The Perfect Focus

Finding focus in a blurry world…

Your disabled, you understand…

This is a thought that popped into my head lately. And it comes from a friend sent some time ago when we where discussing their disability.

But your disabled, you know what it’s like, you understand…

child_manual_w_chair Yes, this is true, I am disabled. The fact is I am visually disabled… I am sorry if even I a self-proclaimed advocate for disabled children do not understand what it is like.

I do not understand what it is like not to be able to hear, I do not understand what it is like not being able to see, being totally blind (remember I can see fairly well as legally blind people go).

I understand what it is like to not be able to see across the street, but not what it must be like to sit in a wheelchair and worry about steps and ramps. I don’t know what it’s like not to be able to hold a pencil to write my name, or be the child that understands every thing that is going on around them, but not be able to speak. I don’t know what it is like to need some one to help me get dressed or use the bathroom.

However there are things I do know. I DO know what it’s like to be stared at, even if I can’t see who is doing the staring, trust me, I can feel you. I DO know what it’s like to be laughed at or pointed at… asked questions, how, when, why… can it be fixed… I DO know what it’s like in school, to be left out or left behind and the last one picked… and needing some one else to take you where you need to go.

I don’t know what it’s like to have a child or be the child that has already spent half their life in a hospital, or making countless trips to therapy sessions… or be the child that has their life scheduled around therapy rather then a Little League game.

So, please… forgive me if I am the one doing the staring or asking the questions… I’m only human… You probably have some questions of your own for me, so be polite, ask… we’ll talk … and then get on being friends.

How is therapy going?
Can I have a ride in your wheelchair?
Yes, you can check out my white cane, just don’t use it like a sword!

I understand what it’s like to be disabled like me… not what it’s like to be disabled like you

  • Filed under: Personal
  • Do you know amazing people?

    Six Degrees of SeparationI was speaking to my dad tonight after he got home from the hospital.

    I had went to visit him this past weekend, and while I was there I gave him a photo of my friend Dr. Andre Watson, and myself, a photo that was taken at the Pennsylvania State Judo Championships… But, I had forgotten to write the information on the back of the photo for dad. So he had called tonight to tell me he was home, and ask for the information.

    After telling him about Andre, he mentioned how nice it is that I know such people, and how he wishes he could meet Andre some day. I really thought nothing of it till now, but I really do know some amazing people.

    You see, my friend Dr. Andre Watson, is a black belt in judo, and a member of the US Paralympic Blind Judo Team. He fought in the 2008 Paralympic Summer Games, and Parapan American Games, visited many countries including Brazil, China, United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico, and many states in the USA. He’s received his master’s and doctorate degrees in clinical psychology from Widener University. – He’s blind…

    Rich (Left) and Dr. Andre Watson (Right)

    I think that qualifies as amazing. Don’t you?

    I can think of a few other people I happen to know. Because of Andre, I also know Marc Vink, Paralympic Judo Team Leader, and Heidi Moore, Director of Judo Development for the US Association of Blind Athletes.

    I can also think of some people who truly inspire me. Elaine, my Orientation and Mobility instructor; she has dedicated her life to helping people like me, who cannot see well to get around safe.

    My first judo instructor Dr. Frank Heifer, who just happened to be the superintendent of our school, back when I first started judo, and many other teachers in the school system that happened to also be judo black belts, that until I started judo, I did not know where black belts.

    Other friends such as Cole Massie and Skilled Companion Ilia, and their family who inspire me to keep working hard no matter what. Who shared the most private parts of their lives as a family and a child with a disability on national television. Whose service dog won the 2008 ASPCA Dog of the Year, and as a family won the 2009 Honda Helpful Award. He’s helped inspire the writing of this blog, and me to seek orientation and mobility training to become an independent traveler.

    Yea, I do know some amazing people!

    So, who do you know? A teacher, doctor, son, service person? Who are the people who inspire you, and are the amazing people you call friends… Blog it! And share your story…

    Hell, I’m a legally blind photographer, and a black belt in judo myself. Do I inspire any one? Let me know!

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  • Filed under: Personal
  • Hiding in plain sight…

    While on my last mobility lesson with Elaine I ran into one of my judo student’s mothers, who said a quick hello in passing, as not to interrupt us. I was so fixated on what I was doing with Elaine I managed to forget her name to introduce her!

    However, this brings another point. Though my judo students and parents know, I will now be using a white cane to travel. (We talked about it in class and what the white cane means.) I still have that uneasy feeling of “Now they know I can’t see well“. I’ve never really hid my disability from others; but now with the white cane in hand I can’t help but feel a little embarrassed.

    HidingI also feel a little sad for other friends and how they may feel around others in public, because they cannot hide their disabilities because they use wheelchairs or walkers to get around. Do we ever really get over what others think of us?

    How should you feel?

    The only way you would know I had bad eyesight was if I was reading something with the paper close to my nose. If I met you in passing on the street, unless I had my cane, you would never know.

    I really do my best to educate my students about how some people are different, and how some children, and adults have disabilities, like bad eyesight, are blind, or can’t walk. I teach them to respect disabled people as equals, and that you should never make fun of some one because of their disability.

    I also explain as much as I can, and as much as I think they will understand about the disability at hand, be it my own eyesight, or our pen pal friend Cole who has Cerebral Palsy; and because of Ilia, Cole’s service dog, we also get to talk about service animals, like assistance dogs, and guide dogs. – I do my best…

    Well, at least explaining why I’m using the white cane is a little easier then explaining how I’m a photographer, with a white cane… But if you really want to know you can read my post, The Blind Photographer.

    To my own amazement some of my students, some of the youngest already know more then you think. As J says “I know a boy in school who uses a stick like that.” referring to my white cane. (I also know the boy he is talking about.) Or the some times off the wall questions I get, like from K who asked “Does Ilia carry Cole’s food tray in school?“…

    So, what are some of the odd questions you get? Or how do you feel in public, when you wish every thing was just “normal“. Please, post your thoughts and comments!