by Tamara Lomax
The greatness of Google is such that somewhere, if in even the smallest way, a match to any query will be presented. There was a time in my life where I found myself keening for mutual support by way of Internet searches, but no result turned up a story quite like mine. I consider myself to be a non-traditional student, a status that was not always easily accepted. I have had my own share of academic challenges and setbacks throughout my college experience: insufficient accommodations, inaccessibility, but most difficult was learning to navigate as a student through the changing stages of vision loss.
Transition became a common theme for me, especially as I began to shift in life after becoming a parent, and raising a child on my own while managing a full course load. I can vividly recall one night in particular where in the darkest late night hours, I sat at my dining table rocking my sick infant son while trying to solve equations and graph a line by hand with a small video magnifier, dropping my pencil abruptly, and telling myself, “This cannot be the way for me, but I surely don’t know which way to go.” Looking back, it’s a sad truth for me to confess that I felt I didn’t have the proper support or resources regarding vision loss or appropriate access to training to learn new techniques; not until I chose to take an independent route to finding my groove as an adjusting student with vision loss.
My involvement with the American Council of the Blind began at a time when I had felt most guarded concerning blindness, not quite completely blind, but definitely not completely sighted either. Having not received much in the way of understanding from other blindness communities in my area, I had initial reservations about joining a blindness advocacy group. I was invited to an ACB Students conference call, and aside from introducing myself, didn’t share a single word. My silence within ACBS did not last long. Shortly after that call, I joined the 2016 convention planning committee, where I was given the opportunity to coordinate and host the “Put Your Best Look Forward-Women’s Segment” at the 2016 convention in Minneapolis. To be welcomed into ACB by the student affiliate and to be trusted to be a contributor to convention programming assured me that I found a place where my voice and efforts were appreciated and encouraged, which was especially impressive as I was a new member attending her very first convention.
It was during that convention that I was elected second vice president of ACB Students, and with that I’ve found a new home where I know I belong, and a confidence that assures me that I’m moving in a better direction. The work I do for my affiliate means more to me than I could properly conceive the moment I accepted my board position. Knowing where I’ve come from, I feel this platform I’ve been given will afford me the opportunity to give a voice to the experience off the normative path of higher education, and be the resource for others that I once wished I had.