[nabs-l] Awareness and advocacy in our professions

Justin Williams justin.williams2 at gmail.com
Mon Jul 18 13:00:57 UTC 2016

Hotels should be able to accommodate you in that way.  Another method is to
locate the general area where most of your sessions are going to be held,
then just keep track of where that is until you go for your sessions.  Then,
learn where each individual room is to the best of your ability.  Map it by
sections of you can. 

-----Original Message-----
From: NABS-L [mailto:nabs-l-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of Kaiti Shelton
via NABS-L
Sent: Sunday, July 17, 2016 9:20 PM
To: National Association of Blind Students mailing list <nabs-l at nfbnet.org>
Cc: Kaiti Shelton <crazy4clarinet104 at gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [nabs-l] Awareness and advocacy in our professions

Hi, Elizabeth,

Thanks for your suggestions.  Some things, like talking to a hotel staff
member about guide services for conferences, were things I did not consider
in the moment when I was just trying to get to my rooms on time.  I agree
with you that in these situations it is more time efficient to just ask for
sighted guide assistance, especially seeing as while traveling in a group of
students I am not always in control of whether or not I can get to the hotel
early just so I can figure out how it is set up.  I think I have pretty good
travel skills, but it's the same issue that arises in airports; you can
either get off in a 30 minute layover and insist on finding your next gate
yourself and potentially miss your connection, or just take an arm/the
go-cart ride they offer you and take the way-finding out of the equasion,
arriving with a few minutes to catch your breath.  I know people will have
different opinions on the airport example as well, but that's my take on it.

I realize I'm very lucky with regional conferences because my professors are
so involved with the planning.  Both regional conferences I've attended have
been fantastic in terms of accessibility, and the conference  had a
guidebook app that was used by everyone.  My professors even checked with
the company to see if it was accessible not just for my benefit, but so they
could make sure anyone at the conference who would be using the app on an
IPhone or Ipad with voiceover, or Android with talk back would be able to
use it.  I believe they also produced a few large print programs, and would
have been able to make arrangements for brailled agendas had it been
necessary.  I think that is a huge reason why I am able to go around those
conferences as independently as I do, with the internship fare being the
biggest and only true obstacle.  The national conferences don't tend to be
as accessible with their agendas, and at least this one I went to didn't
have an accessible online version.  I had tried to look up the agenda to
test it out ahead of time, but since the information wasn't available for
viewing yet I couldn't test it out.  That was why I requested it in braille,
just so I'd be sure I had something to go by.  I believe I did mention that
braille or electronic format would work because that's usually what I tell
people, but there didn't seem to be an electronic copy in that case either.
I remember getting some classmates to go through each day of the agenda with
me back at the hotel and writing down the information in my notetaker.  I
get this is going to sound like a bit of a boohoo thing to say, but the
drawback to that was I had to choose exactly which sessions I wanted to go
to in advance for the most part.  The nice thing about the accessibility I
experience at the regional conferences is that if I don't like a session for
whatever reason, I can stand up and leave for another one that I find more

The panel idea is a good one, and the few music therapy students who are
blind that I know of have similar interest in studying this.  I know of a
girl who just completed an internship, and her final project was an essay
documenting the techniques she found helpful.  She was gracious enough to
share it with me so I could take from it the ideas that would help me in my
last year of college, internship, etc.  I'm wondering if I could possibly
approach my professors about putting together a presentation for a regional
conference at first, even if it is just me presenting my individual
accommodations and giving a call for research/guidelines/advocacy.  I think
students in this position are in a very unique place, because we often have
no precedent to go off of and look to professors for guidance on how to
teach us, but the profs often don't know the accommodations side of things

The problem I'm seeing is that the professors in the colleges and internship
directors are encouraging these kinds of projects, but there isn't unity
that allows for students to bounce ideas off each other or professors to
share tips and tricks amongst themselves.  I got really lucky in that a
friend of mine just happened to know two blind music therapy students and
was able to put me in touch with the girl I mentioned.  I just wish there
was a way to bridge the gap so we didn't have to stumble across each other.

On 7/17/16, Elizabeth Mohnke via NABS-L <nabs-l at nfbnet.org> wrote:
> Hello Kaiti,
> I am sorry to hear you do not feel as though you are necessarily being 
> treated as an equal within your chosen profession. I imagine the 
> reason why people in your profession may not necessarily see people 
> with disabilities as an equal who can work in the profession has a lot 
> to do with the fact that the people who receive music therapy are 
> generally people with disabilities. The role of someone with a 
> disability working in the profession is a lot different than the role 
> of someone with a disability receiving music therapy. Changing the way 
> a group of people see others when they have been defined by a set role can
be a difficult thing to do.
> I think constantly demonstrating your abilities as a music therapist 
> is a first good step in changing these defined roles within your
> However, another thing you could do is look into presenting some sort 
> of presentation at some of the professional conferences that you attend.
> Perhaps you could give a presentation on the techniques you use as a 
> blind student preparing to become a music therapist. This would help 
> provide others with different techniques that may be helpful to other 
> students preparing to become music therapist. Alternatively, you could 
> put together a panel of disabled music therapists, and lead a 
> discussion on the techniques they use as music therapists, or how they 
> would like to see the profession grow in terms of accepting people 
> with disabilities into the profession.
> As far as receiving accommodations for when you attend professional 
> conferences, here are a few ideas you may want to try the next time 
> you attend a professional conference.
> In terms of being able to receive a Braille agenda of the conference, 
> it is possible the organization putting on the conference may not 
> necessarily know how to produce an agenda in Braille, or simply do not 
> have the means to produce an agenda in Braille. Although I have looked 
> into attending professional conferences in my chosen field of study, I 
> have yet to actually attend any professional conferences. However, 
> when looking at the information for various professional conferences, 
> I have noticed that there is generally a lot of information about the 
> conference posted online. In most cases, there is an agenda or 
> schedule of events included as part of this information. It seems to 
> me if you would like this information in Braille that you could either 
> Braille it yourself or use an electronic Braille display to read this 
> information. If an agenda or schedule of events is not listed anywhere 
> online, it seems to me you could simply have someone from the 
> organization email you a copy of this information. It has been my 
> experience that most organizations outside the realm of blindness 
> generally do not provide Braille documents.
> As far as navigating large hotels goes, I have several thoughts as to 
> how you can go about doing this as independently as possible. I am 
> sure there will most likely be people on this email list who may not 
> necessarily believe that using sighted guide is a form of independent 
> travel. However, I feel as though using sighted guide is simply just 
> another tool that can be used when trying to get around in unfamiliar 
> places. As someone with another disability in addition to my 
> blindness, I find myself using sighted guide more often these days as 
> sometimes it is just easier to have someone else guide me to where I 
> want to go instead of trying to receive directions from other people.
> If the organization is not willing to provide someone to help you 
> navigate the hotel, you could check with the hotel to see if they 
> might be able to provide someone to help you navigate hotel. Sometimes 
> hotels can be rather gracious with the service they are willing to 
> provide you as a guest in their hotel. You can always offer a tip in 
> exchange for the services you receive from the hotel staff.
> However, another approach you could take is to select the sessions you 
> are interested in attending, and arrive to the conference registration 
> area early to ask for a general description of the layout of the hotel 
> conference rooms. This technique worked well for me when I attended a 
> non-blindness related disability conference last fall. The person 
> behind me in the registration line needed to go through her packet of 
> information to see which conference sessions she was interested in 
> attending were located. So we went through the packet together. When 
> we discovered that we would not be attending the same conference 
> sessions, she asked someone else she knew what conference sessions she 
> would be attending to see if they would match up with mine. As luck 
> would have it, this other person was interested in attending the same 
> conference sessions as me, so we were able to go to them together.
> Even when you do not know someone, you can always ask the people 
> around you which conference sessions they are interested in attending. 
> I am sure many people would enjoy a companion to join them on their 
> journey to the conference session. However, for times when you cannot 
> find someone who is going to the same conference session as you, 
> knowing the name of the conference room or section of the hotel where 
> the conference session is located can be very helpful in finding this 
> location. You can always ask people to give you directions to where it 
> is that you want to go, and you can always stop and ask people if you 
> are going in the right direction or the confirmation of the name of a 
> conference room as you pass by them on your journey to where you want to
> Perhaps in time you will become more confident and comfortable with 
> your travel skills as you attend more professional conferences, but in 
> the meantime, do not feel uncomfortable asking other people for 
> assistance when you need it. Personally, I feel as though the main 
> point of attending conferences, regardless of what kind they may be, 
> is to gain more knowledge regarding the subject area of the conference and
hopefully meet new people.
> I find asking others for assistance navigating unfamiliar places 
> allows me to focus more on soaking up the information presented in the 
> conference sessions, and in some cases, helps me to meet new people.
> Anyway, these are simply my thoughts regarding the message you posted 
> to the email list. I hope you find them to be helpful. However, I am 
> sure other people will most likely have other thoughts on integrating 
> themselves as a person with a disability into their chosen profession 
> as well as attending professional conferences. Other NFB email lists 
> where you may receive additional responses to your email include the 
> young professionals email list and the social science email list. I do 
> not believe either one of these email lists are very active, but they 
> may help provide you with some more perspectives than what you may 
> find here on the student email list.
> Warm regards,
> Elizabeth
> -----Original Message-----
> From: NABS-L [mailto:nabs-l-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of Kaiti 
> Shelton via NABS-L
> Sent: Sunday, July 17, 2016 5:32 PM
> To: humanser at nfbnet.org
> Cc: Kaiti Shelton <crazy4clarinet104 at gmail.com>; National Association 
> of Blind Students mailing list <nabs-l at nfbnet.org>
> Subject: [nabs-l] Awareness and advocacy in our professions
> Hi all,
> I am entering a field that really has an emphasis on working with 
> people who have disabilities.  While it is possible for someone to 
> enter music therapy for mental illness or to supplement their health 
> and wellness practices, most of the work done in the profession is 
> carried out with people who have disabilities or those in hospitals.
> Before entering college I thought that surely those in helping 
> professions would be more open-minded about people with disabilities.
> I mean, if they make their living problem-solving and finding 
> alternative ways for their clients to do things, surely they'd be more 
> open to working alongside someone with a disability, right?  I wasn't 
> so naive as to think that people in helping professions would never 
> need education and of course I knew not everyone works with people who 
> have physical disabilities in the first place, but I simply thought 
> they'd be more likely to problem-solve and brainstorm accommodations 
> for a person with a disability to do the same work they do than 
> someone who is completely and utterly not exposed to those with 
> disabilities in the workplace.  My professors have done a good job at 
> this, but I've heard horror stories from other blind music therapy 
> students who's professors for really strange reasons said the student 
> couldn't do the job---they can't see facial expressions, lack of 
> vision is a liability, etc.
> I think I overestimated there, and in the past have been disheartened 
> by the lack of resources out there for people with disabilities in 
> helping professions to come together.
> Sure, the NFB has set up great divisions here, and I'm sure other 
> disability groups have as well, but shouldn't these professions be 
> doing the same for their own interests?  I've been able to learn a lot 
> from other students and human services division members here, but 
> who's to say that an accommodation a wheelchair user has come up with 
> won't completely rock my world in the clinic, or something I do to 
> keep myself organized won't be something they would adopt in their own 
> practices as well?  Furthermore, especially for students like me in 
> less commonly pursued fields, it's hard to find another person who 
> completely gets where I'm coming from.  Blind psychologists and 
> socialworkers get the therapeutic side of what I do, but they don't 
> always get the rationale behind some of the methodology or know just 
> how physically I have to work within the clinic space with 
> manipulatives, working hand over hand with a client, etc.
> I understand why this problem exists; a lot of these professions came 
> about in the early 20th century and late 19th century, when disabled 
> people were still being sequestered in institutions and such.  Music 
> therapy really got going after World War II with blinded soldiers, and 
> back then no one would have ever thought a blind person would be capable
of doing the job.
> However, in discussing this problem with my professors they have even 
> acknowledged this is something that will need to be confronted sooner 
> or later.  More and more disabled students are able to go to college 
> by the decade, and more and more seem to be going into professions 
> that benefitted them in some way as a means of giving back or bringing 
> life experience into a career.
> It's therefore really discouraging to have professionals in the field 
> either not know how to adapt the job to teach you, or to simply not 
> get it that you're wanting to do the same work they are doing.  There 
> was talk from my professors about the possibility of doing some 
> research to establish some guidelines for educators teaching music 
> therapy to blind students, but this research has yet to get underway.
> I went to a professional conference once, and I called ahead to 
> request a braille agenda be printed for me.  I also planned to utilize 
> guide services because then I would be able to focus on the conference 
> and my sessions rather than waste time learning the hotel I'd only be in
for 3 or 4 days.
> An older blind music therapist told me she used these accommodations, 
> so since I requested them I thought they'd be there.  Surprise, no 
> braille agenda and I had to fight first with the registration ladies 
> up to someone actually in the organization to get guide services.  The 
> response I kept getting was, "You're a student.
> Can't you just go with your classmates?"  No, not if they're not 
> wanting to go to the same conference sessions that I want to go to, 
> and I paid my registration money just like they did.  (Note I wasn't 
> overusing this.  I knew enough to get back to the registration desk 
> from each session and don't use this accommodation at all at smaller, 
> regional conferences, but in a huge hotel that sometimes had sesssions 
> all over the place, it was more practical to ask for someone to show 
> me the way so I could arrive at sessions on time.  I did hook up with 
> classmates a few times as well when we happened to discuss going to 
> the same session and wanted to go together, but I wanted the freedom 
> to go to the sessions I wanted to learn from).
> Recently at a regional conference one person had the bright and kind 
> idea to tap me on the shoulder during one of the sessions and ask if I 
> would like her to describe some of the slides.  I said yes and every 
> so often she did so.  This was because the pictures were dictating a 
> cherades-like experience that combined music and drama therapy, and 
> this person realized I'd totally miss the point without knowing what 
> the pictures were.  That was the only time I'd ever had that happen in 
> a conference session, and the woman was a masters student.  Most of 
> the time I'm ignored in conferences, which is simultaneously good and 
> irritating at times.  I'm happpy to have the freedom of walking around 
> a hotel without being pestered all the time, but there are times when 
> I really do need some assistance and I have a hard time getting it, 
> E.G, navigating those monster hotels in a timely manner or going 
> around internship fares where I don't want to ask every table what 
> they represent and incur the obligation to listen to their shpeel.  I 
> get the sense sometimes that as many people in these conferences as 
> there are working with people who have disabilities, and as much 
> collective knowledge there is in any given room at these conferences 
> about how capable disabled people might actually be, professionals 
> with disabilities are still such a tiny minority that people don't 
> know what to do or how to interact with them since they're not a 
> client.
> I'm wondering if any of you have faced similar issues in your fields, 
> and if you've been able to work with your professional organizations 
> to set up a group of some sorts.  I recognize I probably won't do 
> anything about it till I'm done with my degree myself, but I think it 
> is an important issue.
> There
> is a group for blind music therapists on Yahoo groups, but as far as I 
> know I'm the only student on there, and the list has had only a 
> handful of emails since I joined a few years ago.  I'd love to make a 
> facebook page of sorts for students and professionals with 
> disabilities to share life hacks and tips, but don't know if that 
> would be the way to go.  I would love to find a way to both bring 
> students and young professionals with disabilities together, possibly 
> also bring in older professionals who have tried and true methods, and 
> to do some advocacy of professionals with disabilities.
> Thoughts?
> --
> Kaiti Shelton
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Kaiti Shelton

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