As someone who is blind, I am perfectly capable of holding down a full time job. And not only that, but I can be a very positive asset to my work environment and work colleagues. However, getting to prove that I can hasn’t been and isn’t that easy.
It actually started with my parents, may they both rest in perfect peace. They did their upmost for me to be as normal as possible. But when it came to work, they had this really strange attitude that there wasn’t anything I could do. My brother was a newspaper boy and when he was old enough, he started working in the local supermarket. He earned his own money and I was jealous. Not only did my brother work, but most of my friends did too by the time we reached our teens. I only had sighted friends where I live, so the weekend became a little boring then since I didn’t work.
To some, my position may have been enviable. Because I was told there weren’t any jobs I could realistically do, since both shop work and newspaper work required eye sight, I was given tasks to do around the house and thus received pocket money from my parents. I technically worked for the money, but it wasn’t at all satisfying. I tried suggesting other types of work I could do so that I too could make money, but my parents just laughed it off and pointed out that I got money anyway, so what was the problem? They really didn’t get it.
When we had to work a one day job in school to raise money for children in faraway countries, or for local causes, I usually played the piano and sang at old people homes. The old people enjoyed it, so it was nice. But I still had the feeling that I was doing that because my blindness stopped me from doing a “proper” job. In hindsight, I see that not many of my friends could have done that to raise money and so what I did for the old people was great. But as a teenager who just wanted to do whatever I could to blend in, it wasn’t cool at all.
My constant talking of wanting a normal job outside the house, must have really got to my dad in the end, because for two summers in a row, he arranged for me to work a week at the oil firm he was working for. I worked in HR and I had a really great time there. I was busy typing up Cvs that the head of HR had read onto cassette tapes (Yes, it was just before they got extinct) and sending out everybody’s pay slips and holiday money. The workplace was adapted yes. But I was doing exactly the same work as the other employees children who were working there with me. In fact, we helped each other to get the job done. I came home every day that week feeling as if I had contributed to society, or at least the HR department of that firm.
I later went on to have other jobs and now I work for myself. And although working for myself initially was something I did because getting employers to see that I can work with them is a struggle, it is now something I find much more rewarding. Because I don’t profit anyone except myself and those I choose to share it with.
I’m not opposed to regular employment and at times I wish it was a little easier to get part time work, or work in general, just to supply my music career. But as it is, I am trying to make it work without regular employment. Forever Living was my answer to a supplementary income to help my artist and writing career.
My purpose though with this post, is to stress the importance of work. Not necessarily just for the sole purpose of making money, but for someone to feel like a valuable asset to society. There are obstacles that make employment more difficult when you’re blind or indeed have other disabilities, but with open discussions and good will, most things are possible.
If you happen to have a disabled son, daughter, friend, spouse or romantic partner who lacks confidence to work, or badly want to, please be that person who pushes them to explore different routes to achieve what they want to do. Perhaps this is especially important in these days when unemployment rates are rising around the world. Disabled people are harder hit by this, but there is no reason really why they should be. You can, you dare and you want, or replace the you with me, are a good place to start the motivation. Basic, but effective.