Be All You Can Be

THOUGHT PROVOKER 85

Be All You Can Be

     “Used that cane to come home, huh.” Said the teens mother as Mike and his travel instructor came through the door. He gave her a “Groan” in response and she looked to the instructor with raised eyebrows.

     “Oh, it was okay.” answered the instructor. “Still refuses to use sleepshades, but we at least met this time.” Mike had skipped several of his travel lessons through the school year and also had‘t always cooperate with his Braille instruction either.

     “Michael, the public is used to seeing people with white canes,” said his mother.

     “It’s not just that!” spoke up Mike. “I can see where I’m going!”

     ”Oh, Honey...” said his mother. She and the teacher exchanged knowing glances. His partial vision did give him some useable travel vision, but not in all situations, nor was it the same each day. Getting him to learn alternative techniques for blindness was an on-going battle between him and the more experienced adults around him.

     Later after dinner, a friend came to visit. “Hey, Mike, my man,” said Jake, sliding the shaft of his telescopic cane up into its handle. He sat next to Mike on the couch where his friend was watching TV. “Man, the bus was a little late. So what is happening? You going to make it over to the mall Saturday?”

     “Think so. My dad says he can work it out to give me a ride.”

     “Mike, Mike, my man. I know the bus isn’t the best option, but it's there. Why wait around, Dude?” said Jake. This was an old topic between the two of them. Mike didn’t often go places on his own unless the route was familiar and conditions were just right. “Hey, remember I told you about this guy I met, goes to North High...? This guy is really something!”

“BEEP, BEEP, BEEP” rang Jake’s cell phone. “This will be him!” Jake flipped open his phone, “Hey! Yeah, man. I’m there now. Yeah, you're not very far from us right now. Here’s the address...”

     “He’s coming over?” Mike said.

     “Yeah man. You've got to meet this guy. He’s got this cool car.”

     “What? I thought you said he was visually impaired?”

     “Yeah, he’s blind...like us. Just can see some. Ha, no way he drives! Wait until he gets here, ask’m what he’s got going.”

     Minutes later, the doorbell rang. “Mike, I’m Carlos. Nice to meet you,” said the newcomer, shifting his cane to his left side in order to shake hands. “This is my friend, Karma. She’s my driver for the night.”

     Later in the car, driving to a local teen club, Mike

said, “WOW, this is the way to go! How’d you get this together, Carlos?”

     “J O B.” Carlos spelled out. “But first, you've got to get it all going for you; the visual and the non-visual stuff. You gotta be all you can be. Like pay your blindness dues, if you know what I mean.”

RESPONSES
e-mail responses to newmanrl@cox.net

**1. WOW! I was there! A decade ago I was that partially sighted, partially blind punk of a kid. I didn’t want anything to do with the blind community. I didn’t want to be seen as being different. I wanted to be like everyone else. It was through a couple of new blind friends, people who were also partially blind/sighted like me, that I learned that being like other people didn’t mean that you also needed to see as good as them! Sightedness or blindness doesn’t need to be and shouldn’t be allow to be the measuring stick by which a person is judged. Who you are, is in what you believe about yourself, in the confidence you show and is in what you do for others and it is not how you do stuff and of what you look like (unless you are in a specific beauty contest and you aren’t), etc.

Learning all the skills I needed to be all I could be was not tough; once I realized it was needed. I now use my vision where it works good and I employ non-visual skills where they work best. I have the best of two worlds rolled up into making one beautiful ME. (“Best of two worlds” is a reference to the sighted and the blind worlds and I am not sure I like using that thought. Because, this is just one world we live in, the now, the ME and I am all that I am.)

I do encourage anyone struggling with their blindness to find their way. Find the path to accept and work with all of yourself. That is how you can become all you can be.

Ron Mississippi

**2. First off I am gainfully employed and I am totally blind. Well I have a tiny bit of light perception but that doesn't count for much I don't think anyway
for me it doesn't.
First off the phrase "travel instructor" always makes me picture a NFB rehab training center set-up. I attended one of these centers for about three months
when I 17 and I have more negative experiences than positive experiences. I won't go into that though. Anyway I have always insisted that I work with
a certified orientation and mobility specialist as opposed to a "travel instructor". It's just a personal preference thing to me.
The reference to the sleep shades also reminded me of the NFB rehab training center program I attended. I have always questioned the point of those sleep
shades especially for people who have some usable vision as it seemed the main character Mike in the provoker had some remaining vision. I think if people
have the vision (if their eye condition isn't going to get worse) then they should learn to use the vision they have efficiently and effectively.
I thought it was funny the part about waiting for Mike's father to take him to the mall and that he could take the bus instead. This" funny to me because
I constantly wait for Para transit so I would much rather wait for someone to pick me up like a driver than to have to constantly be at mercy of Para transit.
I liked how the character Carlos had a driver exposing MIKE to another mobility idea. I have hired a driver in the past but currently choose to stay
with Para transit because it is cheap only $.35 one way to anywhere on this tiny island of Guam.
I think people who have disabilities or really anyone rather they have a disability or not need to eventually accept and be happy with their strengths and
weaknesses. This works in the category of those blindness skills. Be happy with your strengths if you want to improve on the areas you have weaknesses
in it fine if you don't that's okay too. Be happy with your own independence and your dependence. Everyone in society depends on each other in one way
or another.
Okay enough of my philosophy stuff.

Lisa
Braille Teacher
Guam

**3. I very much enjoy Dr. Newman’s thought provokers. This
time was no exception. However, I do want to pose a
thought here and hopefully in so doing, solicit the
comments of others.

The author writes the thought provoker in such a way
that it appears as if all blind people have ready
access to public transportation. In many cases, that
is definitely the case. But for others among us, for
reasons of proximity to place of employment or other
factors, the bus simply isn’t an option. Id give just
about anything to be in a position to take the bus to
a variety of destinations as I did while attending a
large university for graduate school. Unfortunately,
I, like many others who are non-drivers,, work in a
suburban area.

The author also has his blind character surrounded by
friends his own age who are also blind. It would be
wonderful to pay your blindness dues along with others
who were also blind--something that would make you
feel like you weren’t alone. Perhaps before the days of
mainstreaming, this was a more realistic scenario. But
today, with public schools mainstreaming one or two
blind students in a neighborhood school type of
setting, I don’t sense this occurring with any degree
of frequency.

The author also portrays the blind characters as
having model, age-appropriate social skills. Again,
once in a great while, this definitely occurs. But Id
venture to say that many more blind teenagers do not
have the ability to interact so appropriately in a
social setting.

Someone please tell me I’m wrong. Please also note that
this is not a criticism in any way, shape or form of
all of you wonderful TVIs who do the very best you
possibly can each and every day. It is simply the way
I’ve come to perceive the situation. I admit to
probably being more open and honest about my
perceptions than are the majority of individuals who
are blind who frequent this list. I'm not quite sure
whether or not this is a good thing. But for better or
worse--there you have it.

Kimberly Morrow, Ph.D.
Communications Specialist
http://www.unityworldhq.org
AERnet list

**4. I suppose if your eyes are bad enough and you really cannot work as fast and as effectively as you need then that is when you must learn both ways of performing your duties of life. I get tired of all these knowing professionals in rehab telling us who have useable vision that we need to learn Braille and the cane. I have a choice and it is my life. I feel more sighted than I feel blind and so I should be allowed to be who I choose to be.

Mary Best USA

**5. Like all Thought Provokers, I find this a rather interesting one. This one, though, I find most interesting at this time, as it relates to something
that happened a few weeks ago. because one of the passengers on the city bus, who happens to be blind, doesn't have Internet access, I looked up some
information on a CD for her. When I gave her the information in Braille and I told her that she could go to our local music store at the mall to have
them special order it, the first thing she told me was that she would have to find someone to give her a ride to the mall. I found this comment rather
interesting, as the bus drops off and picks up right at the mall door. The first thing I thought of was that the other blind people I've met on the city
bus went all over the place on their own and asked for assistance when they needed it in the same way I do. I've been to most of the stores in the mall,
but despite getting lost quite a few times and still getting lost in it to this day, I still go anyway as I confidently do. It's not that the mall is
anywhere as big as the Mall of America, but the hustle and bustle of people coming and going sometimes distorts my sound cues to the point that I end up
having to get directions or have someone take me to the particular store. I would have offered to take her to the mall, but, like Mike, this blind gal
only travels routes familiar to her and as conditions are right. To me, this blind gal is no different than any of the rest of the sighted public or the
rest of us blind people that she couldn't travel as independently, using the methods the rest of us learn. Even if she's never learned or had the opportunity
to improve the skills of independent travel, there are many opportunities for her to do such by hooking up with some of us blind folks and running around
town with us.
I understand that in both Mike's case and the similar case I encountered a few weeks ago, there may be feelings of shame about their blindness and self-consciousness.
If given the right circumstances of good role models both Mike and this gal on the bus could gain the level of independence and self-confidence we highly
independent and confident blind people have acquired over the many years of experiences. The other key to opening the door of being all that you can be
is for people like Mike and the gal on the bus to be willing to advance themselves beyond having to depend on parents and other relatives to give them
rides all over the place despite the bus system being available. Yes, there are times when getting a ride from someone is more convenient than taking
the bus, but the level of independence and gaining self-confidence can still be acquired. Carlos's friend or Mike's dad could give everyone a ride to
the mall, but everyone goes their own direction or hangs out together once they get there. If everyone hangs out together, however, everyone is interdependent,
not totally dependent on someone else to do all the work. Likewise, the gal on the bus could get a ride to the from a relative or friend, but she can
walk into the music store on her own to order her CD or do other shopping throughout the mall yet still be independent--picking out what she wants to buy,
etc.
I think that the gist of this whole Thought Provoker is that you can be all that you want to be only if you want to be. However, the more you can be,
the more self-confidence you will have.

Linda USA

**6. I think that in order for people to really be who they can be, the so-called VR professionals and others out there absolutely have to stop playing
the judging game and being so biased, say in favor of one way to do things over another. After all not everyone is the same, and not everyone performs
at the same skill level. Traveling is a perfect example. I for one am not close to public transit, so I have to rely on my parents or other sighted family
members or friends to get me places. If they cannot do this I take cabs. I used to be a paratransit rider, but I found the service to be a nightmarish
voyage. Believe me, I can tell you all horror stories about paratransitHello. I think that in order for people to really be who they can be, the so-called VR professionals and others out there absolutely have to stop playing
the judging game and being so biased, say in favor of one way to do things over another. After all not everyone is the same, and not everyone performs
at the same skill level. Traveling is a perfect example. I for one am not close to public transit, so I have to rely on my parents or other sighted family
members or friends to get me places. If they cannot do this I take cabs. I used to be a paratransit rider, but I found the service to be a nightmarish
voyage. Believe me, I can tell you all horror stories about paratransit, but I'll spare you I guess. At a former job as a receptionist, I would often ask
one of my co-workers for rides back home at the end of the workday, and most of the time they could spin me home for free. However, there were not only
times when these co-workers were busy, but one of the co-workers used a wheelchair to get around and her mother was always having to help the two of us.
She would have to guide me to the van, and then she would have to open the lift so her daughter could wheel herself in. Sometimes this co-worker's brother
would come along and help, but he often had after-school activities and we were therefore shorthanded. I felt kind of like I was being a burden to them
at times, but then again I did not have the right amount of money every time for a cab. I think my co-workers all understood this. After all, this job
was mainly a volunteer position, but I did get paid for a little while. That's another story though. I'll just say it had nothing to do with me personally,
or my job performance. I am moving into an apartment soon, which is in an unfamiliar area. My parents and I have driven past the area, and I have had a
bird's-eye view of the surroundings, but I've never traveled in the area by myself. I'm told it is rather busy, especially now because of construction.
I am going to share the apartment with somebody who is visually-impaired and also uses a cane. We have tried to contact our VR agency to set up some O&M
instruction, but they have never responded. As a matter of fact, when I brought up my move to the VR agency a while ago my one counselor immediately dismissed
it as being of no significance at all. I should mention here that I have no job right now but I'm working towards that I think, so yes this arrangement
has a lot of significance because I need services. I think this kind of attitude taken by VR agencies clearly illustrates the fact that we need to do away
with the one-size-fits-all mantra, somehow, some way. If everyone were exactly the same, and if everybody did things exactly alike, life would be pretty
dull and boring.

Jake Joehl, Chicago, Illinois