Friday, October 31, 2014

Day 31- Luck, Rehabilitation and 1973

There are many job opportunities for the blind and visually handicapped. Doctor, lawyer, musician, artist, teacher, entrepreneur... the limits are only on the person's imagination.
Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 {1} lists the compliance in workplace. Not just compliance, but sets the framework for building a better, more diverse workforce. Inclusion of people with different abilities into any workforce is beneficial for the whole of the economic system.{2} Allowing anyone to have access to a job allows them to have power over their own lives.

Giving access to assistive technology is of the utmost importance to individuals that have either visual or hearing impairment, just as much as railing and wheelchair accessible entries. This can be a huge cost in the beginning, but the benefits are greater employment opportunities and diversity among employees.  Denying the rights of all people, or in other words, non-discrimination is vital to our economy.

Between 2000 and 2010 the poverty level went up by .14% for those with disabilities {3}. That rate might not seem much in the scheme of things, but that rise means that that many more are on assistance of some sort.

In the end, we all pay in the form of taxes. Shouldn't that money be spent in a better form, such as fitting existing business with aids to employee disabled?{4} To me, and this is just my opinion, it would be better in the long run to help employ as many people as possible, no matter which section of the workforce it happens to be. Just the ability to work raises the level of self confidence {5} and in doing so, helps the whole well being of an individual {6}...
 So, this all is great, but how does it affect the individual? I can tell you from my own experiences that being able to work really does help my mental and physical well being. Before, when I first started out needing to work, after the death of my husband, I was terrified. I had no money, I had virtually no experience...

I was already having more and more disruption in my vision... Not knowing where to turn and what is offered to people who are visually impaired is frightening. I didn't have a clue what to do, I needed help, but I didn't know where to turn.
I was just lucky enough to know a person that worked for the local college who knew someone that needed a floral arrangement. The person knew that I had been a florist, way back... and she recommended me. That led to a job with the college teaching Floral Design. I was tremendously lucky. It was of nothing but luck that I got that job. I couldn't function in a floral shop, I couldn't drive everyday, It was sheer luck that I got hired...

There was one more break. My vision was so bad that I had to go to the doctor after only a few months of getting new contacts. I just couldn't see at night. I couldn't drive at all at night, and driving in the daytime was chancy at best. The doctor said that the cataracts had grown so much in the three months since my last checkup that I needed to have them out. I couldn't afford surgery, I could barely feed myself and my son... even with the job at the college. I was only on part time, there was no insurance coverage, I had no means of having surgery... so the doctor referred me to the Division of Blind Services{6}

call that a break? ... I go blind so I get sent to a government agency? But, it was something that helped me tremendously. I was able to have the surgery on my eyes with their help through the Vocational Rehabilitation Program{7}, and they did try to find me a job that was more stable... but I have to say, they didn't really assist me otherwise. I wasn't told that they had a support group that meets each week, they didn't tell me that I could get a lot of help that I could have... I had to hunt all that up on my own.

I did find the National Library Services which helped so much. I wrote about it before on this blog, it is the only way that I can read, which I took for granted before... but after being unable to read for years, I was hungry for knowledge, any book would do.

All in all, the surgery and the subsequent surgeries that I had to have  were well worth the effort, and I have no room for complaints from the agency, but as usual, I do complain. I was rendered unable to work at all after the problem with the retina and the subsequent problems with the cornea... I didn't get picked back up from the agency since this is "unrelated" to the original cataract surgery... so I am on my own now. I have gained a lot of insight from writing this blog, things that I never knew and places I didn't know existed... like the schools that are available to learn not only braille, but that teach you how to cope with the disability{9}, that teach you to be able to work, communicate and live with the abilities you have.

By the way, since going legally blind, I have learned how to make jewelry, work with metal, and how to run a business. The road has been very bumpy and I still balk at asking for help, but the rewards are uncountable. Letting people into my world has been hard for me. I still try to hide the fact that I am legally blind. I still try to act like there are no hindrances for me.... which is utterly silly, but it is not as uncommon as you would suppose. Franklin D. Roosevelt hid the fact that he was bound to a wheelchair{10}.

I am extremely thankful for every bit of vision I have left, and hope that it lasts for a while. I am lucky. I have the chance to learn and grow into what some people are born into. I still can't wrap my mind around what it is to be totally blind. There is no way to know for anyone unless you are totally blind. I admire so many people that function day to day with any impairment. It's tough, and you have to be tremendously brave and strong just to live day to day, accepting help when needed and learning to cope on your own when you can.

Thank you for joining along on this 31 days of exploring, it has been fun as well as educational for me... and a bit trying... Please visit the 31 Days site and visit the other blogs, there are some that are amazing! 

1...US Department of Labor. Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
2...Christopher Button. Reauthorized Rehabilitation Act Increases Access To Assistive Technology.
3... Carmen DeNavas-Walt, Bernadette D. Proctor, Jessica C. Smith.US Census Bureau. September 2012.
4... Tuttle, D.W. (1984). Self-esteem and adjusting with blindness: The process of responding to life’s demands. Springfield, IL: C. Thomas.,+D.W.+%281984%29.+Self-esteem+and+adjusting+with+blindness:+The+process+of+responding+to+life%E2%80%99s+demands.+Springfield,+IL:+C.+Thomas&source=bl&ots=E9Fk8wa2sP&sig=-xUu_ZroFlUBRPbs1XH_7NDdhc4&hl=en&sa=X&ei=kexTVIH5L8SjyAS20oHYCw&ved=0CC8Q6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=Tuttle%2C%20D.W.%20%281984%29.%20Self-esteem%20and%20adjusting%20with%20blindness%3A%20The%20process%20of%20responding%20to%20life%E2%80%99s%20demands.%20Springfield%2C%20IL%3A%20C.%20Thomas&f=false
6... Louisiana Center for the Blind.
76...Texas Department of Assitive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS).
8...Texas Department of Assitive and Rehabilitative Services. Individual Plan for Employment.
9... Hadley  School for the Blind.
10...Ability Magazine.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Day 30-Productivity, Creativity and Eating

Growing up, I never thought about my life being different than other kids. When I was a kid, I thought that I would grow up, be a nurse,  a doctor, or a stewardess, maybe a schoolteacher... Probably a mom, and that I would live happily ever after. I wasn't one of those girls that wanted to be a princess. I didn't want to be an astronaut. I did think about how much fun it would be to fly a plane... 
I guess I just didn't ever think about how different my life would be. 
To be a nurse, you need to have good vision, though there are doctors that are blind... I don't know any personally, but Dr. Stanley Wainapel is a blind physician practicing rehabilitation medicine in New York {1}. I can't even fathom how hard it was for him to get through school... I can't even learn braille.  My sister wanted me to be a Pediatrician, my aunt wanted me to be a Chiropractor, my mom wanted me to be a nurse... sigh...
College consisted of reading and reading and more reading. Math problems thrown in here and there and more reading. I can't imagine being totally blind and getting through so much material. Then there is the practical side. So much to do and learn, so many miniscule things that you have to remember that add up to be a huge pile of information. I was learning that medicine wasn't the field that I wanted to be in.

I was told when I was about 10 or 11 that I would never fly a plane... this was a recruiter for the Air Force. I had always loved sitting on the fence at my aunt and uncle's house watching the jets take off and land. Their house was just a mile South of an airfield that is now long shut down, but when I was a kid, you could wave at the pilots and they would wave back... that was great, it gave me that thought of wanting to go places, fast. Being told that one of the things that intrigued you was not going to happen...kind of breaks your spirit.

Well, teaching was on the list of possibilities, I love language and studied Latin, French, Spanish and I dabbled in German, Greek, and Italian.  One of my aunts had lived in Germany and was fluent, My mother took French and Latin, my dad as well. My grandmother spoke French and well... my best friend's mother was Greek, I worked with her for a year, and I spent a bit of time at their home, and I was getting pretty good at understanding Greek... Spanish comes naturally, I live in the Southwest... and Italian, well... I have a pretty diverse set of friends and family. We have family that re from Japan and China, I am ashamed that I am not at all able to speak Asian languages... I can write simple things like 'double happiness' and maybe... um.... well, that's about it..but you'd think I was kind of qualified to be able to go into teaching language. Not so much. 

Reason number one that I am not a language teacher...I was born and raised most of my life in Texas.  I have a horrible drawl and I have never been able to get rid of it. We went to France and I was forced to make people understand me, but I am usually too embarrassed to try to speak to people. That's another thing about being a teacher no matter the subject... you have to be able to communicate. It doesn't take sight to be able to talk. I am kind of confused at how it is possible to grade papers and to help find things in books... I know it is possible to be a teacher and be blind...
There are so many aids now to helping read for blind, visually impaired, and low vision. A few items are the magnifiers, readers and large print keyboards {3} College is now more accessible than ever, it is easier than ever to use tools to get through the class loads. Learning should never stop, these aids can be used to continue your education and add fullness to your life!

1...Helen O'neal National Foundation for the Blind.
3...Freedom Scientific.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Day 29-Giving life a second chance

This is a bit of a story to tell. Not the fabricated kind. This is one of those that you live in and kind of wonder how it got this crazy...
When my daughter was graduating High School, I divorced... a couple of years later, I remarried and had a beautiful, sweet little bundle of joy, a baby boy. I had problems with this pregnancy. My age played a factor, as did my history of miscarriage,  and my eyes changed early and I started having a lot of problems with floaters and bits of blind spots, it was pre eclampsia again. I had been in bed for the last three months of the pregnancy anyway,  but the doctor insisted on inducing labor,  fearing I would pass the due date and have worse problems... but he was born right on time by our reckoning... and he was perfect, sweet little round face, a bit of auburn fuzz on his head, blue eyes, and such a sweet, angelic baby. He was a good baby and seemed so healthy and happy, and I was in love... not just with my new baby, but with my husband. We were so happy, planning our future together, maybe having another child even though the doctor nearly yelled at me about that... No more babies.
Fang, my nicknamed for him here, was decided, would be our last attempt at babies... and my 'work' from then on, I didn't go back to being a florist. We decided, together, that he would have the opportunity to be home with me until he started to school. I never took him to a nursery and only ever left him with family for a few hours. ever!!!
 Fang  started having problems with his eyes when he first started to school. I was afraid that they might not catch it with the school exams and I took him into my doctor's office. He did have nearsightedness. He needed glasses, but over the years, it hasn't gotten as bad as fast as mine or my daughter's vision. I am so thankful for that. I don't know if it is different nutrition, different climate, different conditions in the house...different genes... what could be the reason for it, but I am so glad that we have been able to keep it to a minimum of changes. Matter of fact, one year it was exactly the same as the last, he only had to go into bigger frames because his head had grown... YIPEE!!!

I worry about my ability to care for my son, if I will lose him in a crowd, if I might not recognize him at school, if he will be in the masses of kids at the football games and me not be able to pick him out... but I have to say, he knows about my blindness. It has nearly consumed me and everything that I do, so he is well aware of what I am going through and how it affects me, and him... and he knows that it is so difficult for me emotionally, though I try to keep that from him. But there have been times when I needed to see something... and I break down and cry because I can't. It is so frustrating. I hate that I am weak in front of my son, but, sometimes it is so frustrating that I forget that he is just a kid.

When my husband passed away, I really had just begun to have major problems with my eyesight. I had a couple of cataracts that had just started getting large enough to be seen, but were large enough to hamper my sight. I was at a place that I was not able to drive at night, not able to function normally... So I had to have the surgery for them, and that is when the trouble really started. My son knows a lot of my inability to do many 'normal' things because he has had to go with me to doctor visits and really knows that it is difficult for me to do the day to day stuff... and he has stepped up and helps me with so many things around the house. 

Fang is so sweet, he will lead me when I need help, especially when we are out. He knows when I am having a lot of trouble and will take my arm, or tell me that the is a curb coming up... or that there is a glass door ahead... things that I won't know, and he helps me to maneuver when we are in a crowd. He knows it is hard for me to get through a bunch of people. I lose my way easily. He just started into Junior High School this year, for parents night, they had the kids go to a basketball game and the parents went around the school to all the classes. Fang was worried that I would get lost but,I wasn't alone, so my son relaxed and got to enjoy his friends.
I want that. I want him to not have to worry about me. I want him to be oblivious like my daughter was, oh, she knew that I needed glasses and wore contacts... but I guess she just never knew that it was so bad.  I tried to make it seem like I was no different than any other mother of her friends... well... except that I did do more with her and her friends than most of the moms... I do with my son as well, though it has slowed down a lot. But I want him to know that I care and love him and want to be a big part of his growing up.
I guess not having a large family was a blessing as well as a curse for me. It would have been such a drain on my body, The pregnancies that I did have were probably more than I should have had... but I feel so blessed that I have my kids.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Day 28- Always Beginning Again

My daughter was an only child for many, many years. She wanted a brother or sister, and I tried, I miscarried soon after I had her, overf the years I had several more miscarriages one a preterm delivery at 25 weeks, that was not viable is what the doctor told me... my time schedule of having a bunch of kids early was off... I borrowed kids; my sisters, inlaws, friends... I had a Girl Scout troop, I homeschooled,  for a time and babysat, I helped out with events and organized and got my mind off having kids... I worked at home then started back full time when my daughter went into Junior High, then before you knew it, my daughter was in High School and  I babysat my great-nieces and nephews  and thought that I would never have more kids...

At 41... I had a son.