True Life: Being Legally Blind in College

Do you ever feel overwhelmed? Like life is too hard to handle? Do you ever feel like you are incapable of doing something because it’s challenging? Or like you don’t fit in? Well, if you haven’t, I have. My name is Nicole and I was born with a rare eye disease known as Lebers Congenital Amaurosis which left me legally blind.

When I was a child I had decent eyesight, but as I’ve gotten older it has, and continues to, progressively diminish. One day I will be left with no eyesight.

Life felt normal until I started school. Put into a separate classroom with only legally blind and visually impaired kids, I was isolated from other children. I’d visit a regular classroom a couple times a week, but I hated it because everyone was friends and I was left out. Then, in fourth grade, the teacher that taught me braille (and much more), left the program and I had to transfer schools. This was absolutely one of the worst experiences of my life.

After transferring, I was no longer in a separate program, but immersed into a regular classroom. Adjusting was difficult because the teacher would assign work and if it wasn’t in braille, a paraprofessional would sit in the classroom with me and read/scribe for me. The para would also follow me everywhere I went, which was humiliating at times. The most frustrating part was that I had two paraprofessionals work with me each semester, so when I got comfortable with one, she left and I had to readjust to someone else. Then, in fifth grade, I transferred schools again.

At the new school, I still struggled, but had an amazing teacher who involved me as much as possible. I was assigned a teacher consultant who taught me life skills like perfecting braille reading/writing, using a computer with a screen-reader, doing homework, cooking, etc. I also had an orientation and mobility specialist who would spend an hour each week with me on independent travel, such as how to safely cross a street and eventually take a bus or train. Back then I hated it because I felt it was all useless, but now I use everything I was taught and all those teachers are my friends.

Life changed significantly when I was seventeen and attended a summer program called College Prep where I met other blind people like myself. This specific experience taught me that I don’t want to fit in with the crowd. Instead, I accepted my blindness and now I live to stand out. When I went back to school for senior year, I was more confident and carefree. I socialized more and even wrote a rap, and performed it on stage. Something I would have been terrified to do prior to college prep.

When it was time for college, I was ready to leave my parents and show everyone that I could survive on my own despite being blind, so I moved into a dorm. I put my new social skills to use and was immediately known on campus. My nickname still today is Blind Boss, haha. However, I wasn’t sure what to major in, so I left school and took a year off. Instead of school, I worked on writing music about my life, until I gained employment and life got busy.

In September 2016, I started school again and it has been amazing. Classes in college for me have been very different than when I was in K-12. Professors aren’t as patient and assignments aren’t as easy. Due to my blindness, I’m allowed time and a half to double time on tasks, but if I use all that time, I fall behind so I try to remain at the same pace as everyone else, if not ahead. On top of that, in college, I don’t have a paraprofessional to help me. Once you are out of high school, you are on your own.

Through all the tears, struggles, obstacles, low self-esteem, being overwhelmed, and challenges, I now have confidence, high self-esteem, and am happier than I ever imagined I’d be, accepting every obstacle or challenge and overcoming them in stride. If I know something is going to be difficult, I manage by giving myself extra time to do it, even if it means waking up earlier, sleeping later, meeting with a tutor, etc. You can do whatever you want, no matter how challenging, but only if you want it and do what it takes.

No excuses.

It’s all in your hands: Your happiness, success and every aspect in life is all in your hands. If you want something, tell yourself you already have it and you will get it, as long as you do what it takes.

Here are quick tips from this “Blind Boss”:

1) Don’t Google your answers, instead read the text and not just the part with the answer, but the entire chapter, because that’s what I must do. I can’t look for highlighted words with my screen-reader, so I read everything.

2) If you need to go somewhere and don’t have a car, take a bus or walk even if it takes longer.

3) Go out of your way. Make sacrifices. This generation is so dependent on convenience. You can be happy, successful and stress free, but only if you do what it takes.

If a blind person can see the bright side of things, what’s your excuse?

 


Nicole Kada is a legally blind student who is currently attending Oakland Community College in Farmington Hills, Michigan. She recently decided that she is going to study to become a dietitian. After this summer, Nicole is going to transfer to Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. There, she will finish her gen-eds and soon after enter the dietetics program.

When Nicole is not at school, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, going to the gym, swimming, listening to music and relaxing.

Nicole enjoys meeting and talking to new people. One of her goals is to make the world a better place and she hopes to do that by helping one person at a time. Due to her blindness, Nicole uses her disability to show people that if she can accomplish and overcome anything, they can also do the same.

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