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Disability Awareness Week : Clare Johnson

Claire Johnson

Name & Pronouns: Clare Johnson (she/her)

Year:  Junior

Major(s)/Minor(s): Global Business Major & Accounting Minor

A little about myself:

I have a passion for disability activism and disability justice. I love non-profit work, and I want to go into business administration in either a non-profit or healthcare setting. At home, some of the ways I put my passion for people with disabilities into my life include working for a special recreation association (SEASPAR: Southeastern Association for Special Parks and Recreation). It provides recreational programs for children, teens, and adults with physical or intellectual disabilities. We go to baseball games, day camps, overnight trips, go to the zoo, and the movies. It is just a way for me to help others and also put my passion for people with disabilities something I do in my everyday life. I have a vision impairment. I will never have 20/20 vision. With corrections and surgeries, thankfully, I can drive. There are things I cannot do. I have bad depth perception. I cannot see 3D movies. I am left eye dominant and right hand dominant, so that was always interesting. Thankfully after surgeries and amazing doctors, I am now in a place where it only sometimes affects my daily life, but it is something that has helped me grow as a person.

How my disability has impacted my life:

Sometimes I get headaches, and I want to close the door, turn off the lights, and just take a quick nap to reset. Sometimes it helps with the eye fatigue and eye pain. It’s not all that often that it is crippling, but it’s about once a week. I have to enlarge my exams, I have software programs that can read to me, and I have my phone and computer in enlarged text. I have also gotten really good with computers. I have had to do things like enlarging text and font, changing lighting. These little tasks helped me become better with computers. I am not defined by my disability. I think it is definitely something that I carry as part of who I am, but that is not all of who I am. I think I have grown from it, and yes, it’s something I still live with—but, there is more to me than just having bad vision.”

How my disability functions as a strength in my life:

My disability has definitely helped me overcome adversity. Knowing that it is okay to stand out. When I was little, I had to wear an eyepatch on my left eye to make my right eye stronger. I would go out in public in an eyepatch, which was fine. It was just something I did. Now I don’t worry about standing out, because it doesn’t bother me anymore. There are many lessons I learned. I am okay with being different.

Barriers to accessibility I would like to bring to light:

I know I have vision issues,  but little switches like Expo marker color makes a huge difference for many students. Higher education should work towards universal design. A great example of universal design is if you are going to put a stairwell with three steps, just do a ramp. It is accessible for everyone. Then you don’t need steps and a separate ramp. That is universal design because it works for everybody. There are many examples like captions on videos, using dark markers on the board, or annotating on zoom so it is accessible to everyone. I definitely try to speak up and advocate for myself. I know if I am having a problem, there are probably others with the same issue. I know I have vision issues,  but little switches like marker color makes a huge difference for many students. Once we bring more awareness to disabilities and activism, there is a vision for the future of people advocating for themselves, moving toward universal design, having things accessible to everyone, so people don’t have to feel nervous to speak up for themselves because it’s already there.

“If you have some type of disability or learning challenge, it’s okay to advocate for yourself. I know that’s something I’ve had to grow in and gain more confidence. I know that it is hard at first, and could be especially intimidating with someone like a professor, but it’s okay to advocate for yourself. It’s really rewarding because you are getting the accommodations and accessibility needs that you deserve, but you are also able to speak up for yourself and advocate for your own needs. It is amazing to advocate for yourself. It is also okay to speak up for everyone with a disability. Those little things could help everyone.”