Feature Writer Steven Famiglietti – College Part 3

I attended my first years of college in the early 1990’s. Let’s rewind a bit. There was no widespread usage of the Internet at that time and Windows was yet to come into our lives. I didn’t get my first email account until 1992 and that was only because we had to have them and we emailed each other on campus. People didn’t have home computers or email addresses on a large scale.

As that first year of college took place, I had other issues to deal with besides the lack of math skills that I possessed. My major was Meteorology. No one was going to stop me from becoming a Meteorologist. I was fixated on this idea and I felt as though there were no other possibilities for me. I took the first Meteorology course and started to get to know the other students involved in the major. I went to the weather center and also started to get to know the professors and staff that worked at the center. I realized that I couldn’t easily see the weather maps that we got into the center. They were printed from a large fax machine. The paper was a dull brown color and the machine burned the images onto the paper. These images were a purple color. This contrast was almost impossible for me to see or read. When the maps were analyzed, we would take colored pencils and color all of the different systems on the map. This was done by using a standard for the different items on the map.

At first, I was able to obtain an electronic magnifier from Services for the Blind. They gave me a unit which would show color to me. At this time, those machines were extremely large and thousands of dollars. The electronic magnifier did help, but, the poor contrast on the maps couldn’t be made better, even if it were magnified many times.

I would explain to my professors that I couldn’t see the maps. This seemed simple to tell someone, I can’t read this, but, they actually didn’t understand this, and, I also learned that they didn’t understand how to help me. I didn’t know what to do at this point and the fact that I was struggling in math only made everything that much worse. The meteorology professors would say, “I will help you”, but when push came to shove, they really didn’t know how to help me. At that time, I was still comfortable with telling people that I couldn’t see and expecting Ms. Waterman to come in and say, “Ok, here are all of the things you can do to help with this situation”. This was a definite transitional period that I needed to go through but at some level, I didn’t have the confidence I needed to effectively communicate my needs. I was also still thinking that there would be someone who would come along and solve the problem.

I had a long conversation with my counselor from Services for the Blind about all of these issues. Over the summer, before my second year of college, she did some research and found some new technology for the weather center. They purchased a new machine to receive the weather maps. This new machine used the latest technology at that time, which printed the maps in clear, black print on good, white paper. This was a blessing for sure! It couldn’t have come at a better time either. I was about to take my next two Meteorology courses, Weather Analysis and Forecasting I and II. I needed to learn how to analyze the maps and give a daily weather briefing to our class. The technology that they purchased helped me to accomplish this goal and do well in both of those classes! So, for the time being, it seemed like the problems were solved.

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