THOUGHT PROVOKER 87
I Can't Work
Last Updated September 11, 2004
To Provoke Thought Is The First Step To Beyond
“I’ve just lost the sight in my right eye and now I can’t do the job I was trained to do.” And so began the story of this guy I had just met. I was sitting at the mall after my daily hike with the mall walkers. He had been sitting there when I sat down. He sounded like he was in his forties and there was a under-tone of sadness in his voice. “I was a...” He gave me the name of his lost vocation. Then he went on, “It gave me and my family a good life. I was good at it for twelve years...” The tone in his voice which started out with signs of frustration for the now, showed fear for the future when he said, “I’m not sure what I can do anymore.”
Having a complete stranger stop and start sharing very personal life facts about blindness was not all that uncommon for me. I suspected it was my long white cane that had attracted him. I guess seeing that I’m blind triggers some type of response, an open invitation for this type of interaction. He went on and on about it and I listened to his story for several minutes, letting him tell it in his way; I had initially tried to interject some things, but he didn’t seem to hear me. I mean, he wasn’t the first person I knew that had lost the sight in just one eye. I felt I had some things to say, some suggestions that might help him get his life back on track. I even thought I had heard of some people with worse vision than his who were still active in the profession he said he had to leave.
“It started with a minor injury to my eye,” he said, “then an infection set in and that was the end of it. I was having to struggle at work with my bosses expecting all this work out of me like always... so I gave it up.”
“How long ago did this all happen?” I asked.
“About six months back. I’m trying to get on disability.”
**1. I hope other people get on to this guys story as I have. "Has he given up?" I wonder if he tried to learn if the job could still be done? Okay, maybe there wasn't a smart doctor or rehab counselor around to point him in the right direction, that doesn't always happen; I know. Now may be his chance to learn?!? We will see if he has the "right stuff" to be strong, to be open to new learning. I wonder what the rest of his life has been like? Can he take this change, this loss?
FROM ME: Much of coping with a new disability or just with one as you go along, how much of your success do you think will be based upon your "learned" ability to deal with stress? I bet a person can learn to better handle stress; what do you think?
**2. This is me! I have had this type of meeting a million times? They see your cane and they think you will be open to listening to their story. I think most of us who are blind are willing to help other people when it first happens to them. I think we need to be there for them.
Ronnie Morehead USA
**3. The following line in your new Thought Provoker caught my attention:
(begin quote) "I was having to struggle at work with my bosses
expecting all this work out of me like always... so I gave it up." (end of
I think this statement is key to the person's decision and attitude. I
stayed on the job for 9 years after my RP diagnosis and, as my eyesight was
slowly deteriorating, my very understanding boss made every accommodation
available for me and constantly reminded me that what I could do was far
more important than what I was no longer able to do.
Unfortunately, that boss took an early retirement and I got a new boss
who was just the opposite. In fact, I knew the day we met that I was in for
trouble with my new supervisor. So, after 3 years of misery, I retired on
I also realize that I was fortunate to have been in my early fifties
when this happened, which meant that I had worked in my profession for 30
years and, therefore, I still got a decent pension. If it had happened when
I was in my thirties, I don't know what I would have done.
Just my 2 cents worth!
Why would you decide not to tell us what his lost profession was in your
description? It would make the encounter you described more believable.
Dennis NABS NFb list
FROM ME: (I wrote back) Well, I wanted the reader to fill in the blank, make the lost job be more than one thing; hopefully to get more people to write in with their
thoughts. (If I said auto mechanic, there may be some people who think a one eyed guy can't do that work. Or, some one reading this might not believe the blind lady's thinking that she had heard of some blind guys doing that profession. Like that.
**5. >From my experience (in the distant past) as a Claims Rep for Social Security, I can tell you up front that losing the vision in just one eye would not get this gent disability. The Social Security docs would immediately list hundreds of things he could still do.
Lori Stayer NFB Writers group
**6. Great to read this particular one. So many of these are mini-scenarios of how we think or wish life to be; this one is right on with the reality of
life for an aging person, losing vision, latching onto the nearest blind person available.
It's happened to me dozens if not hundreds of times - and I'm far from being an expert. Of course many blind people actually do have expertise in rehab/adult
ed (VI); but it sure doesn't follow that lack of vision makes us all instant experts.
Likewise, it doesn't follow that all blind people won't share the "newbie's" feelings of frustration and just sit home and collect.
Girls my own age (quite some long time ago) actually said to me "Kat, why bother working when money will be coming to me anyway?"
So, to categorize, clump any number of us, is problematic at best, disastrous at worst.
A little would go a long way here; a little training, a little education, a little exposure to life as it can be would help that newly blind person begin
to reassess conditions are they really are, and not as he fears they could be. But how truly marvelous the world would be if we knew we achieve to our
potential and then receive employment to match this potential. Alas, we don't have that kind of life as yet; so plenty of worthy folks just consider that
it's far less risky to stay out on the fringe, collect their dole, and feel, if not let down, then at least safe.
The system has double-downed other disenfranchised groups in the same way, which is why if we didn't have the civil rights/advocacy organization (NFB)
we might be in far worse shape than we actually are.
I have come to dread the encounters with the dispirited adult whose sudden or gradual vision loss has robbed them of more than physical sight. I often
feel we just can't work fast enough now to be of all the help we would like.
As for the characters in this brief vignette - it's time for some immediate and positive role modeling.
**7. I can't possibly know what it is like in terms of blindness, but I do know
what it's like to fall short in the view of a supervisor who expects
enthusiastic perfection at all times, in a high-pressure and hostile work
atmosphere. It's downright stressful, especially when coupled with the
unspoken reminder that a young, able-bodied person could do the job with
ease (not true, but the implication is there all the same). Some bosses do
not know, or simply do not care, that you can't perform the impossible. If,
in those circumstances, you do make a mistake (how do you not!), life
becomes very unpleasant indeed.
Still, I have the feeling from the narrator that he sensed a willingness to
give in and give up too easily on the part of the talker. My two cents.
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