Parents raise their children with disabilities hoping they will become members of a community somewhere, somehow. When I talk to them about what they’ll need to do to accomplish this, it has elements of being a Tiger parent: tough love, as well as all the time, energy, effort, community support and luck it takes all parents.
Here’s what involvement in my community looked like this week:
- I received an award from a local group for what I’ve done for children and a certificate of thanks from a board I was cycling off of. None of the materials were provided in accessible format until I requested the certificate be sent to me electronically. For the award ceremony to go off smoothly, I took a friend with me and walked through the trek from my seat to the podium several times. My only melt-down almost occurred as the officials for the award ceremony kept moving the podium (“just a little”) and posed the question “How are you going to go get the crystal bowl after your talk?” at the eleventh hour. That involved a friend coming up and carrying the bowl so I could work the dog and hold on to my speech with my sweating fingers!
- Having seven groups of friends over for tea, meals, a birthday party, etc. Entertaining is something I can do if I know in time to get what I need at my monthly grocery store run. Just tell me what lights are on when you exit and where you put your cloth napkins! Sometimes it’s hard to think like a sighted person.
- Reading my poem “Family of Nine” about my guide dogs at a poetry workshop I attended at the public library. The teacher found at least one nice thing to say about each poem. I think I learned what I was supposed to from the assignment: I don’t know what a poem is and it isn’t that easy to write one.
- Asking several people before securing a ride to the funeral of a prominent local citizen. He served on the city council and at least listened to disability issues I raised.
- Volunteering this week included playing in a Scrabble Bee fundraiser for a literacy organization, talking to fifty first graders about what it feels like to be different, helping a graduate student improve accessibility of her survey, a phone conference with an intern who is doing a 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act display at the community college and reading Scripture at Mass.
None of them major commitments, just part of being a member of the community, giving what I can.
- My guide dog had to have her teeth cleaned and three teeth extracted. I have a big enough base of friends to get rides to and from the vet and to have people stop by to sit with us as we both whined afterwards.
- Participating in two book clubs, grocery shopping and trying to keep up with email and Facebook in addition to diving into a new thriller leave me wondering the typical question of retirees: How did I ever have time to work?