I’m Baaacccckkkk!

I went back to work this week. It was only part-time and may be part-time for the foreseeable future, but I am back. I think.

I have been told I set a land speed record in getting back to work. I don’t see it as anything extraordinary. Everyone has something they have no intention of giving up for a disability. A lot of people don’t want to give up driving – ever! Others insist upon playing golf or attending church every week. I want to work. I pretty much need to work.

I have done this job for 38 years. It is my profession. In many ways it is my identity and my purpose.

I am a fortunate person. Instead of a cloud of misfortune, ‘dumb luck’ has followed me around pretty much my entire life. When I stop to consider how fortunate I have always been, it is a little unsettling  – when is the tide going to turn? However, I try to give thanks for this crazy, incredible run of good fortune whenever I can.

I have been fortunate to have the help of a lot of good people in getting back to work. My husband takes me in and a friend drives me home. Blindness and Visual Services (BVS) has helped to fill my office with ‘toys’. I have a CCTV and a handheld reader as well as a zoom feature on my computer. My low vision specialist has me trying ‘funny glasses’ that magnify and either allow me to read or – another pair – to look over a classroom full of kids. Thank you.

I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of help in getting back to work from my husband and others driving me to and from work and from the people getting me my ‘toys’.

People on the job have been very supportive. The custodian set up my CCTV. The computer person has been scanning materials onto a tablet so I can enlarge them.  I have literally been welcomed back with open arms by many staff. Thank you.

Very importantly I have been welcomed back by the administration. I am being given a chance to prove myself. They have been willing to work with me even though things are going to be a bit ‘different’ from now until I am either retired or forced by the disease or finances to go on disability retirement. Thank you.

I’ve been welcomed back by my co-workers and the administration. Thank you.

As I said, I have always been fortunate.  Not everyone gets to work with the kind of people I work with, for example. I have not once had to utter the phrase ADA but maybe you will.  ADA is the Americans with Disabilities Act. As much as it is hard for me to wrap my head around it, I now come under this act. Damn.

The ADA says no employer with 15 or more employees may discriminate against an employee based on a disability in any aspect of employment. The law stipulates that both the employee must be able to perform essential functions of the job and that the employer must make reasonable accommodations in the workplace. The employee and his reasonable accommodations must not create undue hardship for the employer, his business and his clients.

The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) has laws governing the rights of the disabled employee and the employer in companies with 15 or more people.

There are a lot of other things associated with ADA. For example, these are the laws that gave us ramps and cut curbs. However, I will be staying with this simple information in this posting. Follow the links if you are looking for more.

How does ADA affect me? I am back to me with all of my cool toys.  At least for now. I have told my boss to watch me. How am I doing? Am I making mistakes? Am I too slow?

My ‘undue hardship’ would fall squarely on my students. Not having that. That is why I’m back…I think.

I’m back to me with my cool toys and under the watchful eye of my boss.  I won’t let my students be affected by my ‘undue hardship’.

Continue reading “I’m Baaacccckkkk!”

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Tech Talk

On one of my ‘out to lunch’ ladies’ excursions we stopped at our local cellular store. I had been having difficulty with my cell phone. Or perhaps I should say my cell phone was having problems with me. I was unable to read my text. I was calling people I had no intention of calling. It’s amazing how similar some names appear when you really can’t see them well.

I was unable to read my text. I was calling people I had no intention of calling.

Tyler took my friend and me under his wing. He got into the accessibility menu of my telephone and tried to make the font big enough for me to see. He tried to point out all sorts of exciting things that could be done with my Android phone. It’s rather amazing what is on such a small machine.

Tyler wanted to put TalkBack on my phone. I demurred. I had already had it on and had a devil of a time getting it back off again. A sweet young woman in Maine and I spent 10 minutes laughing together. We could not shut the TalkBack lady off! Every time the phone was jostled that accursed voice would tell me the time! Things got so bad I suggested the young lady make a house call to help me out. After all Maine is only 8 hours away and this was an emergency! Thank heavens, I was finally able to quiet the TalkBack lady before we needed to go to these extreme measures.

There are accessibility features on both Android and Apple phones. Some are more trouble than they are worth.

So why am I talking about my interactions with the cell phone people? Well for one reason, these encounters once again prove my point that there are wonderful people in the world. I truly believe most people will help if you give them the opportunity. It makes people feel good to help. This is particularly true if the person they are trying to help maintains a sense of humor. A strong sense of the absurd is helpful, too.

I truly believe most people will help if you give them an opportunity especially if you maintain a sense of humor.

Another reason I have for highlighting these encounters is they gave me an opportunity to use the DBT Comparison Strategy. You remember: that is the Distress Tolerance Skill that basically says “hey, things could be worse. Look at that poor guy!” OK, maybe not those exact words, but you get the point.

“Hey, things could be worse. Look at that poor guy!”

I was thinking about what my father had to help him when he had AMD. He made do with a hand-held magnifying lens. Twenty years ago that was pretty much the state of the art.

Comparatively speaking, now is a great time to be losing your vision. Probably the best time yet in the history of the species. How do you like that for cockeyed optimism?

There is so much more to help people with low vision than the hand-held magnifier of 20 years ago.

I mentioned that I have always been an avid reader. Right now I cannot pick up a book or a magazine and get much out of it. However, I have read The Secret Garden in the last few weeks. How? Amazon has free classics to download on a tablet. I have a zoom feature on my tablet that allowed me to magnify the text. I may have had to turn the page at every paragraph, but I read the book.

I even solved the problem of ‘mystery novel interruptus’ that happened when I had to stop 30 pages shy of the end of a new releases paperback I had. Joy of joys, the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services tech guy loaned me a CCTV. That is closed-circuit TV. You put a paper or whatever you want to read under the camera and it shows up HUGE on the screen. It will have to go to the office when I go back to work, but right now I can get away with trying it out on some things here at home.

The tech guy loaned me a CCTV which makes things you put under the camera HUGE.

The bottom line for this post? You have technical resources. Get yourself to your friendly neighborhood tech or phone store and ask for help. Devices you already own – a cell phone, a tablet – have accessibility settings. Ask someone to help you use them. We have more resources to help us than any generation before us. Comparably speaking, it’s a pretty good time to lose your sight.

You probably already own a device that has accessibility settings.  Ask someone to help you use them.

Continue reading “Tech Talk”

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