The Way I See It: Quinita Thomas

We introduce this series to give our writers an opportunity to share their own experiences and stories with you. Each one will offer a different perspective of the phrase, “The way I see it.” 

Quinita was nervous about living on her own. She thought blind roommates would make the transition easier. However, she discovered it is more about making connections with the people around you than whether or not they face similar challenges. Quinita encourages all of us to look past what we see to get to know people on a personal level. We all just might learn something new.

Let’s talk about roommates. Of course, there were times where we have good ones and other times, not so much. However, living with roommates can help everyone grow.

A few weeks ago I was on the phone with a relative. As usual, I was going over the list of dramatic events that had taken place at the time. My relative asked me the one question that some people in the blind community get: Are your roommates also blind? My exact response was they are not.

As I write this piece I want to be clear on something. This is not to speak for everyone in the blind community because everyone has their own view on things. However, I have noticed that many of us are often asked questions about roommates and relationships. While providing my own perception I do think it is time someone answers it.

I was almost eighteen when I signed my first lease in 2014. My purpose was to have a back-up plan in case I did not get into housing on campus. My first two roommates were blind women. I thought having blind roommates would be easier as I adjusted to living on my own. It was also what I was more comfortable with; considering how I spent a majority of my life around people who had the same hardships.

Eventually, I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone and decided to move elsewhere. Since I was in college, I figured living off campus with other students would be an excellent way to integrate myself into the sighted world. Because it was such a drastic change it took me a while to adjust to the new environment.

First, I had to conquer the flat top stove, touch screen microwave and in unit laundry. I knew I needed to label everything so that I could perform daily tasks. But I did not know how to ask let alone explain to my roommates this was an accommodation I needed. I started out with my own microwave. After a few weeks I showed my roommates how I would label things so that everyone was included.

As time progressed, I began making friends and felt more comfortable about being myself. My roommates did not feel any particular way about my blindness. Most of my roommates so far have been fascinated by what I can do. For example, half of my roommates did not know smartphones are accessible.

I have had roommates for seven years. Now that I have experienced both ends of the spectrum I can easily say that I do not have a preference of one over the other. I have enjoyed learning about other people.

Over time, I realized there is a significant difference between people willing to learn about blindness and people who are not. I went from getting offended whenever someone asked me how I carry out my day to day life to understanding why questions are asked in the first place. It is because they truly do not know. 

By taking a chance I was not only finding my own way into the sighted world, but I was also able to teach those around me how I do things via observation. For many, it is their first time ever even being around someone who does not have vision. It is natural to wonder how one gets around or how they’re able to cook and wash clothes without being able to see.

In my personal opinion, whether someone has vision or not is frankly irrelevant. The probability of having toxic roommates in the blind community are just as likely on the other side. Perhaps instead of asking a person if their roommates/partners are blind or not, we should ask blind people about their overall experiences. I think the conversation would have a much more positive result. This approach would allow people to speak on a more personal level because everyone provides a different perspective.

At Outlook Enrichment we strive to empower people living with vision loss with the skills and tools to achieve their goals. We do that through adaptive technology training, recreational activities, community education and more. If you are interested in taking one of our adaptive technology training classes or getting involved, contact us today.