Blogging, Book Reviews

Blind Bonus

Discrimination is not uncommon with disabilities. I try not to focus on it, but it can happen.

I wrote about my handful of experiences with this in last week’s Memoir Monday post:

Discrimination Happens.

This week’s post, I hope, will be a lot more fun and lighthearted.

And now – the story of a little something my family and I have coined “The Blind Bonus”.

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Q: Have you experienced preferential treatment because of disabilities?

A: This will be a lighthearted post, as I say, although, for me, the line between having a sense of humour about these things and feeling sensitive is tricky for me.

In my family, with my brother and I both being blind, we have our inside jokes. He is much more easy-going than I am when it comes to it all. I want to be normal, just like everyone else, but I work and hope for equality, which all takes time.

This can be a tricky balance to achieve.

Until then I can say sometimes I grow tired of looking at my life and striving to fit in as an ongoing battle and I let down my guard and look for the humour.

Preferential treatment, as is worded in the above question, is an interesting way of putting it. I suppose, at times, you could say that I have received things others did not, from people I know and from strangers alike.

This brings to the forefront the notion of pity. If someone pities me, even with the best of intentions, it’s because they feel badly for “the poor little blind girl”.

I used to think this in my head. My grandparents were good examples of this.

They knew me and loved me, but they did feel bad that I got such a lousy lot in life, to be born blind. Because of these feelings, because they loved me, I sometimes received material things or special treatment.

This is how it goes for a lot of things in life. Life is not fair and we’ve all experienced that firsthand, at one time or another.

My oma may have cut me some slack in ways she did not others. She could be critical at times, as she got older especially, but I was always her precious little granddaughter. She rarely, if ever, criticized me like she did others.

My grandmother was the nicest woman you could ever find, but pity is one way of looking at the preferential treatment she sometimes showed toward me.

My grandparents had twenty-one grandchildren and they loved us all equally, but they did feel like we had it harder and wanted to do what they could to make our lives just a little bit easier and happier.

For example, they took us all on a night away to Niagara Falls, spread out in groups of three or four kids at a time over the years. All the others only got to go once, but they took my brother and I twice.

They used to bring a little keychain or other small souvenir for each of us with every vacation they took, but as the years went by and more and more grandchildren came along they didn’t keep that up.

Understandable, right? Who could blame them. After all, even the smallest of souvenirs can take up practically an entire suitcase when bringing back twenty-one of something.

However, I have several dolphin and whale sculptures that they brought back for me from the last few tropical locales they traveled to. They did not do this for everyone else.

My mother once confronted hers about this, saying they really did not need to bring me anything. My grandmother’s response had something to do with how she knew they didn’t, but she really just wanted to bring me something anyway.

I don’t say this here to tattle on my beloved grandparents, who are both gone now, or my evil mother for spoiling any chances I had of receiving anymore special presents.

🙂

I say it just because I know, again that life isn’t fair, and so did they.

My mother wanted to prevent any possible jealousy between me and any other siblings or cousins, if they were to find out and because she knew I didn’t need those things when none of the other kids got them.

Also, my mother has always done her best to treat my brother and I the same as her other two children and she worked hard to teach us that we were really no different. This is the best gift anyone could have ever given me.

As for my grandparents – I always knew they loved me, in all the ways they felt it or showed it, and I know how hard it was for them to see me dealing with some of the extra things that I did, fair or not.

Then there were the “blind bonuses” my brother and I received, say, during our trip to Cuba.

We went for a week, with parents and two grandparents.

By the end of the week I’d received a doll from a Cuban woman and a rose made out of a napkin, from a Cuban man as we sat listening to live music near the resort.

Of course it’s hard to know their true motivation, due to the language barrier, but these are only a few examples of what I’m talking about.

In this case, the term preferential treatment, to me it means someone feeling badly for me being blind and either offering me something or giving me something they wouldn’t normally give.

It’s difficult sometimes. On the one hand I strive to show the world around me that I can do most anything else anyone can do and that I want to be treated the same.

On the other, I occasionally need things to be modified so that I can keep up.

In school I would get extra time to do tests and assignments, because sometimes I required specialized equipment or technology. These things often took longer. My teachers, for the most part, understood this and did their best to accommodate.

Then, how did I ever expect to convince the world that I can fit in and contribute?

I’ve never wanted to be treated differently, good or bad. However, at certain moments I resign myself to the unfairness of life. It’s at times like these that I tell myself I miss out on so much and struggle enough that if I sometimes get breaks others do not: so what?

A “blind bonus” is alliteration at its best and I love me some good alliteration.

🙂

Sometimes I probably think I am getting this when I am not (all in my head) and other times it is blatantly obvious to anyone.

***

Next week’s question:

In what other ways are your interpersonal relationships affected by disabilities?

Note: I have been blogging for exactly one year and I am thrilled to be doing just that, involved in such projects as the

Redefining Disability Awareness Challenge

and I still have many more questions to go on it.

I am honoured to be able to use a vehicle like blogging to speak on the issues raised in this extensive set of questions that Rose has put together.

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Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Memoir Monday

All They’ve Ever Known

A new week and I bring some new perspectives to the table.

Last week I wrote about school and work,

Here.

This week I return to the subject of family.

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Q: Is your family life affected by disability? In what ways?

A:
I have shown the strength and character of my parents in past answers:

Literally,

Special Magnificence,

and

Diagnosis and Treatment.

This time I thought, with the word “family”, in the question that I would ask the other two I have not asked yet: my older brother and sister.

I have two amazing parents and a younger brother who knows what it’s like because he was born visually impaired too.

My two older siblings have been there from the start and I wanted to share their point-of-view because if anyone was affected, good or bad, it would be them.

I ask my brother and then my sister this question and this is what they said:

***

P: That is a tough question to answer.

At first I wanted to say yes. Mainly because I always felt like I needed to protect/help you growing up and even today though I don’t see you guys very often.
But I would imagine that every big brother would feel that way about younger siblings. Worrying when you were sick or going into the O.R.

Honestly I cannot think of a particular situation.

The only scenario that comes to mind is while viewing a movie or television program, I’d always try to describe in as much detail as possible what you were missing. I’ve always wanted to make sure that you and your brother never miss out on anything that sighted people take for granted.

So to answer your question, are we affected?  Life may have been different for us growing than for most kids. But this is all I’ve ever known and couldn’t imagine it any other way.

***

K: Growing up having siblings with a disability is like anything in life, especially as a teenager, you can feel self conscious – even when it’s by association. No one likes to feel out of place. At the same time, it came with a strong urge to protect and defend.

That being said, that was only part of what it was like growing up in a family that visibly, can seem a little different. More importantly, I think it has helped to show how differently people can be whether outwardly or more under the surface. I think it made me a better person, more understanding and compassionate. It showed me that any disability, big or small, can be overcome by both those around you and those with the impairment.

My parents displayed this with their never ending ability to give my siblings the chance to take on the world with the least resistance possible. It also showed the power those with disabilities themselves can display when given the chance, that all people can thrive when given support and proper circumstances.

Mostly though, it was just my family, at the end of the day (and really at the beginning and in the middle of the day and all the moments in between). They’re just your little sister and brother – and as you get older you no longer notice those stares, and that feeling of self consciousness becomes an awareness that our differences need to be celebrated and not a cause for feeling out of place. All people have their own disability, some are just more obvious than others.

***

When I asked them this question I knew it could be a difficult one. You have to understand that this was a difficult question. Just think of anything or anyone in your life that has always been there. That is “normal” for you, in a way that might not be true for someone else.

As for my siblings, I wondered if it would be hard for them to think of any actual examples or if they could possibly be hesitant to say something that might hurt my feelings if I knew it because, honestly, I have felt guilty in the past.

I know people stare and I know, children especially, don’t like to feel out-of-place. I never wanted to be the source of resentment.

I know jealousy is just a part of being a sibling, at one time or another, and there were four of us. Being one of four in a family teaches you to wait your turn and to be patient and flexible.

I know that a lot of attention had to be given to me and my brother at certain times, and that couldn’t have been easy.

For me I can say it is comforting to no end to know there are at least two people in my life who accept me for me. I am just me to them. They know the little things about me, as I do them, good and bad. I feel a reassurance around my brother and sister that I do not get anywhere else. I have always been there for them and they for me and I hope that will never ever change.

My sister and I have real discussions about the things in life that really matter and that everyone goes through. She has helped me fit in with my surroundings and to feel like I am worth knowing and loving.

My brother, like he said, has always described anything visual in a way that I could understand, allowing me to enjoy such things like everyone else.

I hope I could have given them both even half of what they’ve given me.

No matter what, no matter what may happen, I know I will always have them, even if we go our own ways as adults and have our own lives.

To us, our childhoods were full of love, fun, and all the normal ups and downs that siblings have, but we did it all together and we have memories we will never forget and that have made us the people we are today.

Feeling a part of a family is something we all need. That is the first place we find acceptance and security. I hope we will always have each other to lean on.

***

Next Memoir Monday, for the

Redefining Disability Awareness Challenge,

I will answer another question.

Are your leisure activities or hobbies affected by disability? How do you work around this?

What is “normal” for you that you think might not be that way for someone else?

I hope you all have a pleasant week and I hope you all have family to lean on like I do.

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