Practicing Advocacy on a Girls Night Out
It was a rainy Wednesday evening. Early enough that there was still daylight left, but late enough for happy hour! A new friend and I had decided to meet at a bar for drinks.
Meeting up with a new friend
Due to my visual impairment, Stargardts Disease, I’m not able to drive. Luckily, I was blessed with the most supportive husband in the world who was more than willing to drive me to the bar. So off we go.
This particular bar was new to me. I’ve heard about it but never been. I pep talked myself as we approached the parking lot. I knew that my anxiety would soon kick in. I knew that unfamiliar places make me uncomfortable. Looking around in a place I have never been makes me feel like my eyes are shut. But I told myself I could do it.
Maintaining my independence
There were cones in the parking spots near the front of the door suggesting valet parking only. As a result, my husband pulled in across the parking lot significantly far away from the entrance. He asked if I would be okay and I smiled and said yes. I was screaming NO on the inside. I badly wanted him to walk me in but I also wanted to try to hold on to the tiny pieces of independence I had left. He reassured me that he would stay until I texted him that I was okay.
Finding the entrance
So I took off across the parking lot. I approached a velvet rope separating two doors which I assumed to be the entrance on the right and exit on the left. I cross over to the right and my heart started to pound as I pull onto the door handle. Locked. So I peer inside. Instead of letting me in, a security guard slowly steps out of the left door, which was kind of a jack hat move because it’s drizzling on my head.
I smile and ask if they were open. He looks at me almost annoyed and tells me that he was almost going to say something but decided not to. I could “see” where this was going. “Say it,” I insisted with a smile. Rolling his eyes, he points to a sign on the door that I pulled on that said “exit”.
He told me if I had just read the sign I would have realized it was an exit door and come in through the appropriate door. His tone and demeanor were smug and uninterested. Ordinarily, I would be defeated. Ordinarily, I would apologize for my mistake. Not this time.
Macular degeneration self-advocacy
This time I decided to speak up for myself. I decided to advocate for myself. I told him that I’m visually impaired and wasn’t able to read that signage. I told him that I tried to enter to the right because traditionally entrances are on the right. I had to use my best guess.
His face quickly softened as I spoke. He looked partly embarrassed and partly uncomfortable. I continued speaking, calmly with a smile. I told him that now that he knows about me he could help me out inside if I looked lost at all through the remainder of the evening. He agreed, we laughed, and I went inside.
Feelings of accomplishment
I felt great. I sat down at the bar and waited on my friend to arrive. She would be so proud of me when I told her about what had happened. She was previously my O&M trainer and really encouraged me to start advocating for myself. I felt accomplished. It was going to be a great night. I would go on to eat, drink, and chat. Not a moment, however, before I texted my husband to let him know that I was okay.
True or false: You always know if you have macular degeneration.