Spring for Transition

Blooming daffodilStockton drops me off at the front doors. I lean over the metal intercom box to request entry. Before I finish reading the instructions next to the shiny keypad, I hear a click as the receptionist releases the security lock. I move inside and give my name and ask about the conference. The lady behind the smooth, curved counter tells me the session location. I hesitate as I travel down the semi-lit hallway. “Almost there,” calls out a voice behind me from the atrium. “Turn left now!” I smile and say thanks over my shoulder.

I enter a bright meeting room and socialize with those present. I settle into a chair up front, fidgeting with my coat and bag. My former job coach invited me to speak to young job seekers with disabilities about my work search experience. Physically I’m stationary, but mentally I’m crossing a threshold in my ongoing transition of living with a disability.  Tonight, I embody the role of the face of experience, a small guiding light seen in the distance for fellow travelers.

More voices sound around the room. The comforting scent of fresh pizza fills the air as people lift cardboard lids and grab slices. I crack open a plastic water bottle. The cool liquid distracts me from nervous excitement. I’m grateful for the opportunity to contribute a perspective of a woman with a disability in the workforce.

The host commences the meeting. Professionals present information about state services and benefits. Others join me on the following panel to recount job searches and work experiences. Time hurries past. We discuss how to self-advocate, the importance of resources and staying motivated despite frustration and delays. As another panelist wisely said, “your disability is only a speed bump on the way to where you’re going.”

As I sit in my chair listening to others, I relate with those attending. Our disabilities and roles vary, but the sense of community holds. Soon the session comes to a close. I say goodbye, trying to make a gracious exit. As I pass through the quiet lobby, I can’t help but feel satisfied, useful. My words encouraged others to keep moving in their journeys. I transitioned from simply adjusting to vision loss to a position in the realm of advocacy and leadership. Who knows, maybe I’m standing taller.

Stockton and one of our terriers await me in the parking lot. My dog’s tail wags with enthusiasm when she hears my cane sweep. We’re happy. As Stockton merges into traffic, I reflect on the event. It’s exciting to mark progress and be able to turn and offer your hand to bring others with you. In any community, we all deserve to keep moving forward.

When have you extended a hand for someone? Is there a role of yours where you found yourself supporting a community more? Who do you plan to guide or mentor in the future? Tell me about it.

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18 Comments Add yours

  1. MamaRupp says:

    A friend once told me about a story of 3 blind men.
    The first blind man walks down a road and stops when he comes upon a rock in the middle of the road. He does retreats and turns around to where he came from.
    The second blind man walks that same path, comes across that same rock, but instead of turning around, he makes his way around the rock and keeps moving forward.
    The third blind man walks the same path, finds the same rock, moves the rock out of the way and clears the path for everyone who comes behind him.

    1. Love this message, Terri.

  2. Genevieve says:

    As the author of a picture book about a blind boy in a sighted classroom, I often speak to school groups about ways to accept, include, and interact with differently-abled children.

  3. Casee says:

    I think it is wonderful that you are giving of your time to help others that are walking the same low-vision path that you have already traversed. At this point, I am mostly just a very strong advocate for regular optical checkups and follow ups as they are required by your optometrist. I also encourage everyone I know to see an ophthalmologist at least once a year if they have a strong eyeglass prescription or a history of eye issues in their family. I also explain the difference between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist. I also let people know that if a diagnosis of increasing vision loss is given, they should insist on a consultation with a low-vision clinic. I find that many doctors in the eye care field seldom understand how important that can be.

    Since I still find myself at the scared-as-heck stage about the future, I don’t know that I am the person to guide anyone yet.

    1. Advocating for regular eye exams and low vision evaluations is important work, Casee. I respect your efforts. Word of mouth is a great way to get people to take care of themselves.

      Vision loss can be scary and depression is common. My state’s rehabilitation services as well as programs like the one my job coach is part of and sites like VisionAware really help to ease anxiety. We are certainly not alone in dealing with vision loss.

  4. That is a really constructive way of giving back something to both the VI and sighted community. I did voluntary work for the Citizens Advice Bureaux after I retired which gives free advice on pretty much everything …but mostly these days on housing and disability benefits. Very rewarding and interesting. You might like to know that BBC tv is running several programmes at present on autism and other disabilities.

    1. Well done, Bridget.

      Is the BBC series called The Unbreakables or Defying the Label? Wanted to know if you watched it.

      1. I hadn’t heard of Breakable but will check it out. It was on a commercial channel. The lBBC are putting on several different series on disability. One drama is The A Word about an autistic child, another is Employable Me which is a documentary about people with various disabilities like Tourettes, autism and language problems who are looking for work. I think there will be others. So quite a lot of disability awareness going on but I haven’t seen anything on VI or HI.

  5. Jenelle says:

    Thanks for sharing, Susan! Sounds like an awesome panel to be a part of, and I love your reflections on the experience.

    Jenelle

    1. Thanks, Jenelle. It was a wonderful experience.

  6. Susan- I really like this blog and the reminder to all of us to “reach back” or “pay it forward” as they say. there is always someone who can use our support, who are coming up behind us in the process…and ideally there are people who can reach behind to us when we need a hand. We really do need each other! Your blog and serving as a Peer Advisor are ways you are reaching out to others as well. Through my same experiences, I have connected with people all over the world! what a joy it is too…another way I am able to “mentor” is by leading a support group for the visually impaired. I get just as much out of it as the group members! Well done, you!

    1. The effort is always worth it, too.

      Audrey, you have been one of those little lights in the distance for me in a way, so thanks for your helpful and kind influence you have shown me. 🙂

  7. Advocacy occurs in many forms and I think one of the most powerful ones are those of which you’ve just shared here. Walking the walk and sharing that journey with others who are at the beginning of their journey is testimony to what can be achieved. Hope is such a powerful tool and that’s exactly what you and the other panel members gave those students. Bravo!!

    1. Thanks, Steph! Hope sure is critical in overcoming adversity.

      1. Amen!! Speaking of advocacy I noticed yesterday that several people on Pinterest saved your quote on advocacy “I’m breaking stereotypes of blindness while I go about my business. I wear glasses and use a white cane. I work and have a visual impairment. I’m fit and disabled. I’m not in a classroom, but I’m educating.”

      2. Woot! One mind at a time.

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