life Unscripted blog – for now, here’s an excerpt.

Do you see me with vision?

by Blindbeader

Blogger BlindBeader and guide dog Jenny waiting for a water taxi during a visit to NYC.

Blogger BlindBeader and guide dog Jenny waiting for a water taxi during a visit to NYC.

I am a woman with a disability. As such, I face many reactions from the general public. It would be a lie if I said these comments and impressions don’t affect me, because they do, no matter how I try and fight it.

Not only do they affect how I see myself, they ultimately affect my livelihood and ability to be autonomous and self-sufficient. So, in a way, I want people to look past my disability, to allow me to make mistakes or succeed on my own merits as a woman, not just settle for “good enough” because of the perception that I can’t do any better because I have a proverbial scarlet D for Disabled tattooed on my forehead.

And yet, I have no desire to hide my disability. This is partly because it’s not possible for me, but it’s also because I feel like I need to live the best life I can — a vibrant, complex, nuanced, full life with blindness — in order to be happy and to embrace all of who I am. The comments and questions and seemingly constant advocacy aren’t ever going to go away, so as I see it, I have two choices:

  1. run and hide and let everyone else fight battles for me, or
  2. prove again and again that there is nothing shameful about being blind, and in fact it has its own advantages.

To ignore my blindness completely is to ignore the one thing in my life that has made me as strong as I am while simultaneously bringing me to my knees.

Actress Olivia Wilde, who does not have Down Syndrome, looking in a mirror. This is a screenscrab from the "How Do You See Me?" video referenced by BlindBeader.

Actress Olivia Wilde in the video titled “How Do You See Me?” for CoorDown’s World Down Syndrome Day campaign.

I want you to see more than just my blindness, to view me as a friend, an employee, an athlete, an entrepreneur, a customer… a human being. Talk to me, and anyone with a disability, as though your comments were directed back at yourself; realize that we are more than just people whose eyes don’t work or who don’t hear well or are unable to walk at all or without significant pain. We share your humanity, enjoy some of your hobbies, have opinions about religion or politics, have hopes and dreams and desires for our lives.

But you don’t need to tiptoe around us, either. Don’t ignore our disability; it is still a part of who we are. In ignoring it, you are in effect not acknowledging the discrimination that we face and the pain and anger that engenders, and can’t truly get to know the completeness of our lives by truly celebrating our successes or picking us up when we’re feeling down.

Do you see me as a woman, with dreams for the future and hopes for tomorrow? A woman who likes hockey, loves running, and makes pretty beaded things? A woman who drinks too much coffee, loves the sound of a recent snowfall, and sings at the top of her lungs when no one’s around to hear her?

That’s great! You see a big part of who I am. Do you see a woman whose eyes don’t work right, who puts labels on her canned goods in her pantry, who navigates the world with a guide dog by her side? A woman who is happy and content with her life, blindness and all, who wants to kick down doors and break down barriers? That’s another part of who I am. You can’t separate one from the other, and yet in a way I need you to.

If all you can see is what doesn’t work (my eyes), then you’re missing out on a wicked Scrabble game, a loyal employee, or someone who will cause you to rethink your view of the world. And if you act like my blindness isn’t there, or is scary and uncomfortable, you’re ignoring a true reality of my existence.

Put the pieces together, take them apart. See me completely, because I can’t envision myself as one person without the other keeping me company.


 

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  1. Beth Finke Says:

    Does your friend know about the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped? The Library of Congress provides a free library service for those of us who are blind –tens of thousands of audio books available tou us free of charge. Listening to books has taught me a lot and made me more curious to get out and do things. If she is already not signed up, check with her local library to register.


  2. Anne Werner Says:

    I have a friend in Salt Lake City, Utah that is blind. After all these years I have known her, has not progressed hardly at all. I would love for her to find new ways to explore new things.


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