After months of internal debate, I decided to apply. I filled out the forms and asked my doctor to confirm my disability in writing. I submitted the required items, completed an enrollment exam, and waited. When you’re anxious it means you care, right? Would I be in or out? Unlike applying to college, there would be no thin envelope versus thick envelope waiting one day in my mailbox. A simple email would determine if the Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired accepted me into the correspondence program to learn braille.
As I waited to hear from Hadley, I experienced insecurity. It stirred up the memory of shock when the SSA denied my claim for disability benefits in the time after my last surgery but before the state program for rehabilitation accepted me. With my vision impairment, I operate in the gray space between sighted and legal blindness. Will I qualify for Hadley’s braille program?
People doubt my disability because “I don’t act blind” as some tell me. The unsolicited assessments bother me. I don’t fit into American cultural expectations of a blind person. Stockton notices people gawk when I use my smart phone at the store. Raising awareness, one stare at a time. Yet, strangers and even acquaintances doubting my real vision loss will not stop me from using assistive devices like my cane or magnification in public to do the things I wish to do safely and independently. I remind myself, I do not live for their cognitive convenience.
I kick self-doubt to the curb and focus on why I want to learn braille. I remember my occupational therapist at Wilmer Eye Institute advised me to consider learning braille. It would help me do more things with no eyestrain. She knew I was an avid reader of working age and would benefit from alternative ways to take in info. Also, I love to learn and explore my world so motivation would not be an issue if Hadley accepted me.
Braille serves as an insurance policy for my mental health, too. Although my remaining vision is stable now, there’s no guarantee that glaucoma or another retina problem won’t creep further into my sighted life to steal more real estate. Why not learn skills that will help me as my eyes age? I’m ready.
Notice from Hadley arrived. They accepted me. Whee. Learning braille fits into the core of my character. As an adult, I gained a disability, but I didn’t lose my desire to learn and advance in life.
Have you taken braille courses? Have you taken any courses from Hadley? What education programs have you sought out as an adult? Locally, do you have education services like adult GED programs, continuing education opportunities or things like lecture series? Tell me about it.