By Katherine Schneider, PhD, Author and Retired Clinical Psychologist

A consultation with an elderly person going blind has made me expand my rules for assistive technology into six rules for living with a new disability. As with all rules, they are easy to give and hard to live by and, of course, there are always exceptions.

1. It costs more, takes longer and requires more planning to live with your new disability. If you need to arrange a ride to the store for grocery shopping, you may keep a running list of needs so you don’t have to ask too often. The days of a quick run to the store for an item you forgot are gone!

2. There’s a huge learning curve. You are a baby in this new life, so don’t expect the same results when you do a familiar task. Those muffins you’re used to effortlessly making may look better and take less time if you make them in a mini-loaf pan instead if your vision is failing. They’ll taste just as good!

3. Gizmos, adaptive tech gadgets, etc., are great, but will not “fix” your disability. You can use an iBill reader or an app on a smartphone to denominate your paper currency, but it’s faster to just ask someone. In 64 years, I’ve only been cheated once.

4. Some people, be they friends, family or professionals, will “get it” and be helpful; some you can coach into responding well and some you can’t. The ones who will never get it may still be wonderful friends. When they keep moving your cane without telling you, just remind yourself, “They don’t get it and I love them anyway.”

5. Go ahead and feel good and sorry for yourself. Throw a pity party. Then, when you get tired of it, get up and move on. ABAPITA is a phrase in the blindness community which means, “Ain’t blindness a pain in the anatomy?” Sometimes it truly is.

6. There are positives of having a disability, but it will take a while to find the pearls. Remember, it takes a grain of sand irritating an oyster plus a lot of calcium carbonate secretion for an oyster to make a pearl. Some of my pearls are having the company of wonderful guide dogs for 40 years, getting to know amazing people who originally reached out to help me and the funny things that happened to me because of my blindness. Find and share yours please!

Katherine Schneider, PhD, is an author and retired clinical psychologist living in Eau Claire, Wis. with her ninth seeing eye dog. She has published a memoir, To the Left of Inspiration: Adventures in Living with Disabilities, and a children’s book, Your Treasure Hunt: Disabilities and Finding Your Gold. She originated the Schneider Family Book Awards for children’s books with disability content through the American Library Association, and an award for superior journalism about disability issues through the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.

Locally, she started the Access Eau Claire fund through the Eau Claire Community Foundation to help nonprofit organizations work toward full inclusion of people with disabilities.

Her next book, Occupying Aging: Delights, Disabilities and Daily Life, will be available in the fall. Those interested can subscribe to her blog at http://kathiecomments.wordpress.com.

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