Ablism can be defined as discriminating against or being prejudiced towards anyone with a visible or invisible disability. This can be shown from the words, such as crazy or lame, to the actions such as excluding someone from a social event or emotional and physical abuse. I’m sure many of the Blogging Against Disablism Day writers will have several posts about ablist language and actions, but that’s not what I want to write about here. It is often so easy as a blind person to notice and remember all the times people have been rude, invaded my personal space, distracted my guide dog, denied us access, or didn’t give me a chance once they realized I was blind and associated that with lack of ability and intelligence. However, there have been several people, especially in education, who gave me an opportunity with expectations that I would succeed.
Dear Mrs. Lowe:
Thank you for being the first person to encourage my dreams of journalism. You not only saw my potential to write articles, but you assigned me to be the copy editor for the yearbook when I had no previous experience. This was my first time in a leadership position, where I learned the importance of speaking up to others as well as many of the rules for line, structural, and content editing. There were no problems; everyone gave me the work on disks, so the content was immediately accessible.
Dear Dr. Brasch:
Thank you for teaching me much about all aspects of journalism. I learned how to come up with more and more story ideas, even when I thought I was exhausted. When my story draft wasn’t exactly what you wanted you made me go back and fix it to your specifications, even if it took six times to do it. You showed me how to promote the magazine in everything from baking and selling cookies to making balloons and painting with children at the local fair. You made me go to local businesses and get ads and distribute magazines, especially to places I’ve never been before. You made me copy editor and later a senior editor/main fact checker in charge of proofing all articles for accuracy. You told me I was going to lecture in front of your class of 250 students because I would be able to do a good job of discussing disability in the media and social justice. You came down hard on me when I missed deadlines and wasn’t giving it my best because you knew I was capable of more than that. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of a team that had nothing to do with blindness.
Dear people on the study abroad trip to Guatemala,
Thank you for welcoming me as just another volunteer without the awkward, uncomfortable silence that so often greets me. On that trip, I learned to paint road lines, brick walls, and the ceiling of the medical clinic even though it terrified me to be so high up on a ladder. I went through the Mayan ruins, to the outdoor markets, and learned to make tortillas. After we went horseback riding up the mountain to see a volcano, thank you for helping me balance; after I dismounted, I was having severe hip pain because of my scoliosis and you helped me to walk the rest of the way to the lava without making a big deal.
Dear Dr. Podeschi,
Thank you for all the extra work you put into making the coding analysis program accessible. After having negative experiences with professors, especially one that semester who said I shouldn’t bother him and he wasn’t going to help me and should ask another student for computer assistance I was pleasantly shocked with your patience and creative solutions. It is one of the most visual-based programs that I have seen, and using a macro program to write computer scripts using keystrokes was a wonderful idea. You didn’t have to spend at least 4 hours with the initial setup of Atlas TI and an additional 4 or five hours fixing all the bugs and crashes each time a new technical issue arose. Also, thanks for all the research project articles and suggestions for improving my independent study.
Dear Michael Collins,
Thank you for making intro to theater such a memorable and fun class. It was one of the best ones I’ve taken during my college career, and I loved your endless stories and the non-powerpoint way you lectured. I usually need to ask for accomodations, but you automatically gave me exams on a flash drive and emailed me any documents, ahead of time, that I would need for class that day. Finally, thank you for taking the initiative to auditorially describe the settings, costume, and actions in the plays and films we watched. I didn’t even have to ask, you just came to sit near me and started talking about everything as if it were the most natural action in the world.
Martha, an appreciative student