Winning this scholarship changes what it means to me to be blind in many ways.
First, winning this scholarship would prove to me that I can achieve goals that I set for myself. It encourages me to persevere in whatever I do. Although my low vision presents challenges at times in my day to day activities, it will not stop me from doing what I want to do or achieving my goals. Winning this scholarship demonstrates to me and others like me that I am still able to achieve a high academic standard despite a vision impairment.
Second, this scholarship demonstrates that I have support outside of my immediate family and circle of friends. I am not alone. There are people in organizations such as the MAB-Mckay Rehabilitation Centre, the AEBC and the CNIB who believe in me and would support me in my academic pursuits. The MAB-Mckay has been supporting me since my initial diagnosis of Stargardt's. I feel less pressure and stress, knowing that I have people and organizations who understand my challenges, believe in me and help me adapt.
Winning awards like this one would shows that self-advocacy is extremely important. It is up to me to seek opportunities, such as this one from the CNIB, and apply for them. They do not just come to me. I need to be independent and proactive. There are many times when I need to be my own advocate at school. I need to be proactive and tell teachers about my eye condition and request certain accommodations I need so that I can perform at my best. For example, I request that I be seated at the front of the classroom, that tests and exams be printed with enlarged font, that I have access to the electronic documents when possible, and that I be permitted to use technology in the classroom (taking pictures of classroom notes). Winning this scholarship reinforces the need to be my own advocate, to be proactive in seeking opportunities and to let people know my limits and to request accommodations when needed.
Winning this scholarship emphasizes to me that my vision impairment does not have to limit me and what I can do. For example, it does not impair my brain or physical activity. I can still do well academically, swim (I completed all levels for swimming at the community pool), practice karate (I am currently training for my black belt), and almost anything I may want to, provided I put my mind and body to it. I do not have to let my low vision stop me from participating in activities or achieving my goals.
Furthermore, this award proves to me that I do not have to view my low vision as a negative or a misfortune. Although it is a physical disability and it does limit some of the things that I can do, I can still do many things. The cup is half full, not half empty. I can still do well in school, win awards, earn a black belt in karate, bicycle and swim despite my low vision. I work hard and I feel even more accomplished and proud of myself that I am able to accomplish the goals that I set. We just have to know our limits and not be discouraged by these boundaries. For example, I know I will not qualify for a drivers license, but I still have mobility with public transit. My disability presents me with opportunities to prove to myself that I am capable and resourceful.
In conclusion, this scholarship changes what it means to be blind for me in many ways; it shows me that being visually impaired does not have to stop me from achieving my goals, that I have support from people and originations who are more than willing to help me, that I need to be my own advocate, and that a disability does not have to be viewed only in a negative light.