Over the years, I have grown into an independent, successful young woman with dreams of helping other blind and visually impaired children grow into successful adults.
This wouldn’t have been possible without the help of the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, my family, Iowa Department for the Blind, Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired, National Federation of the Blind and other blind services that have helped me.
These services helped me figure out who I was as a visually impaired person, and I’m hoping that what they’ve helped me learn will help someone else, too.
1. Learning Braille
The best decision I made in school was learning braille. Braille has made me very confident in myself and has eased my fear of blindness from glaucoma.
Braille can be used to take notes in college, jot down important numbers or addresses, and more! When I have a hard time seeing cards, the stove, or washing machine, braille is the answer. I am able to do my tasks without straining my eyes and struggling to see.
In order to maintain my knowledge in braille, I use my contraction book or alphabet card to copy words down. I usually write a word or letter many times in a row with my slate and stylus or braille writer.
I am willing to challenge myself by getting better in braille. Never be afraid to learn new things and prepare for what life may throw at you!
2. Working Hard
In order to get to your goals, you have to work really hard if you are sure about what you want to do with your life. I am so happy that I am doing better in my braille skills and improving day by day. I have been practicing every day for two hours and taking advice from experts who know braille.
With my college work, I always try to make an effort and put my best into what I do. When I need help, I go to the academic center and ask a tutor for assistance. Whenever you make a mistake, the best thing to do is keep trying until you get it right and have a positive attitude! Never be afraid to admit that you need help and advocate for your needs as a visually impaired or blind individual.
3. Learning to Use the Long White Cane or Guide Dog
Another skill that I am glad I learned at school and from my NFB mentor was how to better use my long white cane. My cane has made me more confident and safety-conscious over the years.
I like using my cane to navigate to places like Dunkin’ Donuts, the gas station, the track, and going downtown. I also rely on my cane when I take the public transit bus to college.
I also recently relied on my cane to help me navigate on my journey to visit my grandparents and friends in Iowa for three weeks. It was my first time flying alone on an airplane. I was a little bit nervous because my mom wouldn’t be with me – but I believed in my heart that I could go on a plane by myself.
Guide dogs can also help with bringing up your confidence by assisting you in everyday tasks and serving as loyal companions. My two best friends, Stephanie and Sarah, are working on getting guide dogs through Southeastern Guide Dogs. This is great for them because an animal will bring up their confidence level and they will develop better mobility skills. My other friends, Courtney and Ciara already have guide dogs that have been a joy in their lives! I am considering getting a guide dog too but, probably in my 30s when things wind down.
Never be afraid to travel and adventure – and always explore new horizons!
4. Advocating for your wants and needs
When you enter the real world, you have no choice but to be responsible for yourself. You are the only person that knows yourself.
Let people at work, school, family, etc. know that you need certain things to accommodate your disabilities. I had to learn all of these things after I graduated from the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind.
These important advocacy skills may include letting your college professors or disability advisor know that you need devices such as magnifiers, braille, interpreters, a ramp if you are in a wheelchair or a walker, and more.
The best time to set up your accommodations is before your classes start. This may be a month or week in advance that you can talk to your disability office. Another resource that can help you with school is blind services in your state. Check with your vocational rehabilitation counselor to see what financial aid might be available.
Like me, you may also have to order medicine. Because I have glaucoma, I am responsible for taking my eye drops and making sure I don’t run out of any medication. This means ordering my meds on the phone from the pharmacy and picking it up. Glaucoma is a big job but I have done very well with calling Wal-Mart and making sure that I have refills.
Occasionally, sighted people might overdo their generosity by trying to do everything for you. Sometimes it’s nice when someone helps you with a certain task – but if you always rely on family or strangers to do everything for you, you’ll never become independent. Politely tell the person that you can do certain tasks all by yourself. If you don’t know certain tasks, attend a blind center for independence or have a vision specialist come to your home to teach you independent skills.
All these tips I’ve talked about are for everyone with visual impairment or blindness to benefit and use for reference. Working hard, having a positive attitude, learning braille, using the long white cane and advocating for your needs are all helpful skills that all blind and visually impaired people should learn and apply to their lives.
The quote from the National Federation of the Blind is a great one for all to follow: Live the Life You Want!
You can read more from Jasmyn in her previous #MyBlindStory posts, The Top 5 Benefits of Learning to Read Braille, My Journey with Braille and Why I Love My White Cane and What It Means to Me. You can also follow her on Instagram (@JasmynPolite) and Twitter (@DaytonaState14).