Welcome to October, and welcome to Blindness Awareness Month! On the Blink is celebrating blindness with a second round of October Interviews. In the coming days, you’ll hear from blind friends and colleagues as they describe their passions, their challenges, and their perspectives on disability.
Our first October conversation features Katherine Schneider, Ph.D., a retired clinical psychologist living in Eau Claire, WI with her ninth Seeing Eye dog. Katherine has published a memoir To the Left of Inspiration: Adventures in Living with Disabilities, a children’s book Your Treasure Hunt: Disabilities and Finding Your Gold, and a book for seniors, half of whom will develop disabilities, Occupying Aging: Delights, Disabilities and Daily Life. She originated the Schneider Family Book Awards for children’s books with disability content through the American Library Association and an award for superior journalism about disability issues through the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.
Locally, she started the Access Eau Claire fund through the Eau Claire Community Foundation to help non-profit organizations work toward full inclusion of people with disabilities. She’s a passionate advocate for access for all to the good things of life. Subscribe to her blog for details.
What is the most consistent challenge or frustration you experience with your blindness? How do you handle it?
I’d say information access is the biggest problem. I handle it by trying to learn and use every technology possible, asking early and often for what I need and advocating for better access to information whenever and wherever I can.
What resources have helped you to handle your blindness best, either in everyday matters or in moments of crisis?
Information from many sources about how others have dealt with a similar problem is helpful as are good friends who listen. When it’s a crisis, prayer and friends who just show up help the most.
What would you say is the most harmful or annoying belief that people have about blindness? How would you change this belief?
I think the most harmful belief is that we are so different from them that they stay away. Yes I may do some things differently, but I want to love, work, play and pray like everybody else. I reach out by getting involved in community activities and I do disability education in schools, university classes or wherever I can find an audience.
What is a book that you could read over and over again? Why do you feel this way about it?
I read very few books over and over; so many books, so little time. If I had to name one, it would be the Psalms from the Bible.
What book, person, or perspective makes you feel most centered?
I’m a backrow liberal Catholic Christian with ecumenical leanings.
What is one dream you hope to accomplish in the next 10 years?
I’d like to read the Bible from cover to cover, but am only in Leviticus after several gallant efforts. I’d also like to become a member of the 50 year club at Seeing Eye; I’ve now had Seeing Eye dogs for 43 years.
What topics do sighted (or blind) interviewers usually ask you about?
They usually ask about the guide dog, the technology, is access getting better and what’s your next book going to be about.
What topics would you prefer to discuss?
I’d also like to discuss what other people can do to make access to the good things of life better for those with various disabilities.
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Keep celebrating Disability Awareness with On the Blink! My call for interviewees has been widely shared and answered, so we’ve got more fascinating perspectives on the way!