Near the end of my sophomore year of high school, I take placement tests to prepare for advanced courses as an upperclassman. Although the scores demonstrate my ability to perform well in my desired classes, two instructors are unwilling to provide me with the same reasonable classroom accommodations I routinely received previously from others.
I was looking forward to an incredible senior year, filled with creative and challenging classes. Now, I am SO frustrated!
There is no protocol in place to address this issue, no legislation enforced to ensure my accommodation requests are met. This is roughly uncharted territory. I am among the first students who are blind to solely attend public school in our district. This is truly the icing on the cake of my high school experience.
Tired of busting my butt to fit in, I forego my junior year by taking correspondence courses
I graduate from high school at sixteen and begin attending my local university immediately.
Our campus hosts one of the nation’s first wheelchair basketball programs, and is renowned for its wheelchair accessibility, attracting students with a variety of disabilities from across the country. I’m no longer the only novelty on campus. It’s soon apparent how much more comfortable people are in their own skin here and, as a result, how much more accepted I feel.
Though it’s second nature to me, it’s still exhausting to expend so much energy trying to compete on an uneven playing field with my sighted, able-bodied competitors. The vast majority of my college friends are able-bodied.
I eventually develop one group of friends who have a variety of disabilities. We are kindred spirits with an unparalleled camaraderie. Our bond is forged of the common experience of living in a world where we are judged by the limitations of our bodies, rather than the strengths we possess or the quality of our character.
It’s refreshing to let my guard down…and not always try to pass for having a usable degree of sight. Because we each have different disabilities, we each have unique strengths and talents to offer the group. We each bear the burden of soliciting extra help daily, so are often able to anticipate, and offer assistance to one another before requests have to be voiced.
Regardless, this is one place where we all feel safe needing and asking for help. Our little interdependent microcosm absolves the one in need of the drudgery of soliciting assistance, while affording all of us the joy of blessing one another by paying it forward, an opportunity seldom presented in interactions with able-bodied family and friends.
One of my friends who has a spinal cord injury and is paralyzed from the neck down, guides me by letting me grab the back of his wheelchair when we walk across campus. He gives verbal directions to his liquor cabinet and teaches me how to mix drinks.
Maybe I’ll get a guide dog someday…Not now. I’m still trying to figure out who I am, apart from, and with, my disability. For now, having a guide dog would be like having a neon sign over my head announcing: “Blind Person,” with an arrow pointing downward.
Copyright (C) 2014 Donna Anderson. All Rights reserved.