Alicia C

The name “Tri County Association for the Blind” makes it pretty clear what most of the impairments people working there are subject to. However, there were those workers I met that had disabilities other than blindness. Those who were blind did have interesting perspectives on life though. It was the first time I really talked with and connected with blind people and it intrigued me to learn how vastly different their outlooks and experiences can be. Those who are born blind have very different perspectives on life and attitudes towards daily tasks and seeing people than those who lost their sight later in life. Those who could once see taught me that they may be the hardest thing for them about being blind—the having sight and knowing life with it and then having it taken away and basically re-learn how to live their everyday lives and be told they can no longer do ordinary tasks they were used to. Those workers who were not blind had mental impairments of various sorts, I now understand from interacting with them that even though a person has a mental disability that does not mean it affects their whole life. Some people just need more time to accomplish tasks and others just take a while longer to grasp what I see as normal concepts. Overall, each person with a disability taught me something new and gave me a new understanding of their situation.

The main benefit of the Tri County Association for the Blind is providing work for those who have a difficulty time of becoming employed. Many of the employees expressed to me the hardship one with a disability encounters when searching the job market. Tri County also benefits many who are not employed there. Part of their services are sending newsletters and information to those with seeing impairments, they manufacture pens to be sent to prisons and government agencies, and their work also benefits the airlines whom they package food for.

I am not sure what kind of real impact I had on anyone through my work at Tri County. Basically with the employees I just tried to listen and understand their individual stories, while trying to picture everything from their perspective. I hope that through our conversations they learned that not all people look at those with disabilities as being disabled in all aspects because they are disabled in one way. I hope they also learned that I agree with them that being put in low class, low paying jobs is not fair simply because you cannot see. As for the people who make use of the Tri County I do not think my personal work affected them too greatly, sure I provided a few more pens, or helped get their newsletters out a little more quickly, but other than that I did not impact them at all, and if it hadn’t been me doing the extra little jobs and helping out the employees it just would have been someone else.

In “normative” society, many of the employees of the Tri County Association for the Blind expressed feelings, to me, that they do not feel accepted. As one employee said to me, “people think just because I can’t see I’m disabled mentally also.” They feel as though they are seen by “normal” people as completely disabled, even if the only thing impaired about them is their eye sight. They feel they are subject to only low end jobs with low end income and never have equal opportunities that are offered to the “norms” of society. Many of the workers expressed their feelings of being made to seem inferior by most people in society and they often times feel like they are treated like children. Also, they are unable to travel in “normal” society with out aid of public transport or other people’s assistance. It is made so that they can only read where brail is posted and they are unable to lead what most people have constructed to be “normal lives” everything takes more effort for the employees at Tri County.

My experience volunteering at Tri County connects to all we have read and talked about in class in many ways. I was able to experience first hand how those with disabilities view themselves and how they see themselves viewed by others in everyday life. It is clear that those in “normative” society want to keep themselves separate from those with disabilities, no matter what the disability is, thus, these people are pushed into low wage, low interest jobs. It has become clear to me through this process that the people I was able to meet and interact with truly are viewed only by their disabilities by most people in society. They are seen as “blind” or “mentally retarded” and no other attribute or characteristic matters, they are their disability to most who see them. It is sad and frustrating to see that most of these people have no real identity to the outside world and that most believe the work these people are engaging in is the best they can do and they should be happy to be employed at all. When in reality, many of them could accomplish more stimulating work, but they are not afforded the opportunity simply because of their disability.

When Amanda, Jackie and I arrived at Tri County today we were met by a woman who directed us to the mailroom. Jackie fed papers into a folding machine when they ran out, and the rest of the time made sure it did not jam, as I stacked the papers once they came out and then put them in trays and Amanda folded fliers into thirds. After we all finished this, it took about an hour, we stuffed envelopes with three different pamphlets/fliers.

I was pretty dissapointed to find that once again we were set apart from the rest of the workers at Tri County. This time was probably the most dissapointing though, because we were in a back mailroom where not only could we not communicate with the other workers, we could not even see or observe them. I felt as though we were just there to help do catch up work and that those in charge still did not understand our purpose of volunteering there. After an hour staring at the folding machine and packing away papers, I was bored out of my mind and extremely frustrated that my time was being wasted, when I could be helping out and still interacting with the people who work there. After the three of us finished stuffing the envelopes we were so frustrated about the two hours we just wasted that we all concluded the only thing we took away from this volunteering time was it would be awful to have to do this work on a normal basis.

I am not too sure how to interpret this experience considering I felt it had nothing to do with the people with disabilities we were supposed to be relating to. The jobs we engaged in were not the jobs the other workers normally do, so how am I supposed to relate my work to theirs? If they did sit in front of a folding machine for hours on end, catching and stacking papers, I would have to say I do not know how they can do it everyday. This was some of the most monotnous work I have ever done and I do not see how being blind would make it any better or easier. If this is the type of work offered to those with disabilities then they are being exploited, I feel that an infant could conduct this work and just because someone has a disability does not mean they should not engage in stimulating work and be treated like idiots, as I felt we were.

I was unsure of what to expect when entering the Tri County Association for the Blind today. I thoroughly enjoyed my last visit, but hearing other people’s experiences made me a little apprehensive. As soon as we walked in the front door Denette was standing right there, as though waiting for us, this did not seem like a good beginning.

For over an hour Jackie, Amanda and I sat at a long table stamping large manilla envelopes with return adresses and postage and stuffing them with a newsletter regarding the happenings of Tri County. We had no contact with the other workers until we finished this task and then Bob allowed us to go work alongside people for abou half an hour. I was ripping labels off of cassette covers alongside a woman named Angie, who is not blind but has mental disabilities. It was interesting to talk with her and hear of how she has always wanted to go to college, but never had the opportunity to and will never have the capacity to do what she truly wants–be a socialworker. She also told me of her two children and their disabilities and how it is hard being a single mother with two kids who have M.R. Talking with Angie just reinforced my feelings of gratiude for my life and all my opportunities, who knows why some people are born with mental disabilities and some are not but it made me truly appreciate my situation.

Since we did not have much contact with the employees today it is hard to relate my experience with he texts we have read or literature. The one event that sticks out in my mind though is when Denette was walking through offering a ticket to a lecture on parenting to the employees. As one man seemed very interested she kept brushing him off and then yelled at him, reminding him he has no children, it was the way she spoke to him that really got to me, she was talking to him as though she were a child. Even though his only disability is blindness she seemed to think this made her better than him or that something may be mentally wrong with him.

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