Blind World Magazine

Disabled, Not Dead.

September 22, 2005.
The American Chronicle.

Daniel Taverne is a legally blind disabled veteran living in Louisiana. After his service, he began college in the hopes of becoming a COTA. However, he became ill with an unknown condition with less than 1 semester of schooling left, forcing him to drop out while seeking treatment. Daniel has a poetry blog you can visit called, 'Snapshots'. Snapshots contains both humorous stuff and not so humorous stuff. To read his poetry, please visit his website.

While sitting here trying to generate ideas for this column, I received a call from my doctor. It was her call that reminded me of my disability which, in turn, prompted me to write about just that: disability.

I am legally blind. This means that my vision is poor to the point that I can't read books, the news paper, my mail, or anything else that most people can read. At the grocery store, I can't read those Item locator boards hanging above the isle entrances, nor can I read prices of anything. I can't use vending machines where I have to know how much something is then know what number and letter to push to get a particular item out. I can't read any road signs, nor can I read billboards. I can't look at the clock and know what time it is, and I can't look at the oven knob to tell what temperature it is on. I can't figure out my remote control for the DVD/VCR, which, when operating, I can barely see anyway, and I can't read the directions for anything. Fortunately, these shortfalls mean I'm only disabled, not dead.

Things I can see are also numerous as well. I can see to walk around, though I often accidentily walk into door frames with my shoulder. I can see to check the mail, and take out the trash. If I am careful, I can vacuum the floor and put away the dishes. I can make my bed, and I can wash clothes.

I can do enough in fact, for people to question the legitimacy of my legal blindness claim. I don't walk around with a sign indicating my visual status, as I probably should. A sign might be more believable to people than me simply stating I'm legally blind since I'm not always wearing sunglasses, and I'm not using a cane to help me get aroun. As it happens, I get angry and imbarrassed when I have to tell someone I am legally blind only to have them sound as if they don't believe me.

Thankfully though, humorous events always seem to take the serious edge off my situation when I really need a laugh. For this reason, I think it's important to be able to recognize humorous situations when they occure.

For instance, one evening we had chili-dogs and beans for supper. Well, being the independent person that I am, I didn't hesitate to construct my own. I inserted the dog into my bun, then ladled on what I thought was the chilli. When I sat down to eat, my wife and everyone sitting at the table frantically informed me that I put beans on my hotdog instead of chilli. I laughed at my mistake, and ate the bean-dog anyway. I figured that I'd just make the next chilli-dog right, and be happy. I went back to the stove with my hotdog in the bun and this time reached for the contents of what I thought was the other pot containing the chilli. Little did I know, someone had inadvertently switched the pans, and I again put beans on my dog. I couldn't help but laugh with the rest of my family.

Another funny thing happened one day when, my wife was preparing a salad upon which she added sliced black olives. I spotted the recently emptied olive can sitting there on the counter. Thinking I was slick, I quickly snaggd what I thought was a lone slice of olive that had been inadvertently left behind, and quickly popped it in my mouth. Instead of tasting wonderful olive, I tasted a substance that had been sitting in the drain of the sink all day. Unfortunately for me, my wife put it in the olive can to be thrown away. I still don't know what the substance was, I only know that it was really nasty.

It should be mentioned here that in certain ways many of the concerns of the blind are felt also by other disabled people. A most common area that physical limitations impact all disabled people is known as Activities of Daily Living or ADL's. ADL's include items such as bathing, dressing, paying bills, taking medication, household maintenance, cookingng and many of the items I mentioned I can't do at the beginning of this article.

Disabled people have problems in other areas of life as well.

One such area is Emotional well-being: ,, It should be obviouse to you that sudden dependence on others add up to depression, Frustration and anger: After I became visually impaired, for a few monthsI was able to hide from myself and everyone else that I had any negative emotions at all. It was after realizing (among other things) that I would never drive again, nor would I ever again be the respected bricklayer that I was that I realized how angry I was, and told my wife how I wanted to "go off" on something. I just wanted to throw a fit to release the anger I was feeling.

I think The most constructive emotional help that can be afforded a disabled person, is to be someone in their life who will not make them feel like a burdon, I speak from experience when I say most disabled people having to depend on others already feel that way. It's important as well to realize that disabled people resent disengenuin family and friends who only help them simply because they feel obligated. This is readily picked up on by those individuals who are sensitive to being burdensome. As a consequence of disengenous caregivers, additional feelings of sadness, anger, depression, decreased self-esteem or any combination of these can be expected.

Another area of concern for the disabled entail Social interaction with others. Everyone knows how it feels to be couped up at home for an entire weekend, and everyone should know how good it feels to be out among friends and family actively participating in life. Now, imagine that inorder for you to ever effectively participate in life, someone would have to give you a bath, dress you, transport you, help feed you and take you to the bathroom. Wouldn't you rather just stay at home? I would!

To that end, being visually impaired has made me reluctant to leave home and be an active participant in my own life because I find I can't completely participate independently. Furthermore, I resent the constant reminders that others have to be there for me, almost as if I were a child. Some of thes reminders are things as simple as needing some one to read menus for me, identify specific items on buffets, and needing to stay with someone when at large department stores because it's easy for me to get lost

Another area to consider is psychological. Feeling of self worth would fall under this category. Self esteem, and confidence suffer since the disabled person is now unable to continue wit fulfilling tasks that once gave his/her life more meaning. After being out of work for about a year, I rwas shopping with my wife at a large department store. I noticed someone was waving but couldn't tell who it was. Upon questioning the faceless figure, I recognized his voice to be that of Scott, a fellow brick layer whom I worked with for 5 years. I'm still troubled by how inadequate I felt standing ther telling him about my problems. It was as if I wasn't a person anymore,wasn't a man, but instead was an unfortunate victim of one of lifes cruel twists.

To sum this all up, sudden dependence on others alone is enough to diminish self worth, and can be further diminished by people who are neither supportive, nor genuine. It's these feelings of low self worth which lead many disabled people to depression. The good news however is that there are ways to deal with new found disabilities one of which is humor. Ultimately, it is up to the disabled person to come to terms with the disability, and accept that he/she will have to meet some new challenges.

Copy Write Daniel Taverne 2005

author's web site

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