I’ve gotten a lot of emails and tweets from folk trying to help. I’ve also gotten responses from folk who are as heartbroken and desperate as I am – or hopeless to a positive outcome. D/deaf folk in Massachusetts are struggling to pass educator licensure tests requiring skills they simply don’t have (if ASL is their’ only language). Other blind or learning disabled folk have reached out to share stories of repeated testing attempts with nothing but failure to show for it. Eventually, humiliation and finances (those tests aren’t free!) prove too great and they give up.
I’m not giving up.
Today I received a few emails asking me why I haven’t mentioned Braille, since the MTEL accommodations lists Braille (and large print) as alternative testing options. These are questions the folks at the MTEL office (the PearsonVue folk who administer the Massachusetts-specific educator licensing tests) asked me as well, in November of 2012. Simply put, I am not Braille literate, and large print isn’t large enough for my vision. There are many reasons for my lack of functional Braille literacy – if you read my initial post you’ll remember that I wasn’t aware I was disabled until high school. By high school I mean twelfth grade. Too, I was not raised in the most supportive or functional of families, and I didn’t have access to appropriate or continuous medical care growing up. I raised myself, spent years on the streets or friends’ couches, and made my way on charity, luck and government assistance.
One of the reasons I am an assistive technology specialist now is because I look back at my education and groan. I blame no teacher or school – my family moved from one place to the next each year, so how could any teacher or administrator know me or my struggles? But I wish upon a million stars that someone had (for so many reasons) intervened during my childhood, taken me out of the dysfunction I was stuck in and given me a true opportunity at stability and educational access. But that isn’t the story I have to tell.
I support Braille literacy for all who want it. Someday I will have the time and energy to sit down and move beyond grade 1 (and um, remember all of grade 1 Braille, if I”m truly honest). But today? Today I use the tools I have – that have served me well through multiple degrees and jobs. And I continue to work full-time in a Title 1 public school system, single-handedly building an assistive technology department from scratch (something I’ve lovingly done over the past three years) and work to stay there. I want to continue to be the change for students with disabilities that I wish I had as a child.