We tend to think that problems for the blind or disabled are widely different from the problems faced by the mainstream. The more I engage with the community for blind athletes and the parents of visually impaired children I see that the problems are more often so similar. Teaching independence, teaching work ethic / problem solving, teaching dedication / follow-through. My intention is to suggest that the problems are the same, the solutions are largely the same, and even to say the expectations should be the same.
The past two days I have had the great opportunity to do some fundraising and awareness for Texas Association of Parents of Children with Visual Impairments (TAPVI) as well as for the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA). I am thinking back to everything I got out of participation in sport. My improved body awareness, my increase in confidence, my overall improved quality of life. As I understand it these are the same benefits as participation in sports for any child. I regardless of able-bodied or disabled sports teach accountability, work ethic, and follow through.
In speaking with TAPBI I hoped to impart some key learnings. I wish I had been exposed to mainstream technology in my education system. I do not mean the specialized braille note takers or devices. I do mean laptops computers with screen readers; either windows with JAWS or MAC with voice over. The technology needs to fit your long-term game plan. Assuming your game plan for your disabled child is college then employment they will need tech that helps them communicate with a sighted world.
These problems are challenging enough without adding the added complexity of a device that is not understood by the mainstream educator. The specialized devices create an additional barrier. The sooner these kids can get on mainstream tech the biter for their long-term potential. You adapt to the world, the world does not adapt to you.
I also hoped to impart the importance of the child learning to advocate for themselves. I do not mean the parent advocating for the child, also important, but MORE important in the child learning to speak their needs and articulate why they need accommodations.
Finally I hoped to offer some comfort to TAPVI. I understand having a blind / VI child can be a bundle of complexities. I hear parents asking themselves am I pushing my child to hard? Am I not pushing them enough? All I can say, as an adult with blindness, is that I am endlessly thankful for tough love. Without some tough love I would not be resourceful and independent. Get your kids mainstream tech, teach them to speak for themselves and demand the same treatment as any student, try to get them in some kind of sport / activity and I am certain in the future they will thank you too. As counter intuitive as it may be hold your child with blindness / visual impairment to the same standard you may be astonished at how far that child can go.
Thank you for all your support on my final push to RIO My USABA Athlete Development Account can be found Here.