As I got ready one morning to tour a manufacturing facility with my friend (see Craftmanufacturingship), I thought about what the experience would be like. I’ve always been a planner, but since losing my vision I find I’ve taken it to a whole other level. I’m always thinking ahead in order to prepare myself for what’s coming since I can’t see it, mostly as a safely measure, both physical and mental. It’s always a “thing”: do I tell people I’ve just met about my sight or not? As I envisioned the upcoming tour, I imagined the guide handing me something from the manufacturing process to take a closer look at and decided I would just pretend I could see it, unless absolutely necessary.
Later, we signed in at the front desk of the company and were given “VISITOR” stickers to be worn at all times while on the property. As I pressed the label on to my vest, I thought how nice it would be if I could wear a label that said “legally blind” and never have to say it again. I could get it out of the way and move on with my life as could the person I am meeting for the first time. I don’t need a cane for mobility in my current lifestyle but I do have an identifier cane for use in certain situations where I’m alone and there’s a potential safety issue. Of course carrying it all the time would solve the great mystery of “do I say or do I no?” but it can also create more questions, attention and concern than is necessary.
I know, of course, that we aren’t supposed to label ourselves or others. And whether or not my loss of sight defines me or not is a blog for another day. But in this post I am referring to the thing about ourself that we wish everyone could know right off the bat and not require us having to say it or explain it.
What would your sticker say?
I continued to think about it that day and I wondered what my label would be before my vision became impaired and I had a difficult time determining what that would be. Which begs the question, does it only pertain to a physical impairment? An invisible impairment, more specifically? But then, don’t we all have invisible disabilities that have nothing to do with our anatomy? I know I did before I woke up blind.
When I put the vest on a few days later I found the folded up sticker in its pocket. The text was big and bold so I could make out “VISI” on one side of the fold and “TOR” on the other. Maybe that is the perfect way to describe all of us: VISITOR. After all, we visit each other, both people we already know and those we don’t, we visit places both new and familiar. We stay awhile, then always return to ourself. And what we choose to share with the world makes each interaction and experience unique. Most of us were taught that you “never show up empty-handed” when visiting someone’s home. In the same way that we take flowers or a bottle of wine to the host, we all arrive at every situation with lots to offer. Whether we decide on red or white, roses or a seasonal bouquet, our abilities or disabilities, is up to us.