by Timothy B. Vernon
Personal connections are vital to making informed decisions, learning life skills, and fostering friendships. Each connection provides a unique insight which is valuable for choosing the right path in life. A connection could be a family member, friend, teacher, co-worker, or acquaintance. Some people are in our lives for many years. Others stay for a short time. I’d like to tell you how connections with teachers, friends, and co-workers have impacted my life.
I have been blind since birth, and was mainstreamed in the Mansfield, Mass. public school system. At the age of 4, I began working with a vision teacher and mobility instructor, with whom I am still in contact today. Muriel, the vision teacher, taught me braille, daily living skills, and self-advocacy. Muriel’s guidance helped me become a proficient braille reader, and ensured I felt comfortable contacting various organizations to request accessible materials. Rich, the mobility instructor, taught me proper cane techniques, and alleviated my fear of traveling independently. His training helped me memorize the Fitchburg State University campus. Later, when I joined the workforce, his training gave me the skills to take two buses and a train to commute between my house and the office. Although I no longer receive direct services from Muriel or Rich, I feel relieved knowing I can always contact them for advice on an unfamiliar situation.
I am employed in the call center of Eversource Energy. There are approximately 100 representatives who work in my office. Often, newer representatives are reluctant to interact with me, as many have never met someone who is blind. Since building a rapport with co-workers is vital, I try to memorize people’s voices, and learn about their interests. I also ask newer representatives to mention their names during our first few interactions, and to advise me when they are leaving the room. I feel privileged to have cultivated friendships with co-workers, and occasionally meet colleagues for dinner or a concert.
The constant evolution of the Internet, social media, and text messaging makes staying in touch and receiving information easier each day. In high school and college, I was part of the choir, participated in the Braille Challenge, and was a member of a disability awareness group. I made friends in all of these circles, and communicate regularly with them. I am grateful to have friends with whom I can share positive and negative experiences.
Staying connected with a variety of people from different stages of life is crucial to happiness. During a transition into a new life chapter, never forget the people who helped you get to this point, and do your best to stay in touch with them. As Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”