Look, See, Read

Our leader began with these instructions: “Look in your handout folder.  You will see the agenda on a pink sheet.  I will not insult your intelligence by reading it to you.”  Twenty colleagues did as they were told.  It worked for them but not for me.  I do not look or see or read the way they do.

Had the leader not noticed my Seeing Eye dog?  Had no one told her I am blind?  These were social workers after all, hypersensitive to the needs of others.  They should have known better.

Our leader had said, “I will not insult your intelligence by reading…”  Fine, insult me by making me feel small, conspicuous and inadequate.  Damn it, had I not managed to get myself across town, through campus and into Room 410 to join this group?  Just to feel like a rank outsider?

I gave myself a choice.  I could either be the pissed off victim or try to engage.  I raised my hand and asked for help.  I didn’t like doing it, but it felt better than righteous indignation, no matter how righteous my indignation feels.

That night, at home, I scanned my print handouts until I heard “Evaluation.”  After the question, “How can we make our program better?” I wrote, “You can value the uniqueness of your participants with special needs.”  The next morning, I added, “I learned that I will benefit by making my needs known.  I will ask for print material in advance via email.  That way, I will be prepared to participate fully.”

There, damn it, I’ve reached a balance here.  I’ve implied blame.  That satisfies my pissed off victim side.  I’ve accepted my part in the transaction.  That satisfies my personal responsibility side. 

Look at me.  See how I manage conflict?  Read all about it.

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3 Responses to Look, See, Read

  1. Jenny T says:

    Hi Jeff, I have often found that the more educated and enlightened that individuals, such as professors and university staff, are supposed to be, in actuality, these individuals are the most closed-minded people that I have encountered in academics and other situations. It seems that many professors and university staffers suffer from a “know it all” complex and a highly unhealthy view of their own self-importance. For example, even when I contact professors months in advance for reading lists and handouts, I almost never receive the information until the first day of class, or usually weeks into the term. I have received so many ridiculous excuses and have encountered so many obstacles from my professors and from university staff, including the disabilities services office, that I often feel weary. However, I remind myself of what I hope to accomplish professionally and personally, and the reminder is usually enough to allow me to do what needs to be done. I have never enjoyed exposing myself in large groups, nor do I like having to always educate and inform individuals about my needs, especially because of my shyness, but hopefully, my experiences and interactions with individuals will make it a little bit easier for the next person with unique needs and abilities. Also, I figure this is good practice for when I will be hunting for a job in a few years. Thank you for sharing your experiences. As always, your writing helps me when things are tiresome and tough. Jenny and her wonderful guidedog Blazer.

    • Debra says:

      Dear Jenny and Blazer, Thank you so much for side stepping our sighted yet ill-concieved notions and reminding us of the reality of what we are trying to accomplish here. Yes, I often mis-speak, mis do, mis-take and do not consider the needs of those around myself, or fail to think beyond my own selfish needs. I do look at the world thru my own pair of rose colored glasses. I think we all do this to some extent. Do you realize the person sitting next to you may be going through a painful malady and make concessions for them – especially when your not aware of it? What if you knew the person sitting there had severe arthritis in his/her writing hand. If you knew would you then try to think of a way for them to preform easier? Yes, most likely, I would think. But we don’t always know – or remember, that your limited sight needs allowances we haven’t thought of. It’s not that we are trying to show, teach, or see how difficult we can make it. We just need to be reminded. Sometimes often. Because we usually are mostly just thinking thru our own rose colored glasses, and not seeing thru your. And sometimes too I think there are (a large?) group of people who are so unsure of themselves that they just try to dodge the issue. Sometimes it helps to suggest ways to make it easier for them. Tell them to put things in your hand, how do you know when they are handing you items? I’m sorry for not being able to assist you better, but honestly, I’ve not ever been blind and it is very hard to imagine fully. But I do know it is difficult. It has to be.

  2. Judi B says:

    Jeff…you’ve handled it so well, as usual. Hope you’ve made them think, at the very least.

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