Going to school as a legally blind child

I have been asked a few times to share my experience of getting through school with a severe visual impairment so, since everyone is starting to think about going back to school, I thought this was the perfect time for it. I want to start by saying that I grew up in the 90s and early 2000's in Spain, so my experiences were most definitely different than those of kids getting ready to go back to school in the U.S. right now. However, if anything, I hope that the takeaway from this blog isn't so much how the school dealt with my visual impairment but how I coped with it as a legally blind child.

As a legally blind student I received a lot of the support I needed from Spain's equivalent to the National Federation for the Blind, O.N.C.E.. In the nineties CCTVs were new and expensive so they weren't given away as easily as they are today. For those of you who don't know, a CCTV is a really good tool for low vision individuals to read print; basically, it is a camera wi…

Things blind people like to hear

People often get nervous when they realize I have a disability and they don't know what to say. Here is a list of things that I myself, as a blind individual, like to hear, and I am sure other blind individuals appreciate as well.
"I will give you a ride." If we are going to do something together, don't assume it's easy for me to meet you there because I don't drive and it is harder for me to get to you. Also, do not ask me whether I need a ride, it still implies you are doing me a favor and going out of your way to do so. Furthermore, I never know whether the offer is sincere or just an empty gesture. When you simply state that you will give me a ride, you imply that you remembered I couldn't drive, took that into consideration and added picking me up into your plans.
"The bathroom is all the way to the end of the restaurant, make a left, go down the hallway and then it will be the third door on your right." Wasn't that oddly specific? Yes! …

10 Best Things About Having Albinism

June 13 is International Albinism Awareness Day. This year's theme is 'Still Standing Strong." In the spirit of such a positive theme, I thought I would share what, in my opinion, are the best 10 things about having albinism. This list is in no particular order.
1. Beautiful hair: I can't tell you haw many times I have been stopped on the street just for people to compliment my hair. Similarly, I am told over and over again that 'people pay a lot of money to have hair the same color as mine." While I didn't like it so much growing up, now I really love my white hair and I consider myself lucky to have it. I don't mean to sound conceded when I say this, but compliments have never hurt anyone...
2. No tan lines: because I have albinism, I don't have melanin (or pigment) in my body. This means I don't get a tan. While this means I look extremely pale in the summer and I have to be really careful with the sun, it also means I don't get tan line…

How traveling alone from a young age fueled my independence

I feel like in this blog I have spoken about how anxious I get going to new places, how my cane makes me feel more secure and how going to new places alone is not fun. As I am siting on a train headed to the airport by myself, I realize that all these things don't mean I am not independent or that I don't enjoy my independence. In fact, I love my independence!

Growing up in a small town in rural Spain, I was able to walk anywhere I needed to go so, since a really young age, I didn't need rides to get to my destination. The thing was that the town was small and I knew it like the back of my hand. Most of its 6,000 inhabitants also knew me and had some idea of my vision impairment -even if they didn't understand what it meant.

For as long as I can remember (and this is still somewhat true today) my greatest fear was getting lost. If we went to another town or city I wasn't as familiar with, I had to have my parents or teachers within site, which for me basically mea…

Everyday objects that make my life easier as a legally blind person

When you have a disability, you become really good at problem-solving. Every day we encounter things that are not accessible and we have to figure out how to do them. We become really good outside-the-box thinkers and can figure out more than one use for everyday objects. Not everything I use to make my life more accessible is specific accessibility tech. There are many everyday objects that can help me have an easier life as a legally blind person. In no particular order, here are some of those objects:

Duct tape: I like using bright colored duct tape to mark things or to help me find things. For example, we had a black couch and expresso colored coffee table; I could never find our remote control because it was black and it would blend in. I used some neon duct tape and put it on both sides of the remote so that it would stand out.

Smart speaker: a smart speaker like the Google Home or Amazon Echo are amazing because they allow me to ask it things without having to read them. So, for…

Don't assume...

There are a lot of stereotypes out there -for everyone. However, I have found that since I started using my cane, people were more vocal about things they assumed about me, or blind people in general. These are some assumptions that have been made about me at one point or other.

Don't assume I am totally blind.

Sure, I am using a cane, but I also have some vision. In fact, over 90% of white cane users have some remaining sight and, believe me, we use it as much as possible. Just because I am using a cane and I can see, it doesn't mean I am trying to trick you into thinking I am totally blind. My cane is a mobility tool that helps me travel safely and I am not getting any special benefits out of using it. In fact, it is very inconvenient to always have a busy hand so, trust me, if I didn't feel a need for my cane, I wouldn't have it.

Don't assume I can't talk.

When I have my cane, people often talk over me to whoever is with me. In restaurants I often get the, &q…

Should I disclose my disability to potential employers?

I want to start by saying that I realize this is a contentious issue in the disability community and that there is no right or wrong answer. I think everyone should do what they feel comfortable with. That being said, I have an opinion that has changed over the years and I have experienced everything from not disclosing at all to being open from the get go.

When I was younger, I was of the opinion I should not disclose my disability to a potential employer -ever. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, I am not required to disclose and potential employers, or employers, cannot ask. Of course, if I didn't disclose, I could not expect any reasonable accommodations. When I worked all my part-time jobs in college, I didn't ever share I had a disability. I didn't want to get a 'black mark' on my application and, what's worse, I felt like admitting that I needed accommodations was a sign of weakness. I felt that I had to prove myself at any cost; my visual…