How My Family Helps Me Feel Included

For those of you who don’t know (I don’t think I’ve mentioned it in previous posts) I’ve been blind practically my whole life. I had vision for the first month, so obviously I don’t remember that. This is the life I’ve known for 26 years, and for the most part, being blind isn’t a hindrance for me. I’ve always believed I can do almost anything anyone else can — partly because that’s how I was raised, and partly just from putting myself out there and experiencing new things.

Having a disability can sometimes make you feel excluded, like you don’t fit in. Everyone is doing these cool things, watching these cool movies, going on these trips, and you can sometimes feel like you can’t do those things. Luckily for me, my family has always included me in movies, activities, and games. I rarely had to opt out of a game because I just wasn’t able to play it.

When going to see movies, I always request a descriptive audio headset. This is a narration of what is going on in the movie when there is no dialog. Countless theaters have disappointed me by either giving me the audio enhancement devices for the hearing impaired (I’m not deaf, I’m blind!) or by giving me an audio description headset with dead batteries.

My family recently started going to a small movie theater they love in St. Charles, Illinois, which is a bit of a drive from where I live. The first time they took me there, the audio description headset worked perfectly. Now, whenever we go see movies, we go a bit out of the way – partly because my parents love that particular theater in St. Charles, and partly because they want to make sure I get the best service. When I’m away at college, I go to another theater near the Northern Illinois University campus in DeKalb that also gives me good service.

My parents have recently turned on audio description themselves when we watch movies at home together. My mom explained it best. “I don’t mind describing, but I don’t know what’s important and what’s not,” she said. “So it’s easier to turn it on so you know what’s important in the movie.”

Most recently, we watched the movie A Quiet Place. Most of the movie is silent, and that silence helps build suspense. My parents had already seen it, and although I wanted to watch it, I expressed concerns about using audio description. I was afraid the audio description would take away their enjoyment of seeing the movie again. My mom assured me it wouldn’t, we watched the movie, and all was good. The description did a great job at allowing a person who is blind to still feel the suspenseful vibe of the movie, and I could enjoy it just as much as my parents did.

When we play games as a family, there are several ways my family accommodates and/or adapts things for me so I can enjoy them just as much as everyone else. Some games, for example, involve drawing a card from the center, so my sister helps me Braille all the cards. Some games involve having a stack of cards to choose from. In this case, one of my family members takes me in another room and reads me 20 cards or so, and I write them down in my Braille note so I know what the cards say. It’s a small gesture, but it makes me feel included every time.

Some people really want to include me in activities they enjoy, but since they don’t have experience making things accessible, they can’t think of ways to adapt something so I can join the crowd. Admittedly, I often opt out of game nights on my floor in my college residence hall because most of the games are visual. For some reason, it’s hard to properly advocate for what adaptations or accommodations I need (or that work) to people who don’t know me very well. My family knows me very, very well, and after a lifetime (well, for my lifetime, at least!) of adapting things for me, they are pros!

It’s easy to feel a little left out when you have a disability, and there have been a few instances where adapting was just not possible and I wasn’t able to participate. But for the most part, whenever possible, my parents will adapt and accommodate what they can. My dad is the one who plans vacations every year, and he’s very good about picking activities where I can join in.

My parents made sure that from a very young age I surrounded myself with a mix of blind and sighted kids, and that meant I grew up with people I could relate to but also wasn’t sheltered and only had blind friends. It’s important to have a healthy balance. Being around other sighted people makes you feel less alone and a little more included, like everyone else.

That’s probably because, when it really comes down to it, you are. You are just like everyone else. You just do things a little differently, and that’s okay.


 

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  1. Marilee Says:

    A strong message that we should all embrace – “ you are just like everyone else. You just do things a little differently, and that’s okay.”


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