Jenna's Story: Visual Impairment
I have dealt with a vision impairment my whole life. This means I have a bundle of experience when it comes to dealing with a disability. Having a vision impairment can be difficult to live with, but my biggest challenge has been asking for help and becoming an advocate for myself.
Asking For Help
I have trouble seeing the words on the whiteboard during school. For a while I was too shy to ask classmates I didn't know to help me. I didn't want their first impression of me to be that I had a disability, and I didn't want them to think I was weird or different.
It took me awhile to finally feel comfortable asking for help whenever I needed it, but once I did, I was amazed with the results. Classmates I had low expectations of surprised me in being eager to assist me with whatever I needed.
Asking for help also gave me the opportunity to talk to kids I didn't know, which lead to new friendships and acquaintances. I've been asking peers to help me with my vision for years, and never once has anybody said no.
Being a good self-advocate took awhile for me to master. It's difficult, because I always had to know what I needed and know how to make sure I received what I needed.
It's scary walking up to a teacher and asking them to do something for you. In my case, this was often having a paper enlarged or having them write down whatever was written on the white board. There's always the fear that they'll say no and that I'll be left feeling like an idiot.
What I keep in mind is that the teacher wants to help me, because that's their job. In most cases, teachers are more than willing to do whatever I need, and more.
However, there is always a teacher that doesn't understand what is needed. In these circumstances the teacher might not do what I asked them to do, but I've learned that this doesn't mean I should give up. Rather, I should explain to my teacher in better detail why I asked them to, say, enlarge a worksheet for me.
Once the teacher fully understands what and why I am asking them to do, they are more than willing to help. Also, it is important to be polite when confronting a teacher. Adults listen more when I'm kind and confident, and they show me more respect.