Contributor Howard Geltman – Blindness Isn’t a Disability–It’s A Way of Life

I am a fifty-seven year young (seasoned) legally blind person. In my younger years, when the dinosaurs roamed the earth, I had enough vision to read large print books, look at people as they passed by, and much more.  Now, within the past year, most of what I had visually is gone.

I wanted to do a bit of research on the term “Disability,” so I let my fingers do the walking to the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Here is some of what I found (with my thoughts added).

Definition 1:

A: The condition of being disabled. Ok, that works for me.  I just don’t like the term “Disabled.” Impairment sounds better.

B: Inability to pursue an occupation because of a physical or mental impairment.   Hmm, well perhaps I wouldn’t qualify as a brain surgeon–too much liability insurance needed I’m sure.  Oh, I know, a stunt car driver.  Well, that may not work too well, either.  Though, I drove a fork lift when I worked in a factory when I was twenty-two. The boss did not believe I was legally blind at the time because I got around so well. But, I bent a center beam in the factory one evening, and that quickly ended that position–such a loss.

Definition 2:

Lack of legal qualification to do something.  I can’t be a bus driver–no driver’s license. I guess if I took off the windshield wipers, mounted two white canes, and placed a large sign in the rear window saying “Blind Driver, Do Not Pass!” that might work. If you were a legal driver and saw a car decked out with that, would you dare pass it?

Definition 3:

A disqualification, restriction, or disadvantage.  Disadvantage?  I guess that depends on who is evaluating the situation.

When I attended Oak Hill School for the Blind in Hartford, CT, all of the students were considered equals. We did not have labels placed upon us as was the case outside of the gates of the school. We didn’t judge people by the way they looked because that didn’t matter to many of us who couldn’t see that well anyway. We judged people by “feeling” with our hearts.

These days, if I go places and need to register, many times they will talk to my wife, and ignore me. That is, until I speak. Or people scream at you with louder voices because they are under the impression that most blind people are deaf too. And the list goes on.

It isn’t because they are ignorant. In many cases people do care, they just don’t know how to show it properly.

Should we place our heads in the sand, so to speak? Of course not! You simply go on with life doing the best that you can. That is all that can be expected from any of us.

In many ways we are not the ones with a so-called disability. The rest of the world is. They just haven’t realized it yet.

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