Monday, January 20, 2020

From GREEN BOOK back to Dream Book

As I watched the movie, Green Book that is about a book that told African-Americans where they could travel in America during many decades of the last century, tears were a release of so much of the pain I have experienced due to discrimination because I am a senior citizen, woman, granddaughter of immigrants, cradle Catholic, and person who is living with a visual disability.  Don Shirley, a highly educated African-American classical and jazz musician who has not enjoyed interacting with his own cultural roots has a serious identity crisis and asks, “What am I?”  No other scene in a movie has portrayed the kind of identity crisis that is felt by a person living between sight and blindness.  As gross as it was in concept, at least African-Americans were provided with a Green Book that let them know where they were not wanted.  The discrimination experienced by the blind and visually impaired is much more subtle, especially when traveling in cyberspace and on  the Internet.

In the past week, I have closed my accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.  They were easy to use years ago, but upgrades and added features have made them less accessible.  Facebook and Linkedin send notifications that I have messages and then don’t allow the messages to be opened without the help of a sighted assistant.  Using a Facebook app on an old iPhone that I only use as a Talking Book reader and a newer iPhone required a trip to the Apple store because the voice-over sped up on one phone and slowed down on the other.  In order to change settings on an iPhone, voice-over must be turned off, settings must be opened, and a sighted technician must make the corrections.  The sighted friends and librarians who tried to help before I went to the Apple store and the technician said they had never seen this happen before.  I love the Apple store because they always make me feel welcome, encourage me to come back at any time, and never charge for their services; however, if time is money, such trips are a waste of my time and money.

Yesterday I attempted to make contact with a publisher, but the website needed proof that I am not a robot.  Even after I listened to the words that I was supposed to type into their form, the edit box was not going to allow me to insert the information unless the voice-over was turned off.  I sent an email instead and let the publisher know in the subject line that their form is not accessible.

When I was a doctoral student in the College of Education at Michigan State University, I had to write a Dream Book.  My research interests were vision,literacy, and learning and children’s literature.  The Dream Book focused on improving the lives of people who are living with potentially blinding eye diseases.  Thanks to the writer and publisher, Robert Branco (Consumer Vision Magazine) and our book editor and graphic designer, Leonore and David Dvorkin, , I now have a dream that is bigger than any that I wrote about 20 years ago.  I am now dreaming about a Blind and Vision Impaired Studies program in higher education that would research and teach about this culture along with African-American Studies, Spanish-American Studies, etc.  When I first considered this idea, there were only six authors named online from the Blind and Vision Impaired community.  Now there are so many that I have stopped compiling a list or downloading books by them.  A former librarian who is living with blindness has been compiling a list and annotating it as well.  I am going to write a sample syllabus for a Blind and Visually Impaired Studies introductory course and a proposal for a textbook to go along with the course.   

In my dreams?  It is dreams that make it easier to love what is left while living with low vision.  Many thanks to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dr. Suzanne M. Wilson, my former doctoral advisor who is now the Neag Endowed Professor of Teacher Education at the University of Connecticut, who continue to keep dreams and hope alive.


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