Vonna H

Before working at the TriCounty Association for the Blind, I had no prior experience working with or around people who were unable to see, and this can account for my previous mindset, and what I now view as ignorance, regarding blind people. For some reason I had this notion in my head that blind people were unable to do half the things that people who can see partook in every day, and I thought that virtually everything that people who could not see did was done with the help of someone around them. After working at the TriCounty Association and catching a glimpse of the way people with visual impairments live their lives, I now know that they are the same as any person on the street except for the fact that they are unable to see. When working beside them, I noticed that they were able to complete the same job I had just as fast as I could. Working at the TriCounty Association has taught me that people who cannot see are more independent than I had originally given them credit for and are able to do much more than I had thought.
The TriCounty Association provides a setting where people who are blind can work and interact with those who are and are not visually impaired. It has both a fundamental and social aspect because it is somewhere people who are blind can work and somewhere they can go to play bingo. The times that I have been there, the atmosphere has been very relaxed and conducive both to forming relationships with co-workers and getting their jobs done. From what I have witnessed, the people who work there truly enjoy their jobs because they provide them with a source of income and they promote interaction and relationships among many people who cannot see.
During my time at the TriCounty Association, I think I had the biggest impact on a worker named Todd. Todd was a young man who was not blind, but I think he had some kind of mental handicap. On our second day of service learning at the Association, I helped Todd make pens that were to be sent to prisons. We spent the whole time talking about everything from movies and music to Todd’s family, and I could tell that having someone to talk to and work with was really brightening Todd’s day and making his job much more enjoyable than it usually is. It was nice to be able to impact someone in such a positive way.
When placed in a “normative” society, I would imagine that people who cannot see would encounter people with a mindset much like I had prior to working at the TriCounty Association. They are seen as unable to do things that people who have sight can do, which is undoubtedly frustrating for them, and are probably asked if they need help doing things more often than not, which gives them less ability than they deserve. They would also encounter more obvious problems, like taking longer to do something or not being able to participate fully in activities like watching a sporting event, although this may not be viewed as a problem to all people.
After working at the TriCounty Association for the Blind, I find it easier to notice similarities between what I have observed and what we talk about in class every day. I was especially able to make a connection between the workers at the Association and Lionel in Motherless Brooklyn. Noticing the camaraderie that the workers at TriCounty Association have with one another made me realize that Lionel did not have people like that to rely on in his life, and I think that had he known another person with Tourette’s Syndrome, he would have been able to accept his condition and outbursts more readily, rather than trying to suppress them to satisfy his co-workers and save himself from embarrassment.

On March 9, Rachel, Charlotte and I went for our third service learning session at the TriCounty Association for the Blind. When we got there Danette told us that she didn’t really have much for us to do, so she put Rachel and I to work sticking labels on invitations that needed to be sent out while Charlotte stapled cover sheets to packets of information. There was nothing else for us to do once we finished our tasks, so we left.
This particular session had nothing to do with what we were trying to learn by doing service work with people with visual impairments. We spent our time there talking to each other, having no interaction with anyone who was blind. I would definitely say that out of this whole experience, my most positive encounter was with Todd.
I’m unsure of how to relate our third experience to anything we have read or talked about in class because we did not have any contact with people with disabilities.

On March 2, Rachel, Charlotte and I traveled to Harrisburg for our second day of volunteering at the TriCounty Association for the Blind. Upon our arrival we were immediately told that we would be given a more interactive job than our prevoius task of cleaning cassette cases. Bob brought us back to the production area and told us that the workers were on break, but listed a few jobs and said we could each pick whichever we wanted when the workers returned. A man named John who had mental retardation and a sight impairment was going to be making highlighters, and Rachel volunteered to help him, while Charlotte offered to clean more tape cases with some of the other employees. I chose to help a man named Todd assemble bendable pens that would be used in prisons. We set to work and throughout our two hours, talked about everything from music and movies to our families and previous jobs. He mentioned a couple times that he was thinking of finding another job because his task was so monotonous, but decided to stay and continue working at the Association. I was shocked at how fast getting to know Todd made the time go as compared to our first experience. When it was time to go, I thanked Todd for letting me help him and told him I would be back next week, hopefully to work with him again.
I enjoyed our second experience at TriCounty ten times more than our first. When Bob told us he had separate jobs for us all, I was hesitant to split from Rachel and Charlotte, but that feeling soon vanished once I started talking to Todd. I noticed that when he spoke to me, he looked right at me, so I was almost positive that he did not have a visual impairment. Talking about movies and what TV shows he liked to watch solidified my inclination that Todd could see. However, while talking about various things, I got the feeling that Todd might have a mental handicap because he asked me the same questions several times throughout our conversation. This required me to have patience in giving him the same answer or listening to him tell me the same thing three or four times. But although it called for extra effort on my part, I did not feel at all uncomfortable working with Todd. I arrived at the session worrying that we would be placed in another routine job with no relation to our objective in volunteering, and left wanting to spend more time getting to know the person I worked with.
When Todd and I were talking about previous places of employment, he mentioned that he used to be an Assistant Produce Manager at a grocery store near his house. This, coupled with his expression that he found his current job mundane helped me see that just like Lionel in Motherless Brooklyn and all people who are disabled, Todd is capable of much more than people without disabilities give him credit for. Many times in Motherless Brooklyn, people treat Lionel like he is less intelligent than someone who doesn’t have a disability, and I got the indication from my second volunteer experience that people like Todd have faced situations like this also.

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