What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. (If you are new to this blog, regularly schedule programming will resume after the holidays, but you can check out the “Best Of” section in the meantime). If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. This guest post is by Briley Pollard.
There are many things I'd like the whole world to realize about me. I'm young but determined. I'm an advocate for the underprivileged and disadvantaged who have no voice in the education system. I love a wonderful man who works so hard, and someday we want to provide a home for a child who has none. I love to dip my fries into my chocolate milkshake, (don't lie, you know you do it too).
The reality is that most people never get to those parts of me. There is one obvious characteristic of me that is always seen first and very few people move past it to the obvious determination that I am a capable, independent, accomplished woman.
Yes, blind. As in my retinas didn't develop correctly so I can't see like most others in the world do.
This doesn't keep me from leading a life that looks remarkably just like yours. I hate the lines at the bank, I swear when the metro is too crowded and there are no seats left, I spend more money than I should on shoes. I'm your average 25-year-old living in a city, hoping to make a difference for children in the world.
The difference is that most people don't stop other 25-year-old women who are wearing a suit and heels on the street to ask if they know where they're going. The difference is that people see my cane or my guide dog and immediately start thanking God they have cancer and aren't blind, (yes, someone said that to me once). The difference is that random strangers don't touch other women in the street, steering them in the direction in which they think they want to go.
I could deal with all of this. I really could. I know not everyone has encountered a blind person before. What is a characteristic to me, (just as your brown hair or left-handedness), is a tragedy to some others. I also know that there are plenty of blind people in the world who haven't been blessed to have the training and opportunities that I have had. I can do anything every other sighted person can do, even if I accomplish it differently. I have dealt with this ignorant treatment all of my life and so it doesn't phase me most of the time.
What I can't deal with is doctors and "professionals" telling me that it wouldn't be "safe" for me and my blind future husband to adopt a child, or God forbid, bring a child into the world that would have "your disease". We've been told we'd have to pay "extra" to an adoption agency because it would be more difficult to place a child with us. We've been told that we can't have a foster child in our home unless there is a sighted person living there with us.
Are you kidding me? My home is clean, neat, hell it is even reasonably decorated for people our age on our budget. We have good jobs, goals, the means to support a child, (not to mention a child with needs others don't want to deal with). We have college degrees, I'm pursuing a master's, and you're basically telling me that I'm incapable of protecting a child because I can't see?
This kind of discrimination is not only illegal, it is disgusting and dehumanizing. I have no problem with an agency asking a million questions about how we would do X Y or Z. I know that most people can't comprehend ever leaving their homes again if they lost their vision. But I can give a list a mile long of blind parents who have children, (both babies and adults), who are happy, healthy, well adjusted children. None of them have ever burned themselves because their poor blind parents were so oblivious that they didn't know their kid was playing with the stove. None of them have ever got run over by a car because their parent couldn't keep track of them when outside. None of them have ever suffered from poor hygiene or dirty clothing because the parent couldn't "see" the child's appearance. These are all problems that have seriously been suggested to me about dangers for a child in my home.
I don't want a pat on the back for being an amazing super human who has overcome something so dark and horrible. I haven't. I'm blind. It is what it is, and it isn't any different than anything anyone else deals with. there are people with painful, debilitating diseases in the world, people who struggle every day to get out of bed. That isn't me or my life. Is blindness inconvenient sometimes? Sure. I don't drive, so I live in an area with excellent public transportation. Would it be easier if I could drive? Sometimes, sure. Is it an insurmountable hardship? Certainly not. Is it inconvenient to be short? Sure. Do short people have to use a step-stool or ask their tall spouse to reach things for them? Certainly they do. Are adoption agencies telling short people they have to pay extra to adopt a child? No, because that would be ridiculous.
Some might say I sound angry and I'm not being patient with the "system". I don't think you would be "patient" if your fitness as a parent was being questioned because of an aspect of yourself that you can't change. I wouldn't change it if I could and I want to bring a blind child into my home so I can teach them the same things I've learned. They are worth it, they are smart and beautiful and deserve love and a chance to succeed in whatever they want to do. I want to teach them to climb trees, explore the world, to love God and their family.
If it is up to the "system", I'll never get that chance.
What the world needs to know is that blindness isn't a tragedy. I am not a tragedy. My life is not a tragedy.
The tragedy lies in that there is a child out there that is being kept from loving, devoted parents because the "system" is too "blind" to see their own prejudice.
That is the tragedy.