Differently-abled and proud of it

            After I lost my sight, as I’ve mentioned before, I faced many challenges: learning cane skills to avoid sixteen-wheelers, mastering Braille, shifting careers, and completing daily tasks, like getting liner on my eyelids, not my nose.  I didn’t realize I also had to adjust to a whole new identity.  Only when I heard myself saying the word blind as if it were two syllables, “bl…(swallow)…ind” did I understand.  But when I compared the term to the alternatives my friends used, “sightless” or “visionless,” I embraced the less encompassing word, “blind.” 

            Today many people use the term “differently-abled” instead.  It’s a pretzel-twisted, P.C. label that sounds euphemistic,  casting doubt on my real capabilities, and I’ve always recoiled from it. 

            I call myself totally blind and moderately deaf.  I wear my disabilities like Medals of Honor for courage and triumph. 

            Yet, most of us with disabilities develop remarkable skills, skills that are subtle and hard-earned.  These obscure abilities really do make us differently-abled.

 

            Extra-strength Memory: My friends always praise my well-trained memory.  Such recall is a dubious blessing, since I remember all the good and bad.  Still, my family treats me like a rolodex with a half century of phone numbers.  Although Brailing and taping notes were possible years ago, I memorized information because my brain was my one constant companion.  Since then, I’ve kept my complete appointment schedule in my head.  Blind kids today rely on technology, but we vintage blind have brains with rock-hard recall.

 

            Caffeinated Listening: Friends also remark about how fiercely I listen.  They say I always remember what was said and who said it.  Blindness represents a huge deprivation, but without sight, I am not distracted by visual displays.  With hearing aids and a microphone attachment, I zero in on a conversation, as if my ears have had a shot of espresso.  Sound is my lifeline. 

 

            For more on this topice, see:

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11274/1178829-109-0.stm

 

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About Sally Hobart Alexander

Blinded at the age of twenty-six, I left California and elementary school teaching for life in Pittsburgh, Pa. There, I met my husband, got a Masters' degree in social work, had two kids, now 35 and 32, and became a writer. Surprisingly, the writing career led me full-circle to teaching, and I teach in Chatham University's M.F.A. program and lead two writing critique groups. Always, since the age of 26, I have traveled, not in the stereotypic darkness attributed to blindness, but a mist. My blog then, "traveling through the mist" will deal with issues in my culturally different life as a blind writer, teacher, speaker, and human being.
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