Recently my husband and I went to an Asian Lantern Festival at our local zoo. We got our tickets scanned our tickets and made our way to the event. The only choices we saw for entering were an escalator or an elevator. I’m unable to use an escalator because of my visual perception issues, so I need to use the elevator. The line for the elevator was long and wasn’t moving. Someone in the front said one of the elevators wasn’t working. You would press the button; the doors would open but it wouldn’t go up. I nervously scanned the escalator praying one of them was broken, so I could walk up it. Much to my dismay it wasn’t but thankfully someone went on the escalator and pressed the up button and we were able to use the other elevator. How I wished in that moment I could turn the off button on having a disability. One of the hardest parts of having one is that there is no on and off switch for it. It’s constantly on and can create difficulties in my life.
I wish that I could find the off switch when I need to get somewhere. I’m unable to drive due to my reaction time and visual perception. I’m lucky to have people to give me rides and live in a central location where I can walk where I need go. It takes more planning and doesn’t allow me the opportunity to take spontaneous adventures. I have also had to turn down good jobs, because I couldn’t get there or they required a drivers license.
It would also be nice to turn off my disability when it involves math. I have trouble with understanding how numbers work and calculating them. I have had to carefully research educational programs and jobs that interested me but had the least amount of math possible. I can remember struggling to get through my high school math classes. Any time I encounter numbers it’s going to be a challenge for me. Having a math disability goes beyond just being poor at math. It also effects my ability to understand directions, or read the face of a clock. How I wish I could turn it off to be able to perform those tasks.
I also wish to flip the switch of my disability when I struggle with my body awareness. When I’m in public I often bump into people and block entrances. I struggle to coordinate my body when I play completive sports. I also blink whenever a ball comes in my line of vision. When I was growing up it was more difficult for me. High school gym class was a nightmare and I was often bullied. I have found noncompetitive physical activities such as aerobics, weights, and walking that I enjoy doing. Having a curved spine and feet that turn inward when I walk also don’t help me move with grace. I wish that I could turn that switch off, because people often stare and wonder what is wrong with me.
It would also be nice to turn off the button of having bad handwriting. I have always struggled with writing neatly. I can remember getting a ‘W’ indicating weakness of my report card in grade school. I can also remember people judging me on my handwriting. I have had people tell me that my handwriting was interesting, or tell me that I had the handwriting of a serial killer. I’ve also had people tell me that it was messy and surely my room looked that way. I also had someone tell me that if I wanted to be a writer then I would have to be neat. After learning to type, I was finally able to have people understand what I was saying.
There are many times I long to be able to turn off the button of having a disability. At times it is like a child’s loud toy you can’t turn off. I can’t change the disability, and I have to work with it despite the blaring noise. Other times it is people’s reactions and expectations of me. People have often thought if I just worked hard enough, prayed harder, or got my act together, then I would be able to overcome it. I also had people who tried to cure me with basic adult education programs and telling me to just think positively.
None of these activities helped me to switch the button off. What has helped me is accepting that I can’t shut the button off when it creates difficulty for me. I have also had to use creative problem solving to teach myself new ways to do many things. To my surprise I have found that I can find different solutions to a problem.
It may not be the way that is always easy or how I intended it to go. I may also get there slower than I wanted and that can be frustrating as well. I will also encounter people who won’t understand why I can’t turn it off. I won’t be able to meet their expectations. I simply need to block out the noise and move forward to find a way to do what I need to do. A solution is always out there, I just need to find it.