Explaining my Daily Struggles for Accessibility

The biggest reason I rarely write about or discuss the inaccessibility I overcome on a daily basis is the fear that my concerns will be blamed on my blindness–not the needless inaccessibility that so often exists.

Another reason I rarely write about or discuss the inaccessibility I must overcome on daily basis is the fear that many will, whether they are aware of it or not, use the struggles I always face as more reasons to dismiss me. Some of you may believe watching me or maybe having to help me overcome so much inaccessibility will detract from your lives. Some of you may find the struggles too frustrating to fully accept me. Some of you, when forced to think about the struggles inaccessibility regularly cause me may have to confront an unfair world your privilege allows you to ignore.

And, of course, there is the possibility that I must acknowledge that by doing this and continuing to publish things like this I will find more support than I realize. I’m not afraid to admit when I’m wrong. Here, being wrong would feel good. Here, being wrong would encourage me to keep sharing things I often keep to myself.

I will now share the daily struggles for accessibility and equality I too often fight alone or nearly alone.

The incidents are in know particular order. I will write them as they come to mined.

Health Care

Since my eye problems have forced me to confront the inaccessibility of our health insurance and health care systems a lot lately, let’s start there.

I’m currently fighting with my health insurance company to provide me mailings in an accessible format. I want my mailings in braille, but I know the law may force me to accept accessible electronic documents. Still, my insurer is so far providing me nothing but print mailings I must rely on others to read to me.

When information about my surgeries was mailed, I learned about it from someone else. When I got a form that needed to be completed, I had to give my information to someone else who completed the form for me.

There are, of course, people in my life I trust to help me. But why do I have to fight for the privacy so many others take for granted? Most people have the choice of what they share, how much they share, and with whom. I have no such privacy. I have to fight to enforce my legal rights.

When I came home from the surgery center, the instructions I needed to follow were provided only in print. This meant that Mom, who I’m certain did her best, had to make sure I understood what my care required. Even though my nature is to want to understand, the inaccessible critical care instructions made me totally dependent on Mom. That’s an unfair result for both of us. Considering the surgery was done at a well-known eye care center the reality that they don’t make any effort to accommodate people with visual disabilities should be seen as surprising. Those of us who have visual disabilities know we will not be accommodated. We understand our legal rights will be violated.

I have to get a physical done by the end of the year or my premiums double. Contacting a doctor I want to have do my physical, I was told I would be mailed the packet of information new clients must complete. Not wanting to go through this with someone else, I asked if the information was available electronically. It, of course, is not.

Now, I have two choices: I can either have someone I know sit with me and learn all about my medical history; or I can show up to the appointment and force the doctor’s office to assist me. Previous experience tells me option two would most likely be way worse. They may want me to give them my information in the lobby. They may say they don’t have the staff to help me and cancel my appointment. I may wind up with someone who doesn’t read and/or speak English well enough to effectively help me. All of the above have happened to me before.

Either way, I will not have the right to privacy almost everyone else does. Either way, I will be unable to make sure the information I provide was entered accurately. Given the possible issues that could occur if the wrong medical information is known, that is a bit scary.

Issues at Work

Many times I can’t simply do my job and be judged on the content of my work. Far too often, I must first figure out how I will overcome something inaccessible to do my actual job. Since I’m the only blind person to ever work for the city of Portland, there is no one who understands the particular frustration I regularly face when things that don’t need to be inaccessible are inaccessible. There is no one for me to commiserate with while I work to overcome who shares my experiences. In almost every instance the solution for how I will overcome is mine alone to determine. If I want it remedied for the future, the responsibility is mine to explain how it could be remedied.

Things like requesting time off, ordering my transit pass, completing job descriptions, and more are tasks I cannot do independently. Sadly, I could work for Portland or maybe any other place for 30 years and I will still be overcoming inaccessibility. It would be a luxury for me if I could simply sit at my desk and perform the functions I’m paid to perform.

All of that and I haven’t mentioned the reality that most Word documents, PowerPoints, PDFS, and every other document type I encounter at work almost all have some inaccessibility.

Sometimes, I’m able to recognize that overcoming so much inaccessibility at work has some value. By overcoming, I’m learning how Portland can improve. Also, there is the unfortunate reality that overwhelming inaccessibility should guarantee me a good job somewhere for as long as I can work. Still, the constant need to overcome is redundant.

Student Loans

I wrote a post about this. So, I’m going to briefly discuss it here.

My student loans were transferred to a company with an inaccessible website in violation of federal law. To make a long story short, I had to send to file a complaint with the Department of Justice and tell the company what was wrong before I could continue repaying my loans.

When I was really angry about this, I remember sitting outside and longing for the day when I could do something as simple and necessary as paying my student loans without having to force people to accept the reality that I have legal protections that should be met long before I have to threaten.

Baseball Tickets

Obviously, going to baseball games isn’t something I need to do. But I love baseball. When I was going to Texas for a conference in June, I decided to attend a Texas Rangers game. I would love to someday say I went to a game at every park.

Unfortunately, the online ticketing process had major accessibility issues. Since I called on a Saturday, no supervisor was around to help me purchase tickets. So, I wound up having to ask someone I know to help me.

Even though I know Aunt Barb didn’t mind helping, the idea that the most basic of things often require me to ask for help hurts. To many, the reality that I sometimes need help where most do not is something that makes me less attractive.

Conclusion

Believe it or not, there are more examples I could sight. Since this is the longest post I have written, I will stop here.

Before going, I will admit I’m not sure I should have written this or if I have done a good enough job communicating what I wanted to communicate. I worry I have come off as complaining or whining. That certainly wasn’t my intent.

Thanks for reading. If you have any thoughts, feel free to share.

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