Posted in Albinism, Blindness, and Me, Overcoming Adversity, The Billy Blogs


When one thinks about the term “developmentally disabled” one thinks of the most common conditions and stigmas surrounding the term. Often, it’s associated with conditions like Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, not to mention archaic terms like mental retardation among other things. In this day and age, developmentally disabled lies in the umbrella of cognitive and intellectual disabilities. None of which up until this point I ever associated with beyond being an advocate, teaching assistant, and at one point, my then boyfriend’s caregiver.

But in reality, it turns out I have been living a lie.

Upon discussing my current project of getting a self advocacy group going here in the metro Orlando area with Bill (who has experience in running his own group in my college days,) it came up in discussion that although I want to be an advocate, I don’t self identify as a person with a developmental disability.

“But Mandy, think about it. You were born with a disability, right? And you have trouble doing some things on your own, right? Then you’re developmentally disabled.”

After doing some digging around and conversing with my fellow advocate buddies, he isn’t too far off.

According to the American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Developmental Disabilities” is an umbrella term that includes intellectual disability but also includes other disabilities that are apparent during childhood.

Developmental disabilities are severe chronic disabilities that can be cognitive or physical or both. The disabilities appear before the age of 22 and are likely to be lifelong

Since my disability classifies as a genetic condition that I was born with, and given it limits me in some aspects of life, I apparently fall under the term of developmentally disabled.

But do I really count myself as such?

All my life, the term was synonymous with short buses, segregated classes, and special sporting events where everyone gets a medal or ribbon of some kind. The stigma surrounding the term is damaging to ones like me who never thought it could apply to my own self identity. Which is a shame since society’s ableist views often fogged my own, trying so hard to fit with the status quo in order to make it in the world without that kind of bias surrounding me.

But yet in a way, it makes me wish I saw myself as being developmentally disabled much sooner. There are many opportunities for support and services to those with developmental disabilities, more so than those who classify as legally blind, like I have always been labeled as. Many blind groups and services cater to those who acquire blindness, not so much for those who were born with it.

But it makes me wonder if my own self identity should be something I need to reconsider for my own personal gain. Or is it something I need to leave alone since there are those more deserving of the label society likes to toss around?

Maybe not so much.

In a way, I feel more connected with my fellow advocates with various identities, which makes me feel a sense of community I haven’t really felt before. This gives me the confidence I need to get my advocacy group off of paper and into the real world.

But yet, you can’t fully change 30 years of being called what you’ve always been. Maybe that change will come in time.

Besides Developmentally Disabled Bagged doesn’t sound like a catchy name for a blog anyway.

Whatever you want to call me, at least I know I am not alone.

Posted in News and Opinions, Overcoming Adversity

Dear Florida Government,

To whom it may concern,

Im pretty certain you might pass over this letter like you do to many of your non-lobbying constituents, but I figured if I have a voice, I might as well use it.

I’m a thirty something year old woman who was dealt with a bad hand at life by being born legally blind. As a result, I’m only able to work part time despite wanting so much to be a so called contributing citizen that your Republican party wants me to be. Working full time is a dream of mine that I’m willing to chase, but in order to do so, I need access to migraine reducing medication that will slow my Nystagmus down and help prevent eye strain, much needed when my line of work requires both being outdoors and on a computer system.

Since I moved to Florida five years ago, I was able to get on SSDI after being on SSI much of my adult life after working enough credits to do so. SSDI helps pay my rent and my bills, especially when my weather dependent work at a water park reaches slow season. It is a godsend that is much needed.

However, Medicare was given to me with no prior knowledge back in 2015. Apparently somewhere along the line, my Medicare card got lost in the mail, and it wasn’t until recently while trying to pick up a Marketplace Plan after you decided to pull my Medicaid from my SSI days that I found out this Medicare exists. Because of this plan existing, I had to pull out of Marketplace because I apparently don’t need it.

Today I get a letter from Social Security that marks you as the culprit for no longer paying my premiums, resulting in a mad dash to figure out how to pay my rent next month when my hours at my part time job are for the time being non existent.

Keep in mind, with the exception of a stretch of 6 months working full time at Disney up until I eventually was forced to resign due to my physical and mental health, I never got the chance to see a doctor, nor have I ever had to check into a hospital. Medicaid was useless to me since no doctors were accessible to me, and Medicare is essentially just as bad, If not worse. My disabilities prevent me from driving, and since my disability isn’t considered developmental or intellectual, I can’t get the help to navigate a healthcare system that developed shortly after my 26th birthday, when I was dropped off my parents plan.

Looking at the four hundred something dollars I need to pay up for a service I never used, for a service that no doctor within an easy one bus route or a cheap Uber ride accepts is like Prince John robbing the blind villager in Robin Hood. And sadly, I’m that villager.

My day tomorrow will be spent camping out on hold for hours on end with social security hoping to God that they allow me to cancel all of this so I don’t have to worry about being kicked out of my home, along with hundreds of other Americans being dealt with this harsh blow right now.

I would have to say I am fortunate enough to be able to squeeze by without a lot of specialty visits, considering my disabilities aren’t life threatening as of yet. But then again how will I know if the broken health care system won’t even take a glance at me without being armed with a Blue Sheild?

But I look at others who have more prominent disabilities than mine who can’t even get out of bed without help from a waiver program, many who don’t have the opportunities like me to work at least a few hours a week to have some food money come Friday morning. It makes me wonder if you are doing this to them as well. How many people’s lives will be in jeopardy because of this? How many deaths and misdiagnosisis will be made from people like me ignoring my needs because a roof over my head is more important than medication?

I ask this of you, the men and women who sworn on a bible no less to protect us Americans and put our best interest in mind. How is taking more money from the already fixed incomed going to help them? We already know it’s helping you in your lavish vacations and fancy dining sets.

I urge you as leaders of this great state and country to take a step back and help your fellow men and women who just want to have the same opportunities and access to healthcare as everyone else. Access to a doctor shouldn’t be a luxury, it should be a necessity like our armed forces and infrastructure.

Isn’t it about time those who through no fault of their own have been dealt with disability and poverty get the help they need so they can function in a society that should be open to them? Isn’t it about time you stop for once and reach out to those in need beyond a cheesey campaign ad photo op and do the right thing? I’m sorry it’s taking money out of your raises, but I’m sure the God you believe in so much to the point of plastering his name on school buildings will Fast Pass your way into heaven for taking the time to help those in need.

Help us with a hand up in healthcare, and please show us compassion. Everyone needs equal access to healthcare, no matter the wallet size.

Now if you excuse me, I got some phone calls to make.

Warm regards,

A Taxpayer

A SSDI Recepient

A Registered Voter

And more specifically


Posted in Overcoming Adversity

Random Thoughts of a Job Seeker

Another day at work beckons me during the slow season. I grab a cup of my team captain’s magical blend of Cuban espresso and generic break room coffee and begin my day setting up my ticket booth. I read up on the news happening in the parks and browse the internal application board, planning out the next move in my career.

I had two interviews last week, one I’m still waiting to hear from and the other was a denial based on “lack of confidence” in my voice or whatever, even though I have mentally and physically prepped for this moment like a solder off to battle. Needless to say, I need some serious boot camp.

I look at some of these posts and wonder how on earth people can qualify for anything if not given the chance to? Why need 5 years experience for an entry level position? Isn’t it called entry level for a reason?

It seems that’s the norm wherever I go these days, toss an app with a resume into cyber space, and hope for the best. But the lack of an email or phone call is disheartening to say the least, it makes you wonder if there really is a person out there on the other side. Reminds me of being little writing to Santa in hopes of that epic Quints play set I wanted as a kid and not getting it. You still owe me, old man. I even passed my Mad Minute math test for you and even helped mommy do laundry. How rude!

Ok, I’m getting a bit off track here.

As I click away at the postings and read away, I want to picture myself there, rubbing elbows with the big bosses and gossiping over wine with Susan from Accounting and Diane from Human Resources over the latest 50 Shades movie as we paint our little tipsy minds away to a Van Gogh painting.

But then I’m often reminded who I am. Just a low class chick who flunked out of college for love, who got tied into melodrama worthy of a Lifetime Original movie instead of picking an internship that actually meant something more than dressing up as a giant worm creature, crashing rock concerts and elementary schools. Although I admit, those were some fun times.

But fun doesn’t pay the rent, nor does it buy happiness.

Reading through post after post makes me wonder if I can change my life now, or if that ship has already sailed. I want to be successful, but how can one become that if the world around them doesn’t see it that way?

I wonder if there is something wrong with me. It can’t be the way I dress since I did a massive update on my business clothes, and it can’t be the hair since I had it dyed and cut recently. Is it something wrong with my brain? My eyes? Are they looking at my dancing eyes? Shit…don’t make eye contact…too late..

Or is it something else?

As I take a sip of yet another cup of awesomeness and make idle chat with what is left of my original group of opening team members, my heart tells me I should stay where I am welcome and my talents are embraced. I love the people who have become family to me, who have helped me grow into a stronger person.

But is it silly that I want more out of life? Am I even allowed to think that way given my circumstances, or am I just delusional?

Time to drop application number 16 into the mix, along with a simple wish that one of these days, my dreams can come true.

But in the meantime, would you like to add a dining plan to your ticket today?

Posted in Overcoming Adversity

Making Waves at Florida SAND

This past weekend, I was invited to attend a conference hosted by the Florida Self Advocates Network, better known as Florida SAND.

According to their websiteFlorida Self-Advocates Network’D (FL SAND) is a statewide association of self-advocates led by self-advocates that exists to support advocacy efforts at the local, grassroots level and to provide a united voice for statewide issues and topics that are important to self-advocates and all persons with disabilities in Florida.”

There are many local groups scattered throughout the state ran by self advocates and a team of advisors that help connect locals with disabilities with local organizations that can assist them with work and other daily tasks, write to Congress on topics that matter most, and learn how to become strong leaders and fight for their rights to a better life.

The conference was held in the Florida Hotel and Conference Center, a nice conference space with walk in accessibility to the Florida Mall, a nice treat for conference attendees to explore and enjoy.

Thus 3 day event hjosted a variety of workshops devoted to the overall growth of their groups, as well as roundtable discussions on topics like work experience, transportation, and guardianship. These workshops provided ample opportunity to meet up with other advocates from across the state and share ideas and concerns with each other.

In addition to the workshops held, there was an exhibit hall that offered additional resources for attendees, from assistive technology, transportation agencies, and ABLE United, which assisted in opening bank accounts for their no penalty savings plans. There were also tables set by some of the advocates themselves, one of them a well known speaker named TJ Moon, who was selling his book, The Squeaky Wheelchair.

The event also brought a few fun moments as well, from dinner at Bucco Di Beppo and the annual dance DJed by a fellow self advocate, it was a trip to remember and a nice way to network with a variety of people from all walks of life.

Thanks to Florida SANDS for offering me a hotel room for the weekend and for the great connections I have made that were much needed. It feels great to be back on the self advocacy bandwagon again, and I can’t wait to get the ball running on starting up an Orlando group. With some awesome mentors on my side, I know anything is possible.

Posted in Overcoming Adversity

Life Update (yep, I’m still kicking.)

Have you ever had those times where your mind is just in a fog, and no matter what you do, you just can’t snap the hell out of it?

Welcome to my life.

Over the last month or so, I have seem to have lost that spark, due to a variety of things going on lately.

I’m a person who thrives off consistency and right now I don’t have that in my life. Given water parks don’t do well in cold weather, I find myself working less, my days spent in bed just hoping that a job offer or two falls through. That funk I thought was over almost a year ago when I left Disney has reared its ugly head once more.

Everyone tells me to stay positive and wait it out, but I can only play the waiting game so long before madness strikes. Being lost in my own thoughts is time consuming and more draining than the busiest days at work. Crazy how the mind works.

“Crazy” ain’t even the term to describe how I feel. More like “trapped” and “dumbfounded.”

I could use this time in my life to reflect on the big changes going on in my life, most recently, the move in with RJ finally being finalized and plans to get financially back on track together while refurnishing the apartment, or me finally working on that self advocacy group that Orlando is seriously lacking now that I have support from a few local organizations to do so. I could be working on my blogging, as I have done some fun food reviews I want to share. Hell, I still want to do that silly knock off Pringles review for my friend’s YouTube channel. So many things I should focus on, but yet I can’t figure out how.

To my followers, I’m sorry I have let you down the last few weeks, but rest assured, you aren’t forgotten. If I can ever get my brain to cooperate, more fun content will be coming your way.

In addition to the pieces and projects I’ll be working on while I wait for answers from my job leads, I will be attending my first conference in Florida without doing a speech in hopes of starting a much needed self advocacy group in Orlando and to hopefully do some much needed networking in the disability community. Florida Self Advocacy Network will be hosting their annual Florida SAND conference in the Florida Hotel February 2-4, and thanks to this awesome organization, I get to experience the whole event, hotel room and all. Maybe a little TLC from the local disability community is all I’ll need to kill off this funk and regain those advocacy skills I lost slowly since this time last year.

But in the meantime, time to figure out what to do with one’s self to kill time.

Maybe I can create some dumb memes with the cat.

Tiny cat asks “How’s it Hanging?” as he finds himself trapped in a plastic coat hanger. Don’t worry, he’s safe.
Posted in Cast Member Chronicles, Lights, Camera, Universal!, Out and About in Orlando, Overcoming Adversity

So you want to work at a theme park…

With the frigid tempatures, typical 9-5 nonsense, or lack of job getting you down, don’t you just wish you could throw all your stuff in a duffle bag, run away, and start a new life?

You’re not alone.

Each year, hundreds if not thousands of people apply for Florida’s theme parks in hopes of a better life, even if it means living paycheck to paycheck or bunking up with roommates in your late 20’s or 30’s. The perks are awesome and there is plenty of room for growth if you don’t let the pleasures of free park admission swallow you whole. 

Orlando FL is a booming economy where entry level attraction and theme park jobs are king. Universal, Disney, and  Busch (now Seaworld Parks and Entertainment) are just some of the many places one can apply to. A lot of these jobs cater to the out of state prospect in the form of web and phone interviews, and in some cases, the occasional Skype call. But eventually, you need to make the trip down to have a formal interview, in most cases, you’ll get an answer right away as to whether or not you made the cut. 

The whole process is daunting, but here is what I had to do in order to get down here. Keep in mind, the process I did was way different than one if you go for an internship or exchange program, where housing is offered. 

Apply today!

The best way to grab the attention of said job prospects is to apply directly from the source. Websites like Indeed or even the state run career sites are middlemen where your application you spent 3 hours on just sites in cyberspace withot a single click except from some random Kenyan call center. I have listed the sites below where one should apply to. These three companies I have worked in some form or another and I can attest to the often quick feedback I have received from them. 

Walt Disney World Resort

Universal Orlando Resort 

Seaworld and Busch Gardens

Other sites I highly recommend based on my friends’ experiences also include Loews HotelsFun Spot (a chain of small amusement parks,) and Legoland. There are plenty more places to apply for, but these places come to mind for a Floridian newbie in hopes of getting their feet in the door.

Each company has it’s own interviewing processes, some do group interviews, others multiple one-on-one interviews done in the same day, and others spread throughout many weeks. In my case with Disney, mine was going to be a one time interview given I was only going for a role in a retail position, but due to not following the “Disney Look” or grooming guidelines, I had to stretch out the process over the course of a month and a half, making two trips down to square everything away. Lucky for me, I had a good support system from my family and was able to hoard a bunch of paychecks from my then current job as a teaching assistant to make it happen, but at the expense, I lost my apartment and moved in with my dad. Which brings up my next point.

Look the Part

Most of the hospitslity industry runs on wardrobe and grooming standards,  affectionately called by the industry “The Disney Look.”  In plain simple English, the look requires no visible tattoos or piercings beyond one in each ear,  hair color to be of natural tone, finger nails to be clean and if desired, a natural tone nail polish,  and men’s beards to be trimmed and not longer than half an inch or even shorter.  In all the interviews I went to, you must inform them where your tattoos are,  as sometimes, they might interfere with the wardrobe provided to you upon hire.  In my case, regular shirts and long pants cover mine so it wasn’t an issue,  But say if I went with a role that involved a dress,  I would most likely be turned down for it given my ankle tattoo. 

My gages although small, resulted in me being sent home,  But luckily, going home for a month let me heal my ear lobes and prepare to do things the right way.

 If you run into a situation regarding the grooming guidelines and make a small faux paw,  Don’t stress out.  Usually a talk with the recruiter will help buy you time.  My recruiter at Disney was amazing and allowed me to send emails of my ears healing up each week  in order to keep the offer on the table. 

 When it comes to wardrobe, the basic rule of thumb is to not wear jeans and T-shirt to your interviews.  Dress as though you’re going to a business event or a fancy dinner out.  Black slacks or khakis with a collared shirt or button-down blouse will do the trick.  Dresses  and skirts are allowed,  Just don’t wear anything you might wear to a night club.  Keep it modest and professional. 

 But when it comes to the 3 parks I worked for,  Disney is the most strict when it comes to the grooming guidelines,  followed by Universal and SeaWorld.  But  when in doubt, dress to impress. 

Snag that job!

 Many of the interview questions remain the same no matter where you interview at.  Typical ones include how you handled negative feedback from guests or clients, what was a good guest experience you had, what kind of knowledge you have about the job or the park in general, and occasionly, a role play the test out such knowledge.  My advice for anyone trying to snag a job is to just be yourself.   Be polite, courteous, and professional.  Also be honest and truthful. 

 If you receive an offer for a job, usually the sign in process will be right away.  If you have any sort of criminal background or  if your job requires it, Universal and Disney will send you to do a drug test.  SeaWorld and it’s parks are very strict about drug testing, and will require you to do one that day,  including urine and hair samples, no matter who you are.  You will also need to complete your fingerprints and background checks for all 3 parks,  which unlike the drug test, are done on site.  Sometimes you’ll have a lot of paperwork to do, like in Disney’s case where it takes about 45 minutes to complete.  Case in point,  prepare for at least 3 hours at the career center of your choice on the day of your interview. 

Keep in mind upom completing the paper work, you will be offered work with in a 2 week time frame as well as your training.  If needed more time to complete a move, just ask the recruiter.  Just keep in mind, the location they give you in the beginning might not be the location you end up in.  I was originally supposed to be at the candy shop at Disney Springs but I wound up at the premium outlets offsite instead.  Just be flexible and patient.  You could always try for that dream location 6 months after you begin.  Transfers are always an option. 

Finding your home base

Florida over the last few years has gone through a housing boom, which although it sounds great on paper, it’s not as magical as it seems. A basic studio can set you back $900 A month in a decent neighborhood and a one bedroom about $1200. This does not include utilities typically. The closer you get to the parks, the higher the price for an apartment gets. Most apartments are run by big housing companies like McKinley or Camden, which require you to have excellent credit, a co-signer (usually a parent or guardian with a higher salary) or you go in with friends or roommates. Section 8 and assisted housing are hard to come by unless you are a domestic abuse survivor or homeless, and even that won’t guarantee you a place right away. Remember, these jobs require a Florida address, so try to get this squared away as soon as possible.

I was able to secure a co-signer in the form of my father and pay all of my social security money into the rent. At the time of me getting this apartment, this left me with some cash left over and my job had to pay the rest. But now, I have relied on moving my boyfriend in to help lessen the load. 

But what do you do if you don’t have a safety net?

Do what one of my friends refered to it as and “treat the theme park work experience like college and snag yourself a roommate.” Although not ideal, splitting the cost with people who will most likely be working in the same park as you will help you save money. There are many rooms for rent available via Facebook group pages like the “Disney World Cast Member Apartment/Roommate Finder” (a simple search will pull up many pages like this one) that will connect you with rooms for rent and some housing reviews. A good chunk of these rooms are located in the complexes closer to property. 

There are other not so perfect options availabnle for housing, some include motels that house long term and short term, many are in the Kissimmee area, and there is cheaper rent in places like Pine Hills and Washington Shores, which tend to have a higher crime rate. The good thing about those options is you will have the opportunity to live alone and if your credit isn’t so great, they can be a good place to start if roomating isn’t your thing. But always keep your safety top priority in these options. 

Getting around town

It is recommended highly that you own a car in order to make life easier. Orlando is HUGE, and the commute can be long and annoying. Having a car eliminates having to use the bus system, which although cheap in comparison to using your car, can lead you into travel nightmares.

The bus system for Orange County is called Lynx and there is a separate line run by a different company of streetcars called the I-RIDE that runs the length of International Drive. Both cost about $2 to ride one way and each offer multi day passes to suit your needs. Although the streetcars run more frequent than buses, they won’t get you everywhere in the city, but can be a good shorter option to travel International Drive if need be, as the Lynx bus 8 tends to be crowded and often runs late.

If you must rely on Lynx as your form of transportation, keep in mind they run three different schedules, Weekday, Saturday, and Sunday/Holiday (Holidays include New Years Day, Martin Luther king Jr Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas). Most of these jobs require full holiday availability so plan on taking an Uber or Lyft those days if need be.

The bus routes that go to Universal are the 21, 37, and the 40, with a twice a day stop from  the Disney Direct bus 303. The 21 and 37 run about every half hour with the 40 running every hour instead. 

The Disney Direct or the 300 buses drop off at the hotels and backstage areas of Disney World and are typically offered in a schedule similar to the housekeepers in the Pine Hills/Washington Shores area so people who need help getting to work can. They only rub about twice a day but offer the express option to get to work, ideal if you are on a housekeeping schedule.

Other buses that run to Disney include the 50 from downtown Orlando and the 56 from Kissimmee, each run aboout every half hour or so.

The bus 8 runs to SeaWorld as well as Downtown Orlando, although if you can swing it, snag yourself a streetcar ride on the I-RIDE instead. If you have a photo ID from any of the parks or hotels you work at, the one way ride is only 25 cents. Sweet!

 If you are planning on using the bus system, plan accordingly for delays.  Leave your house at least a couple hours before you’re supposed to be at work to guarantee a clean record card.  And don’t forget to pack your patience.  Not to mention in extra battery charger for your phone. 

The perks 

Although the struggle can be real at times, it is worth it being able to say you work for some of the best companies in the world with the best benefits.  Many of these companies offer free park admission for you and your friends,  deep discounts on merchandise and meals,  health benefits for full timers with the option for part timers who work a certain length of time, special backstage events and parties, access to credit unions, barber shops, pharmacies, doctors offices, gyms, and discount shopping no other guest can partake in, and so much more. These companies want you to stay and be happy and will do whatever it takes to brighten up your day and put your mind at ease. 

So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and give it a go. 

Happy job hunting. Hope to see you in the parks!

Posted in Albinism, Blindness, and Me, Overcoming Adversity

“Metal Problems”

Given that a majority of my life I was surrounded by disability and special education, you would think I would of understood at a young age not only other peoples differences but also my own.

I knew as a kid something was up with me, even as a toddler. Random ladies with toys came into my house and did weird visual games with me while other kids my age would do daycare or preschool. When it was my turn to go to actual school, I noticed kids saw things I didn’t, and it pissed me off to the point of meltdown. When I “flunked” kindergarten and wound up in pre-first while all my friends went to normal first grade, it finally dawned on me that my differences would hinder my ability to be looked at as normal by my peers.

But as the years went on, I assumed I would be one of the few kids I knew that was disabled that just so happened to be in normal classes. After pre-first, all the kids I labeled weird moved on to other schools or classes, never to be seen again. No kid who ate boogers, no girl who liked saying “poop” on repeat while flapping her hands, or the boy who ate paste but somehow could name each X-Men and what issue comic they debuted in. Just my lonely disabled self trying to figure out the world around me. I would come to learn in my later years many of those “weird kids” would become segregated to Autism and Title One classes, somehow I was the only one to make it to mainstream.

I put the days of that awkward year behind me and blended in the best I could. I never gave those other kids a second thought until one day in third grade, when I was at some lame puppet show assembly.

Since I wanted to sit up close, I managed to get a spot near a group of first graders, a few rows away sat adults that appeared to be holding what I thought were toddlers at first, given the first one I saw was very small, the plastic from their diaper sticking out of the sweatpants as he wiggled in her arms.

“That’s nice of the teacher to bring their son to class.” I said to myself.

“That’s not her son.” A voice said behind me.

It was then I saw a first grader who appeared very wise for her years. She sort of reminded me of Michelle Tanner’s friend Denise from Full House, the way her hair was done and the cute jumper she had on.

“Those kids are weird. My daddy says they have metal problems.”

“Metal?” I asked “like the music my mom won’t let me listen to?”

“No, there is something wrong with their brain, so they are kind of like babies. Like that one over there.”

She then pointed to a slightly heavyset girl with curly hair sitting off to the side, playing with a Koosh ball in a wooden high chair.

“Is it because of metal in their brain?” I asked.

We sat next to each other and talked more about what we were seeing as the children’s parapros kept chasing them and trying to keep the peace amongst a packed multipurpose room. It was that day I learned about the R-Word from that little girl and that she knew these kids had a classroom in the hallway near the preschool classes.

The assembly wrapped up and I never did see that girl again. But whatever knowledge she had of those kind of people was impressive. It made me wonder why the adults around me never talked about them, or why I have never seen them.

A few weeks later, I had to run an errand for the teacher where she had me go to a classroom in that hallway. My poor ignorant self thinking how smart I was said back “Isn’t that where the retarded class is?”

I was pulled outside of the class before being sent my way, at that point my teacher told me to never use that term again, and yet in an almost contradictory way, never to speak of those kids again.

Almost as if they never existed.

And at the time, they never did exist to others. Although they were part of the school, they had separate schedules for classes, lunches, and recess. Never once did I ever see them, but my heart felt for them. I noticed their classroom in passing and wanted so much in times of great stress to go there given the fact that they were like toddlers and played all day, but yet I wanted them in our world, with normal kids, or in my case, semi normal. I wanted them to hang out with kids their age, to learn how to speak like us (if they could) and to learn what we knew.

It would be a few years before I would make it my personal mission to bridge the gap between the two worlds, but the conversation I had one day on the floor with a first grader opened my eyes to the injustices in this world. “Metal Problems”, blindness, or otherwise, everyone should feel equal.

It’s a shame it took so long for the world to see things that way.

And we still have a long way to go.