Like so many professionals and volunteers in the area of rehabilitation services, I have wondered why the unemployment statistics for the blind and visually impaired are so high. I recently found the answer while reading a research study from the 1960s that can be found in John C. Maxwell’s book, Failing Forward. During the study, a group of monkeys were sent into a room that had a pole to climb and a bunch of bananas at the top. Each time a monkey climbed the pole, it was hosed down with water. Eventually, the monkeys stopped trying to climb the pole. When new monkeys were added to the group by the researchers, the researchers did not need to hose the monkeys down with water because the experienced monkeys pulled the novices down before they could reach the bananas. In the Preface to Failing Forward, Maxwell says, “One of the most significant lessons I’ve learned is that those closest to you determine the level of your success. If your dreams are great, you achieve them only with a team.”
The American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) opened doors. Too few people walk through those doors because, like the monkeys who climbed the pole, they have been “hosed down” or pulled down by the low expectations of others. Some who have walked through those doors have found themselves “hosed down” by low expectations or unrealistic demands. The people who are in this second category sometimes leave the workforce thinking of themselves as outliers who don’t fit in anywhere and later emerge as originals who start their own schools, open their own businesses, publish their own magazines, and host their own radio shows. I want to encourage anyone who is seeking employment to read the most recent edition of What Color Is Your Parachute? that includes information for people with disabilities and interest assessments. People who think of themselves as burdens after being “hosed down” can read books by Melody Beatty beginning with Codependent No More to gain information about taking care of themselves.
I have said all that I want to say about loving what is left while living with low vision; therefore, I am returning to my creative projects. I pray today, Good Shepherd Sunday, that you will be guided by good shepherds as you continue your journey.