Daring To Dream, Again

Ok it’s official, I have been accepted to the James L Knight School of Communication Master of Arts program at Queens University of Charlotte. Classes begin on January 11, 2016. So after a three-year hiatus, I am back to give this grad school thing another shot!

How do I feel? Well at the moment, kind of overwhelmed but really excited.

Overwhelmed for the predictable reasons: the bureaucratic slog must now kick into high gear. I have to complete a FAFSA, and do a couple of other things that are in the welcome email I got from my program manager. I expected this, of course, but am trying to think of how I might get some assistance without driving the same two or three people a bit nutty. Those folks have been tremendously helpful to me throughout this process, though. I am figuring it out on my own to the extent that I can, but some things are just not as readily accessible or require actions; such as printing out, signing and rescanning forms; that are beyond my purview.

On the other hand, I am thrilled because this time I have a much more well thought out plan for how I will approach this attempt, including my overall goals and the research that is needed to achieve them. In a nutshell, I am aiming to take disability into the mass, probably noncommercial media (NPR) perhaps through some sort of blog/social media content. I have my steps for getting there more laid out in my personal statement, and intend to use that document throughout as a guide for helping me along in deciding on project topics and how to approach papers/presentations.

The goal is a big one, and it makes me nervous since it comes so close to what I’ve dreamed of doing all of my life. Well ok, I’ve actually seriously contemplated work with NPR since 2001, when one of my professors had us look up and listen to an excellent series on Black Codes. I’ve been an addict ever since, and am now able to name many of the reporters, guess which stories will be covered by whom, and the like to an amusing degree. As the concept of blogging has really taken off and this network in particular has embraced it in its many different forms, I am ever more able to see a way in.

I think it’s hardest to really go after what you want, because the perceived disappointment of not getting there is highest then. But we only live once, and there comes a time when one must take that step onto the invisible staircase and hope for the best, or risk remaining on a comfortable, if not nearly as desired, level. Taking this chance just involves realizing that it might not work out exactly as intended, and to have come up with alternatives that at least approximate the hoped for outcomes. I do have these, and will develop them as I matriculate through the program. I hope that maybe I and my crazy belief that I can have better will serve as inspiration to someone else to try to move beyond that place where they are stuck as well, and that whatever happens, I am able to resume my attempts to improve things for persons with disabilities, just in my more natural forum of the written word rather than as a counselor. Here’s to the beginning of my next journey. Stay tuned to see where I end up! And as always, thank you for your support.

4 E’s: Enrichment/Entertainment, and the NC State Fair

Ok, I kind of failed at completing the Blindness Awareness articles by the end of October. But, there were a couple of pretty good reasons for this.

First, I got leveled by another nasty cold, my third of 2015 and the second to directly impact a weekend to which I had been very much looking forward. That’s right, even as drippy, coughy, and otherwise unpleasantly sick as I was, I still attended the North Carolina State Fair with my girlfriend, cousin, his wife, and agaggle of others, known to me and unknown.

I was most amazed by the size of the crowds. It felt like walking through New York City at times, because we almost had to bull our way through people in order to get anywhere. I think the day we attended, the last Saturday, saw attendance of upwards of 140,000 folks. This was probably because the weather was fantastic, amazing really given that the month of October began and ended with significant stretches of rainfall. Undoubtedly, the fair’s organizers got lucky with timing.

I hadn’t realized until this year, probably because I live under a rock or something, that not all state fairs take place at the same time. According to that great arbiter of truth, Wikipedia, ours has run almost continually from 1853, with stoppages only during the Civil War, mid 20’s, and World War 2, and always takes place during mid October. Interesting.

Lacking taste as I was, I found it difficult to really indulge in the strange food that most makes up a fair going experience. I did struggle through a bite of a Krispy Kreme Burger though, and I probably won’t be lining up to order that thing again. I might like it if the donut were plain or something, but the sweetness therein was so overpowering that I could barely taste the meat. It just… didn’t work.

So that and being consumed by watching my Carolina Panthers, 6-0! win a late game over the Philadelphia Eagles took me out of my weekend writing rhythm. Am I forgiven?

What I was mostly going to talk about is how blind individuals are able to take in a world that is largely built for sighted people. This is especially relevant in environments such as museums, as I note in this 2013 post . I wonder if that place in Philadelphia still exists, and would perhaps like to go and visit it one day.

The ability to take in art exhibits is considered one of the most important ways to enrich and give depth to our human existence, as it is a form of media that has really been in use ever since people learned to sketch on cave walls. I’m glad that more are realizing the usefulness of making sure this form can be accessed in a way that is meaningful to those who cannot see it as well, as I also got to observe in 2008, when I took a fun trip to Denver to help a grad student do a research project about said access. For me, this involved having my hand banged against the side of a fish tank by feeding sting rays, listening to a described video in the iMax theater, and feeling giant sculptures of such things as horses in gallop. It was cool.

With regards to entertainment, the most notable challenge comes when trying to perceive visual content such as movies and television shows. Fortunately, these barriers are also being addressed, if slowly and inconsistently, with the wider introduction of audio description. Read more detail about what that is and why we want it in this old entry . I am happy to say that Netflix has begun rolling out more and more titles with AD available, and so we hold out hope that more mainstream companies will follow suit in the future.

What we lack in the visual media, we are thought by most to have an overabundance of when it comes to musical ability. Heck, probably for a long time our best hope at employment was to entertain others either by singing or playing the piano. I enjoy singing, certainly, but because of my hearing deficits I will never do so professionally. Still few things can kill time and lift my mood as well as belting out some fun tunes.

And I guess that wraps up what was no doubt a nebulous attempt by me to give a well-rounded picture of what it is like to be a blind person in today’s society. Much has been gained, but there is and probably will always be much to do to level that playing field and give us a true chance to succeed to the fullest of our abilities.