I have decided people are not generally malicious. However, they are often clueless and can, at times, be pretty dumb.
Granted I am in that same category. Recently, I have gotten some clients with different orientations and cultural experiences than mine. I struggle to try - and often fail abysmally - to consider their points of view and needs.
Fortunately, my clients are generally pretty understanding. They recognize I am dumb and clueless about their worlds. They correct me and assert their needs. They advocate for themselves pretty well.
Self-advocacy involves speaking up for yourself and your needs. It involves a certain amount of self-confidence and assertiveness and it is pretty much necessary if we are going to make any changes for the visually impaired in this world.
Why? Back to people are generally not malicious but they are often clueless... and dumb. Don’t forget dumb.
Today I got a state-government survey about my experience trying to vote by mail. Now, I realize many people voted by mail because of the pandemic, but don’t you think they would realize there are thousands of people who voted that was due to disability? Visual impairment, for example.
Anyway, the print on the questionnaire was gray letters on a white background. There was just about zero contrast. I struggled with it and in the comments section, I let them have it. Nicely, but I still let them have it. Why would the government send out a survey that we would find pretty impossible to read?!? Really?
Back to paragraph one: Most people are not malicious but they are clueless. Whoever designed that page is probably a 20-something aide with great vision. He knows nothing about being old and visually impaired. If we want him to consider our needs, we need to advocate for ourselves!
How to advocate for your rights?
Wellness Recovery Action Program suggests 10 steps to being an effective self-advocate. They suggest the first thing you need to do is believe in yourself. You need to believe you and your rights are worth protecting.
The article also suggests we know our rights. Getting information in an accessible form is one of our rights. When this information allows us to participate more fully in our democracy, it is even more important.
The third step is deciding what you want so that you can set your goal. How do you know you have succeeded unless you know what you are going for?
After that it is important to get the facts, plan a strategy and, if necessary, gather support. Target your efforts and express yourself clearly. Be assertive. Remember that assertive and aggressive are not synonyms. For you history buffs, when I think aggressive and assertive, I like to think Hitler and Churchill. Hitler was aggressive, attacking and taking what was not his. Churchill was assertive, insisting on what was rightfully his. Be Churchill.
Last but not least is to be firm and persistent. Change seldom happens overnight. Changing perceptions and getting people to address needs they don’t have - and may not understand - can be daunting.
So, one more time, I self-advocated. I reminded the state of Pennsylvania their computer stuff is really not all that accessible for us visually impaired types. I expect I will have to do it again, but that is okay. I know they are not being malicious towards us. Just clueless about visual impairment.
Did you experience any challenges receiving an official MD diagnosis?