I call you for the third time this week. I’m crying. I’m soaked with rain, and windswept, and utterly lost. There isn’t a soul around and I have no idea how I’m to get home. My phone is dying, my gps is no help, and I’m standing under a tree’s meager shelter while thunder explodes in the sky above. I feel like a complete failure. I’ve been getting lost so often lately, but then again this is a brand new neighbourhood. It’s the first time I’ve ever used transit in my life. I’ve lived here only two weeks, and barely have a handle on the route to and from work. I’m begging you to help me. And you do—but first, you tell me how inconvenient this is for you—that you’re getting awfully sick of it.
I sit hopelessly at my desk, explaining for the umpteenth time that the tactile diagram in front of me just doesn’t make sense. I’ve tried and tried to understand it, but it just doesn’t click for me. I am close to tears. I am failing this unit, and I know it’s not because I’m stupid, or bad at math, or lazy, or any other thing you care to name. I’m failing this because I’m unable to use the tactile diagrams that make so much sense to you. Hell, one of my sighted friends—a math whizz if ever there was one—can’t master circle geometry either. In a fit of frustration, I grab your hand and place it on the paper. “Feel this? Does this make any sense to you at all?”. You don’t speak. “Well? Does it?”. After a pause, you admit that it does not. You admit that this unit isn’t all that important anyway and that you’ll just have to waive it. But as you make this promise, you take special care to mention how inconvenient this is for you—that you really have no idea how to go about teaching me this material.
We’re having lunch, and you invite me out for drinks a few evenings from now. I casually mention that I’ll have to have a hunt for my ID; it fell out of my purse the other day and onto the floor of my suite. I still haven’t managed to find it. It’s probably off in a corner somewhere, but it will take a lot of scrabbling around for me to find it, and I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. It’s small, and easily buried or kicked or overlooked. You offer to come and help me look for it—something I’ve neither asked for nor welcomed, even—but first, you are sure to tell me how inconvenient this is, and how I’d better have a good search for it before you waste your time. I immediately lose my appetite and go home soon after. We never did go for those drinks.
I lean forward across the table separating us, entreating you to rethink your position. I lay out all the possible adaptations we could use to make this vital course accessible. I outline my hopes for the future and my goals for my degree. I assure you that if it really isn’t working, I’ll drop out and say no more about it. I am quite certain I probably sound pathetic and desperate, but I don’t much care. The truth is, I am desperate. I can do this course; I know I can. But you aren’t so sure. You repeat that it’s nothing personal, that you’d love to help, really…but you only have so much time in the day. You only have so much energy to devote to one student, no matter how eager and dedicated. Really, it’s all very inconvenient for you…
I’m in the back seat of your car while you drive me to yet another engagement I can’t get to on my own. It’s a rural area. There are no buses, or cabs, or trains. It’s snowing, and bitterly cold. You didn’t want to go anywhere this evening. You’re grumpy and miserable about the whole thing. Of course, you give me a ride, because you know I don’t have an alternative, but you grumble to yourself about how inconvenient it is for you. I curl into myself and try to ignore it.
Every day, it’s something else. I never know what it will be today, but I know there will be something. You are displeased. You are ranting. You are telling me how frustrating it all is. You are cataloguing every way in which I am a burden. I create more work for you simply by existing–simply by being a flawed human being with, let’s be frank, special needs. Inconvenient needs. My eyes well up, because I am eight years old and all I want to do is please you—please everyone. You lash out, telling me to stop crying immediately. I put my head down, as it’s the next best thing. All the while, you continue, because I am ever so inconvenient. If my eight-year-old heart had the courage it ought to have, I would raise my head, tears and all, and remind you that while my blindness is awfully inconvenient for you, …it’s awfully inconvenient for me too. After all, I live with it. Every. Single. Day. I make it work, and usually I don’t mind much, but yes! It does make life a wee bit tough sometimes. I’m not unaware that it gets in people’s way, and I really am sorry about that. But as difficult as it is for you, it is ten times more so for me.
Think about that. Then, come tell me how inconvenient it is for you.