Poverty, Disability


I was hypothesizing about growing up in poverty, disabled, blind. I grew up in Canada. Generally the poverty levels here are better than in other parts of the world but indeed poverty exists here as well. I’ve done some reading and research and have had several conversations about poverty. I am no expert on poverty. Personally there have been very few times in my life that technically I’d be out on the street or worse. I’ve been very fortunate to have people there for me when the going got that tough. To those of you who were there when others weren’t thank you, I do remember and appreciate it.

It’s extremely harsh but the ultimate goal of a “human” organism is to survive. Additionally its part of a social group dynamic that scarce resource be they what they may, food, shelter, education, etc., be invested in the most viable of the group. At the end of the day if you have a disability that affects your ability to forage for yourself or contribute to the group the worst case scenario is disenfranchisement, isolation, and death.

I’m working with an organization that assists globally with the eradication of avoidable blindness. Its been an education its amazing to me that 80% to 85% of all blindness is avoidable. In many countries globally, in poverty, if you can’t contribute for whatever reason you will die. The first time I heard this I thought to myself, “that’s a bit dramatic!!”. Then I started thinking about it.

Historically in Canada before it was Canada I’ve read stories of the indigenous people when they could no longer contribute decide to stay behind when the band moved on as part of their annual migrations from winter to summer hunting grounds or vis versa. In present day Canada since there is a social safety net of sorts if you can’t contribute you will be institutionalized, disenfranchisement and isolated. Death will come.

Its not that simple though is it? When I was ruminating I starting thinking about the parallels of denial and acknowledgement of a disability. In my denial of my disability I lost myself I didn’t know who and what I was. I had a career, marriage and life that ultimately for me wasn’t real. A disaster for me and for all of those involved, a death of self. When you are in denial of who and what you are isn’t that, “death”?. At least a death of self? Perhaps dramatic but I can tell you after coming out disabled and blind, even though it changed my entire life I am happier and learning to be content, isn’t that closer to prosperity? I don’t know there are things and relationships I had that I wish I still had.

Again I am no expert of poverty per se but during my life I have never invested in any adaptive technology for myself. Seriously I’ve been most lucky with employers who had no issue in buying larger screens, chairs, fancy keyboards, etc.. When I pretended not to be disabled or acted like my disability was not big deal I was lucky not to be killed by things I can’t see, like buses, cyclists, cars among other things. I’ve been lucky.

Since I’ve come out blind I’ve been able to buy for myself the things I need to be competitive in my professional career. Not all the things they are after all very expensive but most things. Present day I’ve been less fortunate, on returning to Canada and Alberta specifically I’ve had little to no partnership from my employers with getting the accommodations I need to be successful in my career. I do blame the bad economic times as well but the “culture” here needs some enlightening.

Being disabled or blind is not cheap and making sure you have the things you need one to survive and two to thrive is expensive. When you don’t have the resources or your family, your community, your country doesn’t have the resources to help you Its hugely detrimental. When you don’t acknowledge openly your disability and blindness and live within your capabilities it is hugely detrimental. I’m very lucky.

About the Author:

Kyle has ocular albinism and has been legally blind since birth. Kyle leads a very active live and is besides his professional career involved in many projects for persons who are different.

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