Monday, August 3, 2009

Disability Literature? Wait, like those eyedrop brochures my doctor gave me?

So, this will be the first in a series of posts meant to make up for my lack of blog activity over the past few weeks... sorry!

I figured I would tackle the "tell-us-about-your-disability challenge" that Stephanie posted a while back, here goes...

I was born with congenital cataracts and glaucoma. Starting at one month old I had a number of surgeries and currently have 20/80 vision in my better eye with glasses with a somewhat limited field of vision and some light sensitivity (20/80 means that I can see something from 20 feet away that a fully sighted person can see from 80 feet away). Basically, those who are fully sighted consider me blind and those who are visually impaired think I have great vision (by comparison “legally blind” is 20/200 in the better eye).

I think there have been many times throughout my life when I've "forgotten" that I am disabled. After all, I've had about the same vision my whole life so I find it hard to imagine what "good" vision is like. I know that sitting in the front row of a class I can barely make out what is on the board and that a student with "good" vision has little problem reading what is on the board from the back row, but its still hard for me to conceptualize what it is that they see compared to me.

I'm used to all the routine "hardships" associated with being visually impaired: four hour doctors appointments, sitting in the front row in every class, warning friends that I probably won't recognize them if I pass them on the street and that this doesn't mean I'm ignoring them, lacking the required hand-eye coordination skills essential to half the activities in high school gym etc, None of this has ever really bothered me much. But, for most of my life I didn't acknowledged how the disability experience has impacted who I am as a person. How my disability had molded me into a more patient and easy-going person with the ability to laugh at the smaller mishaps of life (like knocking over three wet floor signs in two days!) and the ability to advocate on my own behalf. Many of my strongest personality traits were developed in part as a result of my disability...

Until recently, I was quick to think of myself as a member of the gay community and I was quick to think of myself as a part of the Iranian-American community, and these were both crucial to how I saw myself, but I never really considered myself a part of the disability community, I think I'd just never really experienced it. I grew up speaking Farsi, surrounded by Iranian family members making delicious Iranian foods and going to an endless number of Iranian gatherings. When I was struggling most with my sexuality I immersed myself in everything gay, I read books on gay history, listened (with headphones) to gay-themed programs on a community radio station, and turned to the internet for "coming out stories." While I didn't really know many people who were gay at the time, knowing that there was a community out there who shared my experience made everything so much easier. With the exception of a couple short camps, my main experiences relating to "disability culture" centered around my interactions with my many eye doctors, special ed counselors, and state rehab counselors... and as amazing as they all were they never constituted a disability community, that wasn't their job.

In closing over the past few years I have begun to discover a disability community, and I think this summer has been a HUGE part of that process which is why I am so grateful for everyone who has made this program possible...

Until my next overdue post, take care!

Rohmteen Mokhtari

1 comment:

  1. I'd have to say I agree with you on how it feels to be "half blind". I have to say though I was a bit more aware of the community earlier in life because of the Sight Center and the NFB. But sometimes I was considered too sighted or blind depending on where I was. For example, I actually can ride a bike. The only problem is I have to be in a familure area to do it.

    I can read print and things, I just need a magnifire and glasses don't realy do much for me. I suppose they'd help me focus on things a bit better if I continued to whear them but I'm not sure.

    I have to say though, sometimes itreally gets me anoyed or semi-angry that I don't have really good hand-eye coordination because I really enjoy playing music rhythm games such as beatmania, Dance Dance Revolution, beatmania... and Guitar Hero. I'm actually pretty good at DDR. I can do almost up to a level 7 song... It's just really upsetting that I have to turn the ckgroud off to do it (for cotrast reasons) ad I ca't do that in the acade so no one will ever know that I'm any goodat it and when I play in the arcade, I ca only do a level 1 or 2 song because I can't see the darn arrows.. ok I'm going to stop talking about it because it really is stating to piss me off now.
    I know that's not a really good reason because who cares about video games anyway aside from me and maybe three other people... but it doesn't matter because it's something really cool ad somethig I like doig... ....

    Ayway, I kocked over a wet floor sig just this morig. lol They just sprout up out of the groud I'm tellig you. The floor was't eve wet. I should purposely hit them if the floor's ot wet... I thik I actually will.
    Ayhow, to sum this up, I ca totally relate to how you feel o eig half vlid. ... Oh great, my (the letter after A) key just stopped workig. This does't appear to V goig well.


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