Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Michelle Hackman, and for better or for worse, I will be a recurring presence on this blog for a year or so. Some of you might remember me (and kudos if you do!) as the 15-year-old button of an AFB intern five years ago who blogged about her existential struggles with Facebook accessibility or finding the Starbucks two blocks down the street. Though my love for Starbucks has in no way abated, I've otherwise matured a bit since then, and hope to use this forum to start a conversation about the everyday concerns that blind folks face — things that most people don't think to discuss in conversations about blindness.
I am about to go into my junior year at Yale, where I am studying political science and psychology in the grand hope of understanding how — and why — people form political opinions and ideologies. (Some also suggest that, with my credentials, I am inadvertently bolstering my resume as a therapist on Capitol Hill.) I spend nearly all of my time out of class — and who are we kidding? A lot of the time I really should be in class — writing for my school's newspaper, the Yale Daily News, where I serve as the paper's head political correspondent. The paper has launched me into some of the most exhilarating experiences of my nascent career so far, including covering President Obama's re-election, his inauguration, and the Newtown shootings (which happened just about 40 minutes away from Yale.)
And though I mainly steer clear of writing about disability, unanswered questions about my own blindness come to haunt me at these times. How do I move about a neighborhood or city I have never visited before without getting lost or missing the events I am out to cover? How can I catch a person's attention in a crowd that I want to interview? How will I take pictures? Will people take me — the little girl with frazzled hair, badly applied makeup, a long, white cane, and a microphone — seriously? Perhaps that last question is at the heart of my concern. In everything I do, I, and most other blind people like me, have to overcome the barrier of being taken seriously. Our ability is never assumed. It needs to be proven.
Here, I'm hoping to hold the door on that conversation wide open, to engage with some of the stumbling blocks that blindness throws in my path most every day. They come in significant, heart-wrenching bursts: will my editor trust me enough to send me to Chicago? But sometimes they also come in the form of small, gnawing details that most people wouldn't think to consider. What's the easiest way of negotiating a college cafeteria? How do you catch a guy's attention on a loud, crowded dance floor without eye contact? For the record, I don't have answers to any of these questions. But if life's existential questions came with easy answers, I'd be out of a future career, so I'm not in any rush.
I will be spending the next year or so as a regular presence on AFB's message boards, facilitating conversations wherever I can and posing questions of my own whenever they come up. But I will be posting on this blog about once a month too, writing about the questions that are intriguing me. I hope you enjoy them.
If you have any thoughts or questions, please leave me a comment or feel free to drop me a line on Twitter @mhackman with the hashtag #AFBblog.