Bar Codes, Stickers and Labels

Deanna Noriega and her dog guide

Importance of a Title

November is National American Indian Heritage Month. You are probably wondering what this has to do with the title of this article. I am of native American descent. My great grandmother chose Quietwater as my true name. This is not the one that appears on legal documents or government records, but the name that tells others who I am as a person. When my children were small, they were given true names at family ceremonies. My great grandmother named my eldest daughter. My mother named my younger daughter. I chose the names for my grandchildren. The elder who does the naming has to spend time with the child, observe how they respond to the world around them and who they are. Eventually, they will choose a name for the child, a gift from the elder that she can use to give her strength and guidance in following her unique path through the world.

Living in a Labeling Society

Society tries to define us by attaching the labels of disability, gender, ethnicity, age or racial origin. People don’t come conveniently marked with a bar code or sticker listing ingredients. We are not labeled like “SunKist”, a popular orange soda. It isn’t that easy to know what is inside. Each of us has many factors that contribute to who we are, not least of these being our essential natures.

Reflecting on Where We Come From

The holiday season is a time for traditions and to remember where we come from. We all have ancestors, a personal history. Sometimes our heritage is stamped on our faces or skins and sometimes it is present in memories of family traditions.

As members of my Visually Impaired Community family, I hope you will all take a few moments to reflect on where you have come from, the journey through life you are traveling and where you plan to go next.

How We Define Ourselves

One of the things that sometimes surprises visually dependent individuals is that those of us who are blind can consider blindness as just one of the characteristics that go in to how we define ourselves. It is pretty much like our height or the shape of our hands; just part of the package. We may even consider it an asset. When there is a power outage, we are the ones who can readily locate the candles or flashlights for our vision dependent family members. When we meet new people, we are not distracted by visual information that might influence our assessment of a potential new friend. We don’t obsess on counting the lines on our faces or number of gray hairs because our mirrors are in the eyes of our family and friends who love us for who we are. In that light, visual impairment can in itself be a gift rather than a tragic loss.

The gifts we bring to the table aren’t always those wrapped in bright paper, but those with which we were born. Share them freely and have a wonderful holiday season whatever your traditions may be.