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meeting with rehab guy


Today I went to meet with the rehab counselor in my area. Actually, I met with the supervisor--he just hired the counselor and she is in training. From the beginning, all I wanted was an overview of typical services offered because every state's rehab system is a little bit different.




When I told him I was getting ready for possible surgery, the first thing he wanted was a release to get information from Dr. T. Well, I haven't even seen Dr. T. yet!



Then he started asking about career goals. I've had a rough couple of years and have decided for several reasons not to finish my psych degree but to finish the original thing I started in 1990, which was church ministries. He went off on how I needed to talk to people and findout what it pays, blah blah blah. Well, I know all that, but the bottom line is that I need to know that whatever I do I'm doing because I want to and not because everyone else thinks it's worthwhile or appropriate for a blind person.



He asked what my other options were. I listed them out--I've gone through this already a hundred times. The other universities in the area are at least 45 minutes away, which presents a major transportation issue since this is out of town. He asked if I had any plans of moving out of my parents' home. I said eventually but right now I don't have the resources. He had the nerve to tell me, "Mom and Dad won't be around forever." Well, he doesn't know me well enough to know that I've been through quite enough deaths in my family to know that, and I guess he doesn't have a clue that living with one's parents doesn't automatically equal dependency on them. If I had my own apartment in this town, transportation will still be an issue. It has nothing to do with living with my parents. Would he have suggested that I move away if this happened to be where I wanted to live?



Then he started in on my career goals again. I said above that there were various reasons why I've decided this plan. But there is no room for this in the rehab system. The idea is to get employed as soon as possible and not waste the state's money. I've been through academic and emotional hell since late 1994 between having professors tell me that I will most certainly fail student teaching because every blind person does, in spite of the fact that those before me had passed with flying colors; fighting for accessible course materials while sitting on the ADA committee for a university that gives lip service to accessibility for all students with disabilities; and going through more than one difficult relationship. It's time to see some successes and be realistic about my energy level, and I don't really give a flip if what I do is comparable to some student he serves who is taking an anatomy class.



But all this isn't going to make any sense to him--he'll just tell me I'm not well-adjusted and I need therapy. What happened to the right to pursue happiness? I guess one gives that up in the rehab system.

He started telling me that it's hard for a single person to get work in church ministry. "They want married people, and then they get the wife free," he said. Maybe he was joking, but if it was a joke it was a very inappropriate one. He started telling me about all his clients who can't find work with Christian education degrees. How do I know they even exist? He's got an answer for everything I say and hardly shuts up long enough for me to get a word in. I wanted to jump up, stand on the chair, and yell, "Would you shut up and listen to me???" I think he would have gone right on talking.</p>


Then came the real kicker. "You have to think of the other factor," he said. "You're blind." Waiting for the punch line? Blind people have a hard time getting employed in church work. Well, if he hasn't checked lately, blind people have a hard time getting employed, period. That is just the real kicker. There's not a job in the world that is easy for a blind person to get, and I do know this. But it shouldn't stop me from pursuing something that I want to do.



I posed one question: If I were to finish my psych degree, which involves taking statistics and working with computers, would the rehab counselor make sure the things I needed were in place before school starts? My previous experience is that they drag their feet, especially if you're not in school. I told him, "Three months after classes start is not acceptable."


He started rambling on about seeing the technology specialist and ended up telling me that I might have to wait until fall to take the class. Well, by that time I could be almost done with my church ministries thing since I've already done a third of it!



Good grief! This only benefits me if I have to spend the spring in recovery from surgery.



It was all I could do to keep from walking out in the middle of it and slamming the door. When I finally left, I bawled. I had planned to go to the university and make out a schedule afterwards, and originally I had been excited about it. I just couldn't do it after this. I decided I'd have my surgery and then let them know I don't need their money or services. They aren't helping cover the costs of my surgery, but I just don't need to deal with it right now. I'll get through school by myself with financial aid that I'll get like any other student. Rehab in Texas was moderately helpful. At this stage of my life I just don't need to be locked up in the system.



This afternoon, his secretary called me and started telling me she needed to send a letter to Dr. T. This just infuriated me, that releases could start flying around before I even had a chance to see the doctor. I understand that they need to know what any changes in my visual functioning might be, but I think it's really a bit premature for that, especially since Dr. T. doesn't even know who I am except that I'm a name on a sheet of paper with 1:45 PM; October 20 on it. Besides that, this is MY personal life we're talking about. I was really proud of myself. I said, "I'm not very comfortable with communications getting started until after I've seen the doctor." It took a lot of guts.


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Sarah Blake LaRose
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