I don’t like to talk much. By this, I mean that I almost never speak outside of my own house.
Since speaking at all is such a challenge for me, I rarely , if ever, speak up when there is something I can’t see. It can be hard, especially in school. When the font on a paper is too small or I can’t see what is written on the board, it is not easy for me to fix. Most of the time I will just sit there, not saying a word. Then I am left to try to find a solution on my own. I would honestly rather suffer in silence than ask for help.
Last week in one of my classes we were watching a video and our assignment was to answer questions to go along with it. The questions were on a worksheet that we were expected to complete while the video was playing. I knew what was coming next. I had experienced it many times in other classes before and a few times in the class I was in then. Still, I hoped that this time would be different. It wasn’t. After the teacher finished handing out all the papers, he walked up to the front of the room and turned off the lights.
Here’s a chronological list of what happened next:
Fortunately, after the video I had free time in class to look up the answers on my chromebook. I lucked out this time, but this doesn’t always happen. For the most part, my teachers have been very understanding in these types of situations. Usually I am able to smooth over the problem after the fact. They understand that I am quiet and because of my eye disease they give me some leniency. It is still a hassle on both ends, but it gets me by. I know that life could be so much easier, though, if I just spoke up and asked for help.
I know it would be less work for me if I admitted when I needed help in scenarios such as the one from class last week. Every kid with low vision does, but not all of us speak up. Why?
The answer is both simple and immensely complicated: We don”t want the attention.
Asking for help sheds light on our short-comings that would otherwise go unnoticed. An eye disease is not something you can see on the surface. It can be easily forgotten by people around you. My mom has on several occasions forgotten to help me through a dark area, assist me in reading small type, etc. There have been times when my condition even slips my mind for a second.
In this way, an eye disease is very much like that box that you keep under your bed. You can forget that box is even there until you need something from it and shine your flashlight under your bed to find it. Asking for help is a blind kid’s flashlight.
Where light shines, people will look. What I mean by this is that when something is happening, people may take notice. Granted, not all of them will because they simply don’t care. Even so, when you are in that situation, you never know what will happen after you admit to needing help. You could think others are judging you and rolling their eyes at your annoying default. You could worry that the person you are asking for help may not even give it to you because they are irritated by the request. It is awful, being stuck in that place. Not knowing what to do or say to make the problem and anxiety go away. Most often, you end up doing nothing at all.
I get it. Rarely do I ever speak up for myself when I need help. It is scary and overwhelming and seems impossible to do without dying. I am probably the wrong person to give this advice, but I am going to do it anyway. Maybe you will listen to me since I experience it, too. Although, you know that you don’t listen to your mom all the ten thousand times she has told you the same thing. I know I don’t. Well, here it is:
You could make life so much easier on yourself if you just did this one thing. I know it is harder than it sounds. Believe me, I understand. I get that you are probably sitting there shaking your head at your screen right now as you are reading this. You are thinking that there is not\ way you will ever speak up for yourself when it comes to your low vision.
How about this? I will make you a deal. If you can promise to speak up for yourselves the next time you can’t see something, then I will, too. It is terrifying to think of speaking out alone, but if we join together then maybe it won’t be so bad. Next time you need help in school or anywhere else, just remember that when you speak up I have your back, and I hope that you have mine, too. We are stronger together than we are alone. Let’s prove it by shining our lights together and making our world brighter, one flashlight at a time.