Welcome to the second installment of a series that I’m calling: “More than Meets the Eye.” Each week of the summer (and possibly into the fall and winter months, depending on the number of responses I receive), I am honored to share with you interviews from members of the disability community.
The goal of this project is to raise awareness about the diversity of the disability community. The words and ideas expressed in the interviews belong to the participants, not me. This project is welcome and affirming to all members of the disability community. By sharing our stories, we can develop empathy and understanding for one another as we all travel throughout the journey of life.
Letitia is the first international participant that I have had in this series. Letitia is 28 years old and has been blind since birth. She loves music and lives in Namibia. I am excited to share her answers with you!
Interview with Letitia Bouwer
Rebecca: What is your name and how old are you?
Letitia: My name is Letitia Bouwer. I am 28 years old.
Rebecca: Could you share a little bit about your disability? In what ways to you identify as a member of the disability community?
Letitia: I have been blind since birth.
Rebecca: What do you think people see when they look at you? (For example, when people look at me, I think that they see someone who is half-Filipino, but I’m not sure if they always see my visual impairment. I’m also not sure if I pass for white.)
Letitia: I actually am not sure, but I can identify with you in the letter above, therein that people often tell me I don’t look blind.
Rebecca: What do you wish people would see when they look at you? What parts of your identity are most important about yourself? (For example, I wish people would see many sunny disposition and my love of writing, but those things are not necessarily obvious)
Letitia: I do not have a very good self-esteem, so generally, I would prefer that they see as little as possible. Smiles.
Rebecca: What common misconceptions do people often have about your or your disability? What do you wish people understood about your disability?
Letitia: They think that because I am blind, I am incapable of dressing myself, of cooking, cleaning, of taking care of myself. In Namibia, where I live, it’s hard to get a job if you’re blind like me, because people think they have to supervise you 24/7, they have to watch you, baby you, because else you might fall or break or drop something. It’s very annoying.
Rebecca: What makes you happy? What are your passions or your joys in life? Can you share a little bit about your big picture?
Letitia: I absolutely love singing, playing the piano, I love making people happy and my friends and family are the most important people in my life. I enjoy nature, even though I am scared of insects, the more quiet my surroundings, the more relaxed, the better, but I think that’s the case for most of us. I am a city girl. I can’t say that I would ever survive on a farm for longer than a few weeks, because internet is a thing for me. Haha.
Rebecca: How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted you as a member of the disability community? What do you wish the rest of the world understood about your personal experience of today’s post COVD-19 world?
Letitia: I was working on my law degree and had to let it go, because I couldn’t cope with solely studying online when face-to-face education is what I enrolled at the university for.
I would like to leave you with the following thoughts that Letitia wrote regarding her disability and how people interact with her. She says,
“I guess I feel like an alien sometimes, because some people approach me in a shopping center and they want to pray for me, others feel sorry for my friends and my partner, because they can’t imagine what it must be like to deal and live with someone like me.”
She continues and says that often when dining at a restaurant, waiters refuse to speak to her directly. Instead, they address the people she is with. She writes, “Others tend to speak to the people with me, as opposed to speaking to me directly, when we’re at a restaurant or visiting someone and they’ll be, what will she have?
Often Letitia attempts to overcome this situation with humor. She often answers for herself with cheeky response and tells them that she is capable of answering for herself. When she does this, people are often surprised to find that she can speak for herself. Letitia says, “It’s both hurtful and hilarious at the same time. There’s also the fact that some speak louder, as if there is something wrong with my ears, since I can’t see.”
Letitia’s words are a good reminder to all of us that no matter what our differences may be, we are all humans and therefore worthy of respect. People with disabilities can do anything anyone else can do– we just do it a little differently!
Please be sure to check back next week for another interview in our summer disability awareness series, More than Meets the Eye.
More Disability Awareness Posts
Blind People Write Book! Interview with award-winning author J.E. Pinto (More than Meets the Eye #2)
Blind with a Vision: Carolyn McGee (More than Meets the Eye #1)
My name is Rebecca and I blog about faith, books, and disability awareness. Please subscribe by typing your email into the box labeled subscribe so that you never miss a post! I am also the of the Through My Good Eye: A Memoir in Verse and The United Methodist Church and Disability.