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Trust Is Key To Unlocking Confidence & Independence

Trust Is Key To Unlocking Confidence & Independence featured image description is in the body of the post.

Trust Is Key To Unlocking Confidence & Independence

My other goal is to teach the community that people with visual impairments are just anyone else. They just use additional tools to access the world. This access should be universal and a normal part of day-to-day life.

~Michele Danilowicz
1. Michele Danilowicz image description is in the body of the post
#1. Michele Danilowicz

I am a Michigan-based Teacher for the Visually Impaired (TVI) and a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS). My undergraduate degree is in teaching elementary and special education with a focus on visual impairments. In addition, I have a masters degree in Specific Learning Disabilities and Orientation and Mobility for Children. For 14 years I’ve taught students aged 3-26 years old.

My passion is teaching students to help them gain confidence and independence so they are successful adults. I work with students on accessing and using the technology and tools they need to live independently after they age-out of the system.

Oftentimes, students with visual impairments are led to believe they can’t be successful, independent adults. So the most important part of my job is building trust with them. This enables them to believe me when I tell them that they can do anything.

How Trust Delivers Results

I had an elementary student who lacked confidence and hesitated while crossing streets. His parents were fearful and did not want him crossing a street on his own either. He was a fourth grader and at this time was not independently doing what his peers were. Together we went out weekly rain, snow or shine to work, navigate the neighborhoods, and cross intersections. So he was able to walk to friends houses to play and hang out.

I never pushed him if he ever felt uncomfortable to cross. We would cross the street when he built up his confidence. He achieved all his goals that year and crossed at stop signs and even small, lighted intersections. Once he began, he advanced so quickly after he gained confidence and is now unstoppable.

Building trust with parents is crucial also. So after he mastered some of these skills, I invited his parents to a lesson. His parent’s witnessed how confidently their son now crosses intersections, independently and safely. Seeing him progress was so rewarding!

The Long-Lasting Effects Of Trust

Recently, a former student contacted me to tell me she was accepted to a dual masters program. This student and I worked together ten years earlier. I was beyond excited to hear that she is starting a master degree!

She has been living independently since starting her undergraduate degree. Now she is moving across the state by herself to start and complete her master’s program. This student also made a huge transition in her life and is transgender. I was so grateful to hear from her and learn that she trusted me enough to share with me, her transition. The trust and confidence that she has built is amazing!

Passion & Pursuit of Personal & Professional Goals

2. Two women presenting image description is in the body of the post.
2. Two women presenting

My other goal is to teach the community that people with visual impairments are just anyone else. They just use additional tools to access the world. This access should be universal and a normal part of day-to-day life. Part of my job is to teach awareness in local schools about the tools people use who are visually impaired. I also spread this awareness to the public about what helpful accommodations they can use. Along with how to help (or not help) people in the community.

Recently, I was teaching an accessibility workshop to third graders. One of the students stopped me before I walked into the classroom. She said she knew someone who was blind and felt sorry for them. My immediate response was there is no reason to feel sorry for someone who is visually impaired or blind. They are people just like you or me they just access the environment differently. I told her how I knew many successful people doing amazing things. They read by using braille and travel the community and even the world, independently with a cane. The cane helps them to “see” where they are going.

I began the presentation and thanked the students for coming to hear about how everyone can be independent and successful. Everyone just approaches it differently. This is one of the most important parts of my job, educating the public on how and when to help. To not pity visually impaired or blind people, but to appreciate how they navigate the world with the tools at their disposal. When the average person realizes how independent the VI community members are, it gives them a whole new level of respect. Respect is most important, not pity.

3. Table of materials image description is in the body of the post
3. Table of materials

Featured Image Description:

A woman talking while holding up a white cane looking off camera. There are backs of participant’s heads watching the woman present about white cane safety.

Collage Image Descriptions:

  1. Pedestrian Walk Sign: Woman (O&M instructor) is holding a folded white cane, smiling looking off camera, standing at a detectable warning next to a pedestrian walk sign.
  2. Bus Stop Shelter: Woman (O&M instructor) smiling at camera holding a folded white cane standing next to a bus stop shelter.
  3. A city bus. 
  4. Boarding Bus: The back of a woman (O&M instructor) walking onto a city bus. 

Additional Image Descriptions:

  1. Close up of Michele Danilowicz with long brown hair in her 30s smiling at the camera. 
  2. Two women presenting on cortical visual impairments. The power point presentation behind them says: “Tips for Providing Interventions cont.” One presenter is looking at the camera and smiling. The other presenter is looking at the audience holding up a red Elmo stuffed animal and a red and yellow stuffed monster. They are both standing behind a table full of red and yellow materials and toys. 
  3. Table with materials scattered across, a light up magnifier, dome magnifier, Braille writer, telescope, two vision simulation goggles, Braille book, large print book, large Braille cell drawn on paper with the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 next to the dots and worksheets to learn Braille for print readers. 

Connecting With Michele:

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Standing Apart An Empowering Message To Teens From A Teen

Standing Apart An Empowering Message To Teens From A Teen Featured image description is in the body of the post.

Standing Apart An Empowering Message To Teens From A Teen

I am honored to introduce you to 12-year-old Blogger and Empowering Teen Extraordinaire―Maleeka. Maleeka, of the blog, Meeks Speaks, has a heart of gold and a passion for people. I love what she has to say to teens about standing apart by being unique. Maleeka, who recently received a letter from Britain’s Prime Minister, Theresa May congratulating her on her work, is going places.

“Unique and different is the next generation of beautiful.”

~Taylor Swift

Be Unique

The main problem for teens, in an era of social media, is being judged and becoming someone that society demands. Media does not help especially the fashion, beauty, music industries, and those magazines that target young people. Luckily as a VIP (visually impaired person) as I can’t see images and adverts:

  • I have the space to find out who I am,
  • what I love about myself, and my unique personality
  • I don’t pretend to be someone I am not to be accepted by others.

Pretending to be someone you are not to impress others can cause health issues like depression, anxiety, bulimia, and anorexia. It can also make teens feel suicidal when the pressure to keep up with societal expectations are just simply unrealistic.

Standing Apart An Empowering Message To Teens From A Teen Letter from Theresa May Image description is in the body of the post.
Letter From Theresa May

Being A Cool Kid

Also, people who do not “act cool” or follow the latest trends can be neglected. This is wrong because they are not appreciated and don’t get a chance to share their unique qualities. By “acting cool”, I mean dressing a certain way or using abusive language. Even bullying and disrespecting others to seem strong or being part of a collective force against a vulnerable person.

Some people also don’t stand up for injustice on another as seen as “not cool” by their peers. To me being cool is having a kind heart not about what you look like and treating people with respect. Being cool is being open to different people, their cultures and accepting for who they are.

Teens are obsessed with social media, likes, shares, and comments on their posts. But if you look deeper they really only want one true person who will accept them for who they really are. Social media is a fake reality and anyone can pretend to be anything they wish. But in day-to-day life, they may be really lonely and sad and suffer from many health problems. We all just want to have one special person or a small group of people who love you and are loyal to you

Tips To Help Yourself

  • Calm down, try to get away from the noise and have a think.
  • Understand the nature of social media and bring to your awareness that is not your real world.
  • Find out what you are passionate about, what makes you smile, brings joy into your life.
  • Find your unique way of expressing yourself whether through art, music, voice, writer, and comedy.
  • Put your focus on developing your area of interest and be the best you can be in your chosen passion.
  • Don’t take personal what people say or opinions about you. It is more important to be unique and find a special group of friends than to have many and still feel lonely.
  • It’s not cool to be part of a crowd but being unique is cool.
  • Don’t feel pressured to follow the everchanging trends that ruin personalities and confuses identities.
  • It is great to look good and look after yourself but don’t make this your purpose.

You will attract the people who will admire you for who you are and be happy in the process of genuine meaningful friendships and interactions with others.

As a VIP I love makeup and fashion. Luckily As a VIP, I can’t see what people are wearing or looking like so I don’t judge them for this. It is my hearts eye that “sees.” I am impressed with people who have good hearts and I like to surround myself with people who bring value into my life and I can do the same for them.

To Expect A Change

Helping people find their uniqueness is my big passion behind my blog. To empower young people not to copy others but to be you. There is only one of you just as our fingerprints are all different, we as people are all different too and should be happy to embrace this fact. This way society can grow as you bring unique ideas and creativity to the table rather than same old thoughts and being regurgitated over and over again.

“To expect a change, be the change and encourage others to do this too.”

~Maleeka

Connecting With Maleeka:

Standing Apart An Empowering Message To Teens Featured Image Description: 

Maleeka is sitting upright on a tree trunk wearing a big smile, black jacket and blue jeans holding a cane leaning to her right. A quote on the image reads: “Be Proud Of Who You Are.”

Letter From Theresa May Image Description:

This is a photo of the letter and envelope Maleeka received when she was in school. It was during her lunch break when her assistant came up to her and gave me her an interesting looking letter from the House of Commons. It was a letter from Theresa May.

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Finding Strength In Acceptance & Choice

Finding Strength Featured image description is in the body of the post.

Finding Strength In Acceptance & Choice

Recently, I was thrilled to participate in the Perfectly Imperfect series on Trend-Able during Invisible Disabilities Week (October 14 – 20). Being featured alongside Jessica Marie of Eyeliner & Empowerment and Diane of Spoonie Living was the highlight of my week. The creator of Trend-Able, Lainie, is a fellow advocate and warrior with a powerful message on disabilities. When you have a moment check out: 3 Chronically Awesome Bloggers To Know.

Did you know 96 percent of people who have a chronic illness live with an invisible one?* “In 1997, there were 26 million Americans considered to have a severe disability and only 7 million of them use a wheelchair, cane, crutches or walker (U.S. Department of Commerce).”** What this essentially means is there are no obvious signs of an invisible disability.

Many personal challenges, I face as a person living with an invisible disability, are mainly misconceptions within society. Even in 2018, most people still believe blindness is seeing or not seeing, for them it means total darkness. When blindness is, in fact, a spectrum disorder. Contrary to popular belief, blindness is not always obvious.

Powering Through Acceptance & Choice

What I find interesting is how many of us who live with disabilities find strength in acceptance and choice. We know we cannot control our disabilities, yet each day we choose to power through. Though we might have different conditions, we empower others by accepting our conditions and realizing the power of choice.

Finding Strength Featured Image Description:

The image is a blue circular logo of invisibledisabilities.org. It has white text on the inner rim that says “Invisible Disabilities Week Oct. 14 – 20.” In the center of the circle is the year “2018” with an “i” (representing a person) between the 0 and 1. The image also contains the hashtag title “#InvisibleDisabilitiesWeek.”  

Sources:
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A Lil’ Inspiration #22

Giving In Is Not Giving Up

“2009 marked my last unsuccessful vitrectomy. “I’m sorry there’s no more we can do for you” the doctor’s voice was like a distant echo and just like that I was declared legally blind.”

Professional business headshot photo of me In June of this year, it will be eight years since I was declared legally blind. If someone would have told me prior to my eye issues that I would survive without seeing I would have told them “no way!” I am so thankful reality is so much better than the fears I drummed up prior to my sight loss.

I can’t lie, going from darn near perfect correctable vision to no longer being able to see the eye chart was scary. So many questions like how am I going to work, how will I be able to remain independent, how can I do the things I used to do, how will I enjoy life? For many long days and nights, I was paralyzed with the fear of facing the unknown and I never felt so alone. Then something amazing happened…

I gave in. I didn’t give up. Once I faced my fear it opened the door to new and exciting opportunities. I learned how to use assistive devices to maintain my independence, keep my job, and navigate the world on my own. I got heavily involved with several blindness organizations working for justice while simultaneously breaking down stereotypes and most importantly, I now have the most amazing people in my life I would not have met if I did not experience sight loss.

Blindness is not the worse thing that can happen to a person. Never underestimate your resilience through any challenge. You are far more capable of not only continuing onward but thriving as you move forward.

Happy Friday & Have a great weekend!!