Intro to Assistance: Finding the Support We Need
A few years ago I was a server/bartender. At that time, I was extremely embarrassed to bring up, point out, explain, or talk about my visual impairment.
Keeping my diagnosis private
Why I felt so much shame is hard to completely understand even for myself.
Part of it was due to the insane amount of disbelief I would receive when I told people. Lots of people thought I was lying. Lots. Like, who makes up such a grand story about slowly losing their vision?
Another factor, I think, was because I got tired of the curiosity. It felt to me more like being nosey but not really caring. People I thought remembered my condition would still try to show me stuff on their phone to the point where I just pretended to see it and moved on.
It was pretty taxing so hiding it seemed easier. Plus, it was very new to me and I didn’t even know what my needs were or who to talk to about it or who to ask for help. I didn’t even know what kind of help I needed. I came to terms with the fact that this was just my suffering life and I may as well get used to it.
A lifechanging encounter
On one day in particular my life was changed.
It was an ordinary day at work. We were on a rotating floor chart where we took turns picking up tables that walked in. Two couples walked in and were sat at the same time. It was my turn to pick up a table so it didn’t matter which table I went to.
Without much thought, I strolled over to the table that was sat in the far left corner of the dining room. They were an older couple with warm welcoming demeanors. They were dressed nicely and out on date night. I proceeded to introduce myself and asked if they had ever been there before.
The woman said it was their first visit and before we went any further she wanted to let me know that both her husband and herself were blind and would need some assistance. My heart sang, then dropped, then swelled. I was experiencing so many emotions that I didn’t know what I was feeling. It felt as though I gravitated to that table for a reason.
We're not alone
I told the couple that I would be more than happy to help. They asked several questions and I went over menu items in great detail. I remember thinking this couple lucked up because I don’t think any other servers would have been as patient. I, on the other hand, could empathize. I didn’t reveal that though.
I was still nervous to talk about it, but even more, I wanted to observe them. I wanted to see what they needed and how they needed it. Mostly, I wanted to see how they functioned so normally. It blew my sweet little uninformed mind.
Supporting each other
As the dining experience proceeded I was able to point out where their silverware was located and where anything was as it was added to or removed from the table. I was able to place the woman’s hand on the signature line of her credit card receipt. I was enamored by the entire experience.
I finally felt compelled to talk to them about my experience, how much I enjoyed their company, and the impression it was making on me. They were flattered by my admiration. They told me to keep my head up. I was told that I didn’t have to go through it alone. The gentleman gave me a phone number to call. This is where I was introduced to Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Services or GVRS.
Finding the resources I needed
After applying for GVRS services, I was paired with a counselor who was able to help assess my needs. Their primary goal is to help impaired and disabled people find and/or maintain work. Through them, I was also able to have assessments with the Center for the Visually Impaired (CVI) and Visual Rehabilitation Services (VRS).
I was able to receive visual tools, computer training, O&M training, and tuition reimbursement. It hasn’t been a short or easy process, but it has been extremely beneficial.
I never saw or spoke to that couple again, but the impact they made on me has been everlasting. I encourage anyone who needs help to reach out to their local or state services. I can only hope that sharing this story will inspire others the way I was inspired by the sweet couple I met that one ordinary day at work.
How many eye specialists have you gotten opinions from?