My sight impairment forces me to be a bit choosy when I volunteer for school or community service. Not only am I reluctant to add to my already long list of visually overwhelming projects, but I don’t want my offer of help to be a hindrance. There are some things that come along however, that are a perfect fit. Such was the case this spring when I volunteered to be a coach for Girls on the Run, a program for 8 to 13-year-old girls, designed to inspire confidence and positive thinking, while at the same time, encouraging emotional and physical health.
In early spring, all the new coaches met for some training where we were handed a fairly thick manual that contained the 12 week lesson plan. Dreading the negotiation with another printed monster, I summoned my strength and asked if it was available in electronic format. Yes and but no; they had one but I couldn’t have it due to copyright protection or something like that… you know the drill. But I didn’t stop there – I explained why I needed it and they made sure I received the PDF file. After transferring the file to my Victor Reader, I navigated page by page and placed a bookmark at the beginning of each lesson. Now I can comfortably review the week’s lesson wherever I am to refresh my memory before the after school program begins. One hurdle was overcome, thanks to their flexibility with my situation.
Not so fast. After the coaches were assigned and teams were created, I received a printed list of parents’ contact information in landscape orientation. Even using my CCTV, it was difficult to follow the 11 inches of information across the page, matching each kid with their parent, email address, and phone number. Two hours later, I had entered everybody into my Contacts list, a task that would have taken me 20 minutes if my eyes could easily follow a row of printed text. But the upside is that the information is now at my fingertips.
All that busywork done, it was time to run! With both familiar and unfamiliar faces, I explained my sight limitations to the girls so they understand why I can’t recognize their faces if they’re over a foot away. And for safety reasons, I asked them to keep within my sight range, which gives me a great excuse to slow them down to my pace . I can see already that I’ll need to train a little more in between practices – they are so enthusiastic and proud of themselves. It’s great to witness this in a sport that has personally given me a lot of peace and enjoyment. And I think I made a new little sight-challenged friend! We hold hands and skip or jog along and forget about the eyeglasses – or in my case, dark sunglasses – on our noses, further confirmation that this is volunteer work that I can’t resist.