[nabs-l] A Struggling Blind Student Looking for Some Advice

Cricket Bidleman cricketbidleman at gmail.com
Thu Aug 18 20:02:47 UTC 2016

Hello All,

I know this is a super old thread, but I just found it and wanted to
provide my perspective on this issue. Apologies if I'm stepping on
anyone's toes or whatever else. I'm not trying to offend or anger
anyone here. Warning: This is really long.

Elizabeth, I totally understand your struggle. I'm sure most everyone
on this list does. We all struggle with classes, instructors, and
technology. I'm assuming from the messages that you may have become
blind later in life, which makes things harder because you have to
learn a whole new way of life... Pretty much. So, props for getting
through that like a champ.

Blindness tech... It's so hard to master. Just when you think you've
got it, there's a new update, and suddenly you're stumbling around in
the dark. I hate the NVDA voice so much... It makes my skin crawl.
Sorry folks. I like Eloquence, which is the robo-voice used for JAWS.
It's really clear and easy to understand. If you youtube search it,
you can find a video with a link to download a free version. Don't ask
whether it's legal or not... I don't know, but it hasn't been removed,
so I'm assuming that it's... Legal enough. Keep the speed nice and
real slow until you get used to it, then you can speed it up. If you
want JAWS, which has some benefits over NVDA and is in other ways
inferior, your local DOR should cover that.

One thing about being blind... It's really hard to be blind and
inflexible... It just doesn't work. Flexibility is hard especially
when you're used to having things a certain way, so I totally get it.
I've always been a public mainstream student, and I'm an academic
perfectionist, so life is hard when, say, you don't have an AP Chem
book for an entire year. Yes, that pretty much happened, though I did
get the whole book at the end of the year, and I was given a few
chapters after we already covered the material. Fun stuff, right?
Basically, I'm saying that you'll find yourself in a much better
mentality if you can practice flexibility. Yes, it's hard. Took me two
years when I was little to be okay with making a few mistakes here and
there. Now I've learned to cope with B's on math tests without totally
losing it LOL. (Yeah, my perfectionism is that bad.)

Training centers... They will help you a lot. A whole lot, in fact.
However, perfection is hugely difficult to achieve. Take it from
someone who really knows. There are a lot of adaptive techniques that
you'll have to learn to be successful in life as a blind person. If I
were you, I'd look into this because oftentimes, your state DOR will
cover most or all of the expenses... Free room and board and training
for an extended period of time is definitely something to be very
thankful for. However, it takes two to tango, as they say. You have to
be willing and receptive to all the stuff they show you, and you have
to realize that "training center" does not mean "miracle". Just
because you go to a center does not mean you're suddenly the master of
all things blindness. Some things they show you will not work for you.
You will get cut, burned, bruised, and scraped, and it will hurt. You
just have to get used to it and learn from every experience you have,
both good and bad, so that you can make your next experience that much
better. You also have to find what works for you. It's a lot of trial
and error, just like everything else in life. The secret to anything:
practice, practice, practice. And patience, which I'm so ridiculously
bad at.

A note about blindness-alternative techniques: They will help you
tremendously. All this technology stuff, the training centers, the
advice we're trying to give you--it's all supposed to help you. You
can choose to ignore everything and carve out your own path to
success, and if you attain success you're all the more awesome for it.
But at least consider what we're trying to help you with. Daily living
skills are hard to learn and so incredibly important. I know this
because I am completely incapable of anything that isn't purely
cerebral. I cannot do laundry, I cannot cook or wash dishes, I cannot
clean the bathroom. My parents become frustrated because of this, but
they are the ones who are incredibly unsupportive of me learning these
things, as in, they literally won't let me learn these things. I will
go to college... And thereafter I will be scrambling to learn about
how to get around life because the truth of the matter is that I,
don't, know, anything. My parents don't think these skills are
important, but I don't want people always cooking and cleaning for me,
and I certainly don't want people looking at every article of clothing
I wear. Awkward, much? From what I can tell, you're the same way.
Independence is a great thing, but you have to learn how to be
independently blind before you can be good at it. Hopefully that makes

One last thing: attitude. A great attitude makes all the difference.
Don't limit yourself by saying you can't do something because if
you're innovative enough, you can pretty much do anything. Maybe try
not to be a surgeon though, that would be kind of hard as a blind
person. Don't get down on yourself because you failed at something
once. That's me all the time, and it sucks. You have to get back out
there and struggle until you feel comfortable with stuff. The more
struggle, the better you'll feel ultimately. Don't let something be
the master of you... So many people of all visual acuity levels let
stuff get the better of them. It's sad and pathetic because people
limit themselves by doing that. Don't be one of those people. Don't
limit yourself, and certainly don't let others limit you. Prove all
the haters wrong, especially if said hater is yourself. That's what
I'm always doing, and trust me, it feels really awesome to be able to
quietly show people (and myself) that I actually can do stuff. You
don't have to flaunt your skills to get satisfaction either. If people
realize that you're capable, you've successfully kicked their doubt in
the butt. Keep that in mind.

Cricket X. Bidleman
NCS Pearson, Blindness and Accessibility Consultant

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