I became friends with people who were disabled, some more severely than others; all were living independent, fulfilling lives with their disabilities right there for the world to see. Now I had friends and we had our various disabilities in common. Outside of work, at home, in my neighborhood, amongst my family, though, I still did try to "pass" as not disabled. I developed a level of confidence and positive self-image that included my disability at least in part of my life. It was a start.
While I was working full time, I also went to graduate school but my life did have a kind of split personality. At work by day, I was disabled and embraced my disability. But then at night, I would leave to go to school where I worked very hard to not be disabled. And at various times of my life, depending on where my vision was at, I was more able to fake it.
I'm embarrassed to say that in grad school, there was a blind instructor who I actually kind of knew and I tried to avoid him and was even a little embarrassed by him and didn't want to be associated with him by our mutual impairments.
I remember a time when they had done some reorganizing of the classroom and somehow he wasn't aware of it so he ended up talking to the room as he usually did but the entire class was sitting to the left of where he usually lectured, so he was essentially talking to a bunch of coats hanging in the room.
I wanted to to crawl under the table because I didn't want to be in that kind of embarrassing situation. And although I would help him when I saw him trying to get to the bathroom or something, I was just like any other sighted student helping the blind guy.
So, you can see my split personality on this.
But, then I married and had children. I was pretty independent with my kids we walked or took buses everywhere we had to go. The real change for me happened when we moved to our second house in the neighborhood we live in now, a suburb of Chicago.
My oldest son was about to start preschool and a friend of mine from college had a niece in the same class and my friend asked her sister if she could just include us in her carpool because I didn't drive. She did and people kind of knew that I didn't drive because of my vision. Our synagogue had a program where a family adopted a new family and the first day, our adopting family picked me and our kids up for synagogue we had to cross a very busy street. I was having a little trouble and I also didn't want to blow this chance to start making new friends in our new community. So, I told her I had some significant visual problems.