Today is Independent Living Day, a day dedicated to raise awareness about the right to independent living of people with disabilities. I decided to share some of my experiences and expectations in this regard in this post.
For me, independent living starts with the acceptance of disabled people as a part of society. A part of society whose goals, wishes and struggles are not that different from that of non-disabled folks as some might think. Sure, we do have some additional issues, some other experiences because of our respective special conditions and I’m glad when people take these into account to help me get along (a big THANKS for that!). However, I’ve seen people be quite surprised when I told them about me listening to metal music or doing crazy stuff with friends. I’ve also been told how impressive it was that I follow such a sophisticated educational path. This just shows me how little society knows about disabled people and their lives, while it would so important – as is understanding in anything that involves multiple people. Therefore, I think dialogue is essential. If you have questions, come ask! … Well, maybe not ask me about my exact vision and stuff when I’m passing you on the street with my cane and without having talked to me ever before; some dude actually did that and it was extremely weird. Luckily, however, the absolute majority of people is very mindful and I had a lot of conversations that I’m sure were interesting for everyone involved.
I started off with this because the lack of understanding in my opinion leads to quite a part of the other problems we face. I remember, for example, a teacher telling my mother there were special schools for kids like me back when I was in primary school. This while I was in the top of my class, so neither was there a problem academically nor did I need a lot of special accommodations apart from the tools on my desk that didn’t bother anyone anyway. The teacher just had no clue on how to handle a visually impaired student, I believe. Since then, things have improved a lot. The awareness has grown and is continuing to do so. At high school, things are handled very practically and a lot of things are just given a try. If something turns out not to work at all, there’s still time to worry and find solutions, right? Apart from art class, I attended all the lessons. I could even do laboratory work, which I really enjoyed and I’m glad and grateful I got the opportunity to.
I will start university in summer and after talking to the disability unit and the study coordinators of my chosen subjects, I realised that I will be supported doing all the stuff that students should or can do in those subjects. In both the latter cases, I have to admit I was a bit surprised. Not because I hadn’t thought I could do that, but it’s – very sadly – no attitude that comes natural for institutions and people to have, even in 2019.
So, to sum up, disabled people can be just as passionate about certain stuff as non-disabled ones, can have the same competences and whises, struggles… We’re not some kind of aliens (but if I was how cool would that be!?). Please, take us seriously, do not tell us we can’t do something. If I feel like travelling around, don’t tell me it’s too dangerous. Yes, I might get lost and it might be frustrating searching some stupid place for ages, but that’s sort of the deal (and it actually happens to sighted people, too). Basically, I think everyone has their issues, I just have one that’s easily noticed and am treated accordingly. But we might as well imagine just for a moment it was not there and I’d still be the same person (maybe just with somewhat more beautiful eyes ;p).