President's Column

President's Column

By Cody Beardslee

(Editor’s Note: In this issue, the column normally prepared by Ryan Strunk, our NFB affiliate president, has been written by Cody Beardslee, the President of our Minnesota Association of Blind Students. Samantha Flax, the MNABS secretary introduced it as follows: “Our MNABS president, Cody Beardslee, has been an advocate for all blind students since his time as a student at BLIND, Inc. Cody’s story about his school experience demonstrates the advantages of knowing your rights, what you need, and the power of self-advocacy. This is what Cody would like all blind students to hear.)

When I sat down to write this for you all, my first instinct was to look back on my own school experience as a child and young adult. I thought about how my experience attending college for the first time would have been different if I had the knowledge and resources of the National Federation of the Blind.

My mom has told me that at my first ever Individualized Education Plan (IEP,) meeting, the teachers gave her 2 options for me, either I could learn Braille or print. She decided that she would like me to learn both, but I did not learn either of them adequately until I was in high school. For most of my time in school, paraprofessionals would read my assignments to me, as well as write down my answers for me. As a result, I did not learn how to read or write at my grade level. I also did not receive training in the use of a screen reader for using the computer, so once I got to college it was extremely difficult for me to access my class materials.

It was so difficult in fact that I wound up leaving school to attend BLIND, Inc. During training I was able to increase my skills, my improvement in both braille and technology has allowed me to return to school, and my connections with the NFB have made it possible for me to advocate for myself and the accommodations I need. I know that many students have had similar experiences to my own, so it is my hope that the stories and tips discussed in this Bulletin help blind students improve their school experience.