Before anyone gets all up in arms about the title of my blog, let me introduce myself and my blog and then I’ll explain the title.
My name is Michelle Friedman, and I have been totally blind for 29 years, and was legally blind for 27ish years before that. I attended elementary school, high school, college and graduate school long before the ADA, section 504 of the Rehabilitation act, and long before mainstream, accommodations and inclusion were a thing in school.
My parents were adamant that I attend the Jewish day school rather than a school for kids with visual impairments. They saw me as a typical child with a visual problem that could be handled with special equipment like magnifying glasses, accommodations like sitting close to the board, getting tutoring and thickly lined paper which were often a fight with the schools that were ill equipped to handle a disabled child. The school wasn’t welcoming and embracing, but for better or worse (and in the end I do believe it was for the better) my
parents prevailed. The consequence of being the only disabled child in school was that since I was “only” visually impaired, albeit significantly, I didn’t want to be othered and made every effort to “pass”.
There were consequences to that, but I will get into that in another post. It wasn’t until 1980 at the age of 23 when I got my first job at Access Living a newly opened independent living center staffed by people with disabilities that I learned to embrace my disability.
Fast forward 40 some odd years I am now a disability advocate, speaker, writer on issues related to disability, children’s book author, wife, mother and grandmother. I currently am the board chair of a large organization in Chicago whose mission is to create a community of belonging where people with disabilities learn, play, work, live and grow with people of all abilities. I have served in leadership roles on many boards of schools, camps and social service agencies in the Chicago area and am a member of Disability Lead.
That is enough about me for now. If you follow my blog, you will learn more about my journey, my thoughts, my frustrations in future blogs-and trust me I have no shortage of opinions.
For now, I just want to introduce myself and now I will share why I’m calling this blog Blind People Don’t mingle. I believe that the only way that we will have true inclusion of people with disabilities is through a shift in mindset about disability. Mindset informs action, and if we can create awareness, educate and influence assumptions about disability we can create real change.
When we can change societies views about disability from disability being something not normal, something to fear, and see it as just another part of the human experience we may see real equality and justice for people with disabilities, but I believe this requires education and awareness-more on this too in future posts.
Why the title?
I was recently at a bridal shower for the daughter of a dear friend. My friends and I were all hostesses. It was the first time we had hosted a shower since before the pandemic and in truth the first time I’ve had the experience I had at this particular shower. Suffice it to say it was one of the more miserable experiences I have had in a very long time. My friends were busy setting up and serving and basically, I was given the job of putting candy and nuts in bowl which was fine, but once I was done with my job and all the other ladies were still setting up and serving, I was essentially sitting around with pardon my crudeness my thumb up my ass.
My friends were busy, I didn’t know some of the other guests I couldn’t get food on my own and the usual people who always offer to help were either busy or not in attendance. I wasn’t mad at anyone, I know my friends would be devastated to know what happened, they are always supportive and helpful and attentive to my needs. it was just a perfect storm; a lot of people, a lot of hostesses, a crowded house and me in the middle of that unable to see a thing making socializing pretty impossible. I know my friends care in fact two of my friends called the next day to apologize and say that they felt terrible that they “left me in the lurch”- I understood I really did and I’m very forgiving because they have always been there in every way the last 40 years, but it was a hard night. The other guests who I didn’t know and they didn’t know me I’m guessing had no idea what to do or how to behave so I forgive them too and say people just need awareness and education, which is something I try to do through my writing, speaking and community involvement.
What happened though was that I was retelling the story of the night to my sister I said “blind people don’t mingle well”, her comment back to me was that that sounded like the title of a book, and it was then and there I decided to start my blog in an effort to educate, to create awareness and to normalize disability so that we can eventually be a society who sees disability in a different more inclusive way.
And so, I present my blog Blind People Don’t mingle, my thoughts and opinions, my ranting and ravings, my calls to action and anything else that comes up for me. I will try to limit this to one blog a week so as not to overwhelm anyone, and I would love if people commented, shared and even guest posted if you like.
Now you know a little about me, I hope you will follow me, enjoy, learn and share. I will be back in a week, see you then and yes blind people use the word “see” lol!