A Fellow Student Doing the Right Thing

Just like sighted people, blind people are capable of living a fulfilling productive life. There are blind students, blind parents, blind lawyers, blind educators, blind office professionals, etc. You name it; we have it. I am a student who just happens to be blind. I am blessed to have been born in a family where the expectations were high, independence was key, I was not held back, and I was allowed to try new things and simply be a kid. My mom worked hard to help us be as independent as possible. Let’s not forget to mention that she just happens to be blind. Because of being taught at home and the training I received at the Louisiana Center for the Blind, I have been able to live the life I want. That has begun with moving away from home to attend college in Texas. Texas State University is a vibrant campus with lots of beautiful scenery, friendly faces, and has plenty of places for students to sit outside. While it is that I don’t mind doing my school work, I don’t always like being cooped up in the library or at home. With the fall season rolling in, the weather is becoming more pleasant, and sitting outside is enjoyable. As I was reading my textbook, a student came up to me and asked how I was doing. He said, “I have a question for you.” I said, “Okay.” What turned in to many questions began with him asking how I get around campus. I explained the skills that I have used to learn the campus over the years. I showed him my long white cane and explained the purpose of it. He asked what would happen if the bus dropped me off at a different spot. How do I know? What if I get lost? I then explained that sometimes people tell me, or I will ask the driver to verify where I am at if necessary. However, our buses have the same stops every day. At this point, I knew he was fascinated, and it was my chance to educate another person a little bit about blindness. The questions were rolling. He asked questions such as: How do I do my class work? When I am not riding the campus bus, how do I get around? Was I born blind? How do I check the time? How do I cook? What kind of job do I want in the future? I also had my BrailleNote out, so he had questions about that too. Apart from answering all of his questions in detail and describing the training blind people can get, I was able to demonstrate a few of these tasks for him. When he asked about time, I pulled out my braille watch and showed him how I read it. I also told him that I can check my phone, my notetaker, my computer, etc. He then asked how I know if a seat is available. I showed him how we use our canes to identify if a seat is open or not. Lastly, I showed him how the BrailleNote works with the input keys on top and the braille display on the bottom. He understood the idea of a braille cell right away. He asked me if my hearing was better because I am blind. The answer to that is, definitely not. I told him that is one of many myths about blindness such as better senses, counting steps, and this idea that braille is slow. At one point he started to say that it is sad that I was born blind. I was quick to reassure him that it isn’t. Blindness is simply a mere physical nuisance and nothing more. My blindness is just a part of me. I live a full life, go places, try new things, have friends and family, and challenge myself every day. Although much of our conversation was centered around blindness, we still talked about the normal student things too: majors, graduation, where we are from, and how we ended up at Texas state. This student has probably never heard of any organizations of the blind or met any other blind people in his life. I truly believe that because of our conversation that his perceptions of a blind person will be forever changed. He did the right thing by talking to me and asking so many fantastic questions. Our chat is the most important part here. If I had just given him a blindfold and told him to figure out if a seat was available, it probably would have frightened him. Fortunately, I was able to show him how it is done with proper training. I thanked him for talking to me instead of just assuming things. I always encourage people to ask questions. There is no better way to learn about people than to ask. You would never send someone to a job without training, and it is the same for people who are blind. We have been trained in the skills of blindness, and this is why we can do the things we do. I am a proud member of the National Federation of the Blind, and I am living the life I want.