(H) Helen Keller was Real (#AToZChallenge 2021)

The blogging from a to Z April Challenge letter h graphic is on top center of image. Text below reads Helen Keller yes, Helen Keller was real
The 2021 Blogging from A to Z April Challenge letter H graphic is available here.

My theme for the 2021 Blogging from A to Z April Challenge is to give an overview of what it is like to be visually impaired and I hope to squash misconceptions about blindness and low vision. Today’s post may be a bit of a rant but I just want society to stop belittling people with disabilities.

Yes, Helen Keller was real and she accomplished much more than learning to write, read, and use sign language. Yes, she was deaf and blind but she was much more than that. Last May #HelenKellerWasntReal started trending when many began to call her a fraud and question her accomplishments. This article in Slate magazine explains the full story.

I do not want to focus on Helen Keller’s accomplishments but there is enough evidence showing that she was in fact a writer and a public speaker. I want to focus on why people would even question her accomplishments.

I would think that in 2020 and 2021 society would be educated enough to know that a person who is blind or has low vision or is deaf is capable of doing almost anything that a sighted or hearing person can do. It is sad that in our society a person is almost immediately written off when they have a disability. They are seen as less than everyone else just because they do things in a different way. 

When you learn to problem solve you can find a way to accomplish almost anything. A person that is blind can read and write using braille. Aperson who is deaf can communicate using sign language. I think that the issue here is the wrong assumptions about people with disabilities that get passed down from generation to generation. This is the assumption that people with disabilities are not smart and that they are not a valuable part of society. The lack of representation of people with disabilities in the media and even in daily life such as employment has only helped to further these misconceptions. 

I am writing all of these posts in this series to have a small part in ending these misconceptions because it will take time and we are not close to the goal but every step counts. Every new person that i can educate on these issues brings me and the rest of the disability community closer to this goal. Thank you for reading this post.

Life Lessons from “Claire | The Documentary”

Text reads life lessons from claire the documentary

In honor of Women’s history month I want to highlight the life of a young woman that has made me reflect on the value of life, her name is Claire Wineland. She was born with Cystic Fibrosis and sadly her life ended at age 21 but she left us all with important life lessons when it comes to the way society treats those that have a disability. I would recommend that you all watch the documentary on her life.

One of the main messages that Claire tried to get across to everyone is that people should not pity those that are sick or have a disability. She shares from her point of view how this only makes the situation worse and makes life harder. She says that people that are sick or have a disability need to know that they are “more than just a cause for charity”. She also says that what kept her fighting on was that she had a purpose in life and goals to accomplish.

Text reads as people with disabilities we have to make our own paths in the midst of a close-minded society

I completely agree with the point she makes. I have a disability myself and the last thing I want is for people to feel sorry for me. I also believe that it is important for those that have a disability to be given the opportunity to follow their dreams and to have high goals. Many times people with disabilities are looked down upon and not much is expected of them as they are immediately written off. The disabled community needs to lift each other up. The truth is that you have to believe in yourself first and it should not matter what other people think. I have learned that you have to stand up and advocate for yourself when you have a disability and you have to create your own path when society does not open one for you.

Another important message that Claire shared is that you have a purpose and you have a valuable contribution to make even when you are sick or disabled. You do not have to wait for a cure, you are valuable just the way you are. I think that we can let the opinion of others shape our thoughts and life and we stay stuck in that hole that is made by others. We have to find it in ourselves to rise above the negative views and show them what we can do. 

This has taught me to appreciate the life that God has given me and that i must use the time he gives me to make the world a better place. I may be visually impaired but I have a purpose. I have valuable contributions to make. I should not spend my time here feeling sorry for myself, instead I have to push on and give the best I have to offer. I am a Christian so for me that means I can share the gospel, I can pray for others and so on. I started this blog to encourage others through sharing my story along with helpful tips. I do not want to just watch my life go by and waste this gift God has given me.

I hope that this will encourage you today. I believe that you have something of value to give even if you are lying in a hospital bed. I believe that if you are alive today you have a purpose so do not give up on life for it is a precious gift.

Stop Feeling Sorry for People with Disabilities

Text reads stop feeling sorry for people with disabilities. Text is in white on a black background.

Are you a person with a disability? Have you had a stranger come up to you and say how sorry they are to see you in that disabled state? Have you had someone feel so sad for you that they cried? I know that people with disabilities can relate to this and can answer yes to one of these questions. 

People with disabilities are not broken, there is no reason to feel sorry for a person with a disability. People with disabilities are people and just because they are different does not make them less or something to be sorry for.

I am a person with a disability, I am visually impaired. I have experienced this reaction from others before. A person once saw me with my white cane and I heard them say “oh how sad” and one time a person that I was interning for broke into tears when he was discussing my work on a panel on employment for the blind and visually impaired. I have also had people stop me in the street and start to pray for me.

I am not broken. I do not need to be fixed. I am different and may do things differently but that does not make me less of a person. I do not want your pity. I do not want any handouts. I do not want a free pass. I want to work for and earn anything I get. I just want to be treated like anyone else. I just wish that people would look at me and not immediately see different and feel sad but that they would give me a chance to show what I can do.

Stop feeling sorry for people with disabilities and instead treat us like any other person. In the end whether a person has a disability or not there will always be something different about them. Take the time to understand them and to see the value that the person has to offer instead of what they look like.

I hope that this will help everyone to have a better attitude towards people with disabilities. 

A New Era of Authentic Representation of People with Disabilities in the media

Text reads a new era of authentic representation of people with disabilities in the media. People with disabilities are a valuable addition to the media world. Background image shows a projector and cinema scene.
Photo by geralt on Pixabay

Society’s definition of beauty has become more shallow as the years have gone by. The media and magazines have defined beauty. The standard is to be tall and thin with a perfect face. This standard of beauty has only further excluded those that are different including people with disabilities. 

There is very little representation of the disability community in the media and society is not being educated on what inclusion truly means. The reality is that the media is the place where most people get their information and that information helps to shape their opinions. 

The reality is that it is actually rare for someone to come in contact with a disabled person in their every day life. The first exposure they may have to a person with a disability will be via the media. 

It is time to redefine the meaning of beautiful in our society today. This must begin in the home but sadly the education is happening through the media.

I want to highlight five examples of how the disabled community is being represented in the media. YouTube has come to be a very large part of culture and has at times taken the place of television for many people and has opened the door to many opportunities for the disabled community to gain a foot in the media world. It may not be the big screen, but it is a very good start. 

Six Blind Kids

Karen and Joe adopted six children over the years. They are all totally blind and 5 of them have other special needs. This family gives the world a look into their life. They show the world that a person who is blind can be independent. The kids are adults except for one and they make it a point to instill independence in each of them. This is evident in the videos they share. Get a glimpse into their lives.

The Killen Clan

This family adopted two children with special needs and share a glimpse into their life through videos on YouTube. They share the good and the hard days and share the reality of it all. Altogether, they have 3 children with special needs.

Special Books by Special Kids

Chris Ulmer started Special Books by Special Kids as a way to provide a voice for people with disabilities whether visible or invisible. He wants to bring attention to their stories and has gained a large audience. Here is an episode.

Let’s Make the Change

There are many other people with disabilities making their voices heard and breaking into the media. We can all contribute to further inclusion by spreading the word about these creators. I hope that one day disability will be seen as a beautiful and valuable aspect of society.