Away from the Noise

A sanctuary for my thoughts, hopes, and dreams.

Employment and the Troubling Realities of Being Blind

A while ago for one of my English classes, I wrote a paper exploring the alarmingly high percentage of blind or visually-impaired people who were unemployed or not part of the labor force. I tried to figure out why it was that so many of us fail to find and gain meaningful employment like everyone else. Could societal or economic factors be holding us back, or could it simply be a case of widespread institutional prejudice against any and all people with disabilities? Do we lack the fundamental skills which would enable us to become hirable, or are we simply not able to do the jobs which many of our “abled” peers perform, i.e. waitressing or working as a barista at a coffee shop?

To this day, I still don’t have a definitive answer for these questions. These statistics obtained by the American Foundation for the Blind demonstrate just how dire our situation is.

To get a better look at the issue from within our small, insulated community, I’ve taken to talking about employment opportunities and the logistics of employment as it pertains to blind individuals with some of my blind friends. Although my observations are anything but statistically significant, I have drawn some interesting conclusions.

 

Those of my friends who adhere strongly to the tenets and philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind feel that the high unemployment rate is due primarily to the lack of necessary skills which give a blind person the confidence to apply for jobs. these skills may range from basic home management skills such as cooking, cleaning, and basic First Aid to traveling, crossing streets, and mapping out routes to get to one’s workplace. For many who hold this view, the solution for this problem is to educate and make blind people aware of the various programs in place to help them attain these skills, e.g. the Colorado Center for the Blind’s ITP program. Forced to live in their own apartments with a roommate for roughly nine months while they attend classes, the people get a very real experience of what it’s like to live independently. Yet as one of my friends pointed out, just because you possess a certain set of skills enabling you to do everything under the sun on your own doesn’t make you any more qualified than your sighted peers.

 

Another set of friends feel that even if one possesses all the necessary skills to live independently on one’s own, the variety of entrance jobs available to us are just not that practical for us to do. They cite positions such as cashiers, sales clerks at various department and retail outlets, and waitstaff at restaurants and other establishments. Theoretically, blind people are capable of doing almost anything that their sighted peers can do. Obvious exceptions to that statement would be chauffeurs and commercial airline pilots. Outside of those few exceptions, though, everything is pretty much fair game…except for one, tiny principle: investment vs. perceived gain. You see, a blind person needs relatively more assistive technology to perform the same job a sighted person can do with zero special tech. If I wanted to be a cashier, I would have to ask the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation or convince my future or current employer to purchase a talking cash register in order for me to do my job. As you can see here, they cost a lot of money and are not purchases one can make lightly on a  whim.

Keeping the above viewpoints in mind, a blind person must learn to strike a fine balance between practicality and challenging one’s own perceived limitations.

 

TO BE CONTINUED

 

Gracesong

Humility and Success

Whether in the music business or through the course of daily life, one inevitably will meet people who seem to collect windfalls at every turn. Business trips around the world with all expenses paid including stipends for their mortgage, working with Academy award-winning directors, and working with a prominent advertising guru. It all just seems to work out for them. Especially in our current economic reality, to have all of those opportunities is quite uncanny.

 

From the outside looking in, it’s extremely tempting to become bitter and wonder what juju they walked into to have all these doors opened for them. While the rest of us are trying to get hired at restaurant X as waitstaff or as a fry cook at some fast food chain just to make a living while pursuing a degree or raising a family, they get to sail around the world on cruise ships. It just doesn’t seem fair or just. Yeah, yeah. Life’s not fair, I know. Still, there’s gotta be some justice int he world for the millions of people who’re working their asses off just to get by.

 

Whenever the subject of success is brought up with the fortunate few, I find that several principles are mentioned. Hard work, diligence, networking, following your dreams or pies in the sky…blah, blah, blah. I’ve heard it all before; it’s nothing I couldn’t find in a sappy, self-help book. Hours filled with nothing but well-worn cliches and advice everyone’s already harped on before.

 

“you’ve gotta stay positive.” “All good things come to those who wait.” “Just work hard, and you’ll get there.”

 

Well, how about all of us who’re working hard already and have gotten nowhere? What about us?

 

This might sound like a diatribe from someone who’s intensely bitter and jealous of others’s success, and maybe it is, in part. Yet, I can’t help but think that in today’s politically correct world, no one wants to admit that hard work, blood, sweat, tears, and dedication aren’t the blue pills which will bring people the American dream. Every time someone I know throws their cliches around, I get annoyed at the hypocrisy. I would much rather someone be honest and say, “Yes, I was very fortunate to encounter the circumstances I did to get to where I am now.” then, I know they’re being realistic and honest. I know some people who’s repetition of those maxims just reeks of pretentiousness and of some who are genuine, striving to help others get to that same point of fulfillment in life. I wish there more of the latter and less of the former.

 

It’s perfectly okay to enjoy one’s success and reap the fruits of one’s labor, but a little humility and honesty would go a long way. My philosophy is that we are granted success for our benefit and for others as well.

 

Oh well, that’s enough ranting for now.

 

Gracesong

It’s Amazing…

As my SO and I listened to NPR on our way back from a trip to the local shopping center, we got into a discussion about the Bible and its role in history and current affairs. The segment had been about the possibility of creating two states in order to quell some of the turmoil in the Middle East. As i listened to the various points being made on both sides of the issue, the Palestinian and Israeli viewpoints, I was struck by just how much of this whole conflict is strongly influenced and driven by religion.

 

Intellectually, I know wars, lifelong hostility, and even the estrangement of family members and children have been caused by differences in religion and the doctrines of either a god or a church. Yet, every time I witness it occurring in either families, communities, or some far-off country, I am incredulous. A literary work containing sixty-six books penned by forty authors claiming it possesses the sole truth of God, the afterlife, and the nature of Man has created a seemingly irreparable rift between otherwise ordinary people and countries, all with heir individual merits and weaknesses. This book and others like it have spawned centuries of war and unrest, leading to millions of fatalities and years of misery for people who could have otherwise lived fulfilling lives.

Yes, poverty and disease would still be present in our lives, but we would not be fearful of delving into philosophical or religious discussions or even benignly sharing our own spiritual experiences with another if all three manifestations of the one, true God weren’t so prone to rage and taking offense to dissent.

 

I guess I just see it as common sense. If all three of the monotheistic traditions are vying to be the possessors of truth, there will be war and anger on all sides. How can anyone win or even hope to enter into a peaceful coexistence with their neighbor if they’re secretly harboring feelings of superiority over tehm. How can anyone hope to come to any kind of peaceful or satisfying agreement if we’re all trying to take back or reclaim the world for Christ, Allah or Jehovah?

 

I’m not trying to say that peace is impossible. What I am saying is that we need to put aside our egos and, as in your everyday disagreement between loved ones, quit caring who’s right. I’m well aware that this is very idealistic, not realistic, and vastly oversimplifies the very complex circumstances and relationships in the Middle East. Yet, the little kid inside me still wonders why people can’t jut all get along.

 

Gracesong

My New Obsession with Food

There was a time when I really couldn’t cook and even shunned becoming a good cook. For me, if I could make myself a simple dinner of steamed vegetables and stir fry some meat, that was fine. Most of it, I think, stems from the fact that I really wasn’t given many opportunities to cook.

 

Blindness can definitely throw some obstacles your way when you’re trying to cook. This goes double when you have a blind child, and you happen to be from a background which has always traditionally viewed the disabled as somewhat less capable of everyday activities as those who are able-bodied. My mother commented to one of the visually impaired specialists at my school she couldn’t imagine cooking with her eyes closed and didn’t know where to begin in instructing me on cooking basics. Understandably, most people wouldn’t know where to begin either. Our world is inundated by images and visual stimuli, and I’ve often griped about how many people neglect the rest of their senses in favor of their sense of sight.

 

So, for the next few years, beginning in high school, I and one other blind student began our regular cooking lessons. We were responsible for coming up with things we wanted to make, finding suitable recipes, and shopping for our ingredients. It was a lot of fun and really opened up my horizons. However, our teachers were sighted and were somewhat cautious, which I suppose could’ve been due to the fear of law suits and the like. Even in the after-school programs where there were a bunch of us blind kids, our hands were being guided at almost every step. There seemed to be a disparity between how totally blind or near totally blind kids were being treated and how high partially sighted kids were being treated. The behavior was always professional, but there was an unspoken belief that people with more sight could do more things and be more independent.

 

Fast forward to my two summers with the Colorado Center for the Blind, and I was thrown into a very refreshing and liberating environment where blind people were just as capable. Sure, we had to make some adaptations to how we did things, but that also meant we were forced to focus on our other senses, and pay closer attention to what we were doing. This meant learning to recognize doneness of meat by its firmness, learning to use the cooking utensil–spatula, wooden spoon, or tongs–as an extension for our fingers and hands, and smelling and tasting everything we made. During this time, I also got the chance to use a propane grill for the first time. I felt the contours and implements of the grill while they were still cold and was guided through how it worked. When it came time to turn it on, I was slightly nervous but grew more confident with time.

 

Now, I read through recipes for fun and come up with ideas for dinner. I love watching Master Chef, Kitchen Nightmares, and Iron Chef Japan. Actually, the Food Network is kind of a staple channel with my family. My sisters and I drool over the recipes and love watching the techniques they use to prepare amazing food. My SO and I go grocery shopping together and prepare meals together now. Cooking together really does wonders for a relationship. You have to learn to communicate your needs, to compromise, and to fairly and efficiently delegate responsibilities.

 

To date, we’ve made Thai penang curry, pad thai, Chinese fried rice, sautéd vegetables and chicken, pan-seared steak and pork loins, Mexican guacamole, roast turkey legs…you get the drift; we love food. My future recipes? Bourbon chicken, peanut satay chicken drumsticks, Chinese meifun (rice noodles), and maybe some chicken fetuccini alfredo to top it off. Maybe I’ll even post some recipes. ;-)

 

gracesong

A Warm WelcomE

This morning, I was a bit surprised to find three, yes three, people had chosen to follow my humble, little blog. I’d originally conceived of this blog being a platform where I could further refine my writing and share my thoughts openly. However, I never dreamed people would be following me.

 

Truthfully, there are really only a few blogs I follow and read up on consistently. I guess you could say I’m picky. My interests vary so widely that I really only have a few hours a day to read through everything. However, whenever I find someone’s blog post, I try my best to read through at least the first few pages of posts and decide from there. If they’re engaging and authentic writers, have a very good grasp of grammar and syntax, express themselves openly, and share relatable experiences, I most likely will follow and/or subscribe. but, enough of my blabbering.

 

I would now like to take some time and extend a warm welcome to:

 

 

Simple Politics

 

 

Check them out, and thanks so much for your support and for following.

 

Gracesong

Just When I Thought the Stress Was Over

Today’s just been one of those days. Bright and early, I started working on getting my official transcripts sent to my new university, and I was hoping to get everything done by the end of the day. Unbeknownst to me, the gods had other plans. After what felt like centuries of being on hold multiple times, combing through web search results, navigating back and forth through a site whose pages wouldn’t make any sense unless your browser supported Flash, and finally finding the info on another school’s website, I got the URL I needed to complete the Perkins loan interview. Well, so I thought.

After breezing through the questions and reading through my borrower obligations, I found I had to provide about four different addresses, all being used for either references or next of kin boxes. A frantic game of phone tag with my various contacts quickly ensued. I relish in the experience of really needing something or some piece of info only to find that it’s not available just when I happen to need it the most. It’s like being pumped up for your trip to Hawaii only to find you can’t find your keys to get to the airport.

When I did get the info I needed, I rushed to input it into the boxes to find that my session had expired due to inactivity. In a nutshell? I have to go through the process all over again tomorrow, but this time, at least I have the info I need.

while all this was going on, I was busily looking for a job and filling out what applications I could. some friends of mine really lifted my spirits, though, and encouraged me to apply for things even if i wasn’t completely qualified for them. A friend reminded me that a willingness to learn, flexibility, and being multilingual really does help. Now, I’m looking for a bit of inspiration to freshen up my cover letter. I did get an E-mail back a while ago, following up on an application I’d filled out for a call center position. After having some technical difficulties with my screenreader, I managed to get the tests done. Unfortunately, they chose to go with another candidate. Oh, well. C’est la vi.

Well, after and during all that craziness, my SO’s parents came home, and his mom, already being a rather frantic and anxious person, was kicking things into high gear. The puppy, being very high-energy and rather hyper, was just excited and wanted to play. So, of course, she barks. What followed was yelling and complaining, pretty much all being done by my SO’s mom. Now, it could definitely be a result of my upbringing, but yelling and shouting has always, always set me on edge. I get very anxious and rather stressed when people start yelling. My immediate urge is to retreat and hide, withdrawing from the stressful situation. I guess that’s what I’ve always done with my family too. I guess my desire for a safe and tranquil place to voice my thoughts was the impetus for renaming the blog.

Well, since the day’s been somewhat of a drain, I’m gonna allow my brain to disintegrate into mush for a bit. :) Here’s hoping the day will go much better than planned or expected tomorrow.

Gracesong

Thoughts of the Day

It’s hard to watch someone you love head down the dark and well-worn path of depression and self-defeating behaviors. It’s almost like a fire was consuming them from within. A conversation may be going wonderfully one minute but end up in yelling or emotional withdrawal in the next. Oftentimes, they are hard to predict, and they often leave their loved ones feeling they have to walk on eggshells just to kep another episode at bay. you learn, over time, there are certain topics not up for discussion, and if you chance to gloss over them, well, you’d best be mindful to mince your words.

For me, the most difficult part lies in watching your loved one change before your very eyes. They may have been the most loving, tender, and caring person in your life, but once they’ve become firmly entrenched in their own self-pity and self-loathing, a new creature emerges, one you barely recognize. they will rage, they will withdraw, and they will sling the most hurtful words your way. If you’re lucky, they will apologize after the fact and make slow, steady progress toward becoming healthy again. However, if you’re dealt a more unfortunate hand, their words will hang in the air like stale, musty air and haunt your every waking moment with them. you will wonder where the person you once loved has gone. you will wonder if they will ever change. You will even ponder leaving them, letting them succumb to the destructiveness of their rage and allowing their misery to turn them inside-out. but, you don’t.

You stand at the crossroads, weighing every possible option, even the ones which you don’t like. You wonder mildly what your life would be like should you decide to leave them. you wonder if the emptiness and heartache will overwhelm you. you wonder if you could ever replace them with anyone else. Friends have told you you deserve better. Hell, you even know you deserve better. But, you still can’t and won’t leave.

Are you crazy, or is this just how love is supposed to be?

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