Expecting people to fail just pushes them one step closer to failure.
In my Advanced English 11 class back in October, we studied rhetoric. At the end of this unit, we each had to write a four to six-minute persuasive speech about anything. I chose to write mine about how we need to hold people who are blind or visually impaired to the same standards as everyone else.
We need to believe in people who are blind or visually impaired and hold them to the same standards as everyone else. I grew up and am growing up with very supportive parents. They never put barriers on me. When I wanted to ride horses or ski or surf, they never told me that I couldn't because I can't see. They sent me to regular, public school from my first day of pre-school until hopefully the day I graduate. But I am lucky. I'm lucky to have been living with people who believe in me and who do not try to tell me whether I can or cannot do things based on my disability. I live in a family where I am held to the same standards as my sighted sisters. My family, friends and mentors focus on my ability not my disability. I think that is the reason I have such high goals like law school.
And not everyone is lucky enough to have that.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015 only 17.5 percent of people with disabilities were employed. That percentage terrifies me. That percentage makes my blood run cold and turns my knees to jelly. That percentage tightens my throat and makes my palms sweat. That percentage means that the other 82.5 percent of people with disabilities are unemployed.
And every single day I pray that I don't end up in that 82.5 percent.
We're in high school, we know. We know the anxiety of planning for our futures. Now imagine that anxiety coupled with an 82.5 percent chance of failure. That's about where I am right now and where every single other blind and visually impaired person is.
Now I think that I am being a little over anxious. I have a good foundation. I have gone to summer programs to learn the skills I will need to get a job and to work. I am not here to talk about me.
The real problem is that people with visual impairments cannot believe in themselves if nobody else believes in them. How are people with visual impairments ever going to be able to lead a productive life when they are called amazing for doing something simple like crossing a street? I'm scared for myself, but I'm more scared for the child who has been sheltered. I'm scared for the child whose mom clutches her hand as she walks around the neighborhood park with her white cane in front.
I've been so fortunate that when I was younger, I really didn't think I was that blind. I thought that I saw just like everyone else, I just couldn't see the print on papers. I didn't know that if you stand a foot away from someone, you're supposed to be able to see their face and their expresssion. You're supposed to see their hair color, their eyes and nose and mouth. All I see is a light blur where their face is. Just a smudge telling me that there is a person there. I didn't know that when I look at a treeline, I'm supposed to be able to see individual trees, branches and leaves. Instead, I just see a dark mass blocking the rest of the landscape. I've adapted to that because I've had to. I've been thrown into a world with people who can see normally and that's how it should be for everyone.
If you throw a person with low vision into special, super adapted classes for their whole life, how will they ever be able to adapt to the real world? How will they learn to advocate for themselves? Going to college and getting a job is already hard without vision loss. I know because my sister is going through it right now. But if you hold a kid's hand for the first 18 years of their life and then suddenly let go, do you really think it's fair to expect them to be successful?
It's hard not to give in to the expectations some people put on me. It's hard when some of my blind friends get exempt from things like gym class or participation or certain projects and tests. They get easy outs, and I can't help but be jealous when one of them doesn't even have to take Chemistry.
But I don't want to be like them. How good is it going to be for them in the long run? It's not. The real world doesn't work like that at all. I'm glad every day that I am held to the same standards as all of you.
I think it's really hard for people to realize that blind or visually impaired people are actually very capable of doing things on their own. I mean, if I put a scarf over your eyes and told you to go cross the street, don't tell me you wouldn't be scared. And the thing is, that's what is happening to blind people who are babied for their entire lives. There are ways for blind and visually impaired people to do things, but they will never learn if those things are always done for them.
Every May, I go to a sports camp for people who are blind or visually impaired. The motto there is "to Believe you can Achieve." I want every single person with a visual impairment, or any disability, to believe they can achieve and experience the magic of that camp. I want every single person in this room, and every single person in this world, to believe that the kid in the wheelchair, or the kid with a speech impairment, or the autistic kid, or me, the blind girl, can achieve. We want the adults in our lives to believe in us. We want them to stop treating us like children because we're growing up, and I feel the same exact way about every single person who doesn't believe in me or anyone with visual impairment because we can't see.