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11. All the Blind Ladies, Put your Hands Up!

Marissa: With low vision, you tend to think of it in a vacuum, especially since it's first presented to you as a medical diagnosis, but in reality, our race, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, where we live, all influence our experience with blindness.

Unintentionally, for example, I think that the branding of my podcast and some of the ways that I approach topics such as independent living or traveling are greatly influenced by the fact that I identify as a woman and I choose to present very feminine. With my very special guest Mia Parra. I wanted to take the opportunity in this episode to directly address the challenges that blind women face. Tune in to learn how both our gender and our blindness impact the way we do everything from putting on our eyeliner, finding a seat on the airplane, traveling alone in college, and meeting new people.

Welcome back to another episode of Legally Blonde & Blind. I am very excited to have my new Legally Blonde & Blind guest, Mia Parra. Welcome to the show. I'm really excited to have you with us today. Now we are going to talk about many different things. We're going to be talking about glaucoma. We're going to talk about gender, sexuality, and how that all intersects with blindness. So we have a lot to get to in today's episode, but first I just want to give you the opportunity to introduce yourself, talk about some of your interests, hobbies, what you're studying, et cetera.

Mia: Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited. So my name is Mia Parra. I live in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I'm going to my sophomore year at Western Michigan University. I'm studying psychology. I've been legally blind, legally blonde and blind my whole life. I said I'm studying psychology. I do theater. I've done theater throughout high school. Hopefully, I'll be able to do it when I get to school in the fall.

Marissa: Some in-person theater.

Mia: Yeah. Hopefully, I'm excited to actually like being able to go to school.

Marissa: You were in the same position as me with the virtual first year of college. I know it was definitely stressful, you know, having to navigate online school with a visual impairment.

Mia: That was definitely like a whole new thing. I have a dog named Rosie. She's a black lab. I love her. She's the love of my life. She's just a pet. Don't have a guide dog. I've thought about it. I don't think right now is the best time to get a guide dog, but it's definitely something I've thought about doing in the future.

Marissa: I have three dogs. I have a lab. I have a lab, a 12-year-old lab named Carly. A pug named Freddie and a lab mix puppy. We just got him. His name is Bear.

Mia: I know I've seen pictures of him. It's so cute.

Marissa: He's very chaotic. Fortunately, he doesn't bark a lot though, so he's not going to interrupt the recording.

Mia: Okay. Yeah. My door is shut. Hopefully, my dog won’t open the door.

Marissa: Yeah. It's all right. We've had other podcast episodes I've done with friends. They've had dogs bark. It is like the spontaneous appearances of other furry guests. We love that. Anyways. Could you get started by briefly explaining your eye condition?

Mia: Yeah, so I have glaucoma. I was born two months early, so my eyes didn't have enough time to develop properly. So I'm pretty much fully blind in my left eye. I use all of my vision out of my right eye. I have like 20 over 300. So that's all of my usable vision.

So with glaucoma, it is a series of eye conditions that affect the optic nerve. So people who have normal eyes. There's like a liquid in the front of their eye that's able to drain properly, but for people who have glaucoma, the liquid doesn't drain the way it's supposed to. So it just gets built up and over time, like pressure put up against the optic nerve, and then that causes blindness. So like, I don't know if you've ever been to the doctors and you've had your pressure checked.

Marissa: Okay. Yes, I have. It's the test where they move the thing really close to your eye, right?

Mia: Yeah. It's a little scary. I know it's definitely like my first couple of times when I was little, it was terrifying, but now I do it like once every couple of months. So I'm, I'm used to having, like this thing, like up in my eyes, just like touching my eye. I know it's definitely scary to people who don't know what it is. I tell my friends, I'm like, “oh yeah, My eye got poked like just another Tuesday.”

Marissa: Great. You know, just another day at the doctor's.

Mia: So people who have your pressure should be around 12 to 14 and people who have glaucoma, their pressure is a lot higher. So I have to take medicine and different things to kind of help the pressure go down. So there's not a cure for glaucoma. So it's kind of just finding different tools in the toolbox to help the pressure go down.

Marissa: Does it cause you any pain?

Mia: It hasn't. I know it does to other people, but thankfully I haven't had any pain caused by it.

Marissa: That's good. At least. I know you said you experienced some, more vision loss in the past few years. Could you talk about the experience of losing vision?

Mia: Yeah. So. Before, before April of 2020, I didn't really label myself as someone with a disability. You know, I got through high school with just like getting by without people really knowing, you know, like people were kind of like, “oh yeah, like she has a hard time seeing,” like, I wasn't really outspoken about it.

So around March, like early March of 2020, right before the pandemic happened, I went into my normal doctor's office for a checkup. And my pressure was at like 26 and that's a big red flag, you know, it should be at like 14. So having my pressure be at like 26, we were like, “oh no, something is wrong.” We either need to do surgery or start with a new medicine.

So we plan to have surgery in June of 2020. So I was put on like another medicine that was going to like, hold me over until then. And then the pandemic happened. So all of the spots were open for the hospital. So we were like, oh, I can get my surgery sooner. I had eye surgery at the beginning of the pandemic. It was very weird, you know, like being in the surgery room with nobody else there.

Marissa: I'm sure that must've been very hard.

Mia: Yeah. It was weird. It was like, the hospital was dead. There was nobody there. So, yeah, I think like three days after my 18th birthday, I went in for my surgery to get a tube implanted into my eye to help the fluid strain more properly. And I had a lens replacement and that was like the big thing that changed my vision because I was used to wearing glasses. I wore glasses my whole life.

And then after surgery, with the new lens. I don't have to wear glasses anymore. I think the best way to explain it is like I had a contact lens put in my eye basically. So now I can see things far away. Like a little better, but up close it's really bad. Like my up-close vision is like nothing.

Marissa: So it improved your distance vision, but it made it like your vision up close worse.

Mia: Yeah, exactly. It was pretty interesting because I went from living my whole 18 years of living with, you know, the same vision and then having to relearn how to live basically with a totally different visual acuity. So yeah, I had to get like reading glasses, which I've never had reading glasses before, and I have a bunch of new, new, like magnifying glasses, things that I use when I'm like at work or like read something I'm closed. I used to love to read books, but now I have a hard time reading normal print. So, I listen to audiobooks now. So yeah, that's just, that's an example of things that have had to like to deal with, with the changes and the past year has been me trying to find new things to help. Yeah

Marissa: Because with my condition — I have albinism, right? So I was born with the exact same vision I have today. It's very strange to me to think about it changing, even if it's changing for the better, if that makes any sense, I could never imagine getting any, any type of procedure. They don't really exist for people with my condition right now, but I could never imagine getting a procedure that would make my vision better. I feel like it would be just as hard adjusting to that as if it were to get worse as.

Mia: Yeah, I know. It's definitely weird to explain to people who are like, “why did you have the surgery If it made things a little bit worse for you?” And my answer to that would be just like, well, it helped my glaucoma. Like it wasn't all about the vision. Like it made my pressures go down. So now my glaucoma is stable, which is a good thing, but also on the flip side, like the kind of more bad things that my vision got worse. So it's weird. Like knowing that I went through this surgery, You know, I like had that change happen to me. So yeah.

Marissa: Now was there anything, so was there anything, so you said your distance vision improved, right? Was there anything after your surgery that you realized other people saw that freaked you out?

Mia: That’s a good question. I don't know. I feel like street signs. I still can’t see them, but I can see them kind of now, even like, you know how like the walk sign is white and the, like, now I know that. I used to just see like the white, but now I know it's actually like a person, like the little pictures, like a person walking. I was like, oh, I didn't realize that it was supposed to be a person. I thought I was just like a white blob. I didn’t know.

Marissa: The one thing for me was always. The idea that people could see inside car windows always freaked me out.

Mia: Oh my gosh. I know. That's crazy. Sometimes, actually, when I was little, I was like looking inside someone's car and I didn't realize there was somebody in the car.

Marissa: Yeah. Like, especially far away, car windows to me look shiny and black. So just the idea that like, people can see what I'm doing in the car, that kind of freaks me out.

Mia: I know that it's true.

Marissa: Well one of the major themes on Legally Blonde & Bind is accepting blindness. And I know you mentioned at least at the beginning of your life, that you didn't really see yourself as a part of the disabled community. So how did you come to accept those identities and have a more positive view of blindness?

Mia: I think having like people through the internet has helped me a lot. Even just finding your podcast. And I remember I found your podcast back in like January or something and I was like, “oh my gosh, like, that's crazy.” Like we’re the same age!

Marissa: I think you messaged me around the third episode.

Mia: So it's really helped me to find other people. My biggest inspiration is Molly Burke and she is an icon.

Marissa: Yeah. She is an icon. I love her and I love watching her videos.

Mia: I have TikTok, so I like to make some videos about my visual impairment. I connected with other people. Like before making my Tiktok, I never, I had never met anyone who also had glaucoma. And, I got connected with this girl named Kathleen. So me and Kathleen are pretty close now. She lives in San Francisco and she also has glaucoma and we're the same age. And so it was just so crazy, like finding someone like across the country who has the same eye condition as you. It was a really eye-opening experience. And I think finding other people has helped me accept my visual impairment.

Marissa: Oh 100%. I was very lucky to have the experience of getting to go to conventions for people with my condition. But I know that's not the experience for everybody. I think what's interesting about Tiktok, especially is that there's like niche communities for everything on there. I had downloaded a Tiktok during the pandemic I had broken down at first, I was opposed to it. I was like, no, I'm not going to waste my time. And then, you know, quarantine happened, but I remember on my for you page. I forget who, I don't remember who it was, but it was somebody who had albinism. And I was like, “how did the algorithm know I have this condition?” I was very grateful to find those creators, but at the same time it was, it was a little terrifying that they figured it out because I don't even think I looked up anything relating to albinism on Tiktok.

So the main topics I wanted to talk about in today's episode is first, your experience with gender and blindness. And it was really interesting doing research for this episode beforehand because I had never really learned, I had never really known that a larger percentage of women are blind than men. I was reading a report on gender and blindness from the international agency for the prevention of blindness. And I found that they say that 55% of the world's blind are women and that there are more than 20 million blind women in the world, which is pretty insane. And it's for a variety of reasons. The higher life expectancy of women, lack of access to preventative care, education, financial independence, et cetera. This really does uniquely impact women.

And I was wondering for you, how does, how does gender influence the way that you experienced blindness?

Mia: So, when I was like, thinking about this podcast and thinking about things that I've experienced. You know, I feel like there's a certain way that blindness is supposed to look or, you know, there's like a stereotype that people have for people who are blind. So, you know, me being a very like fem presenting woman, I think it would be hard for someone who was. Is more like masculine-presenting, you know, let's say I cut my hair really short. And I got a bunch of tattoos and I wore darker colors. So I feel like there's definitely a difference in the way, like the help you are receiving on the way that you present yourself.

Marissa: When I've had people come up to help me a lot of times, like helping with the blindness intersects with being the chivalrous gentleman, if that makes any sense, like the same kinds of people that run to hold open the door for you also we'll make sure you like find whatever room you're looking for. I had that experience, especially when I was going to SHIP. But I think that the way men in particular help blind women is different than how they would help blind men.

Mia: Yeah, like even when you use a sighted guide. I flew to DC by myself when I went to DC a couple of months ago for the first time.

Marissa: And what was that?

Mia: Oh, my gosh. It was so crazy. Um, I was terrified. I was so scared to fly by myself.

Marissa: I am too. I haven't, I haven't had the chance to, yet. I did take the Metro by myself while I was at SHIP, which was a huge accomplishment for me, but I'm still terrified of flying.

Mia: So I did request disability services to have someone escort me through the airport. SO when I got there, I had a woman. She offered me a wheelchair. And I was like, “I don't really need a wheelchair. That's not my disability.” But you know, it made it easier for them to get me to the airport. So I was like, “okay, I'll sit in a wheelchair.” And then on the way, so I had a fine trip on the way there. On the way back, there was a man who helped me and he didn't offer me a wheelchair. He kind of just walked in front of me to the gate. And then when I got to the gate, he left me there. So I was like, stumbling because I needed someone to show me where my seat is on the airplane, because I, you know, I couldn't, I don't even know where the numbers are on the airplane seats. So he just left me. I had to ask a flight attendant to help me. And she was so nice. She's like help me to get, help me get to my seat. And she showed me where the buttons were.

Marissa: I didn't even think about that. Not being able to find the seat. I'm going to fly Southwest now. It's just, that I don't have to try and find my seat. Like I don't even know where the numbers are,

Mia: And most men probably aren't like that, but it was like, I felt like the women were more helpful to me at the airport.

Marissa: I've had, I've had similar experiences where there's like the overly attentive and chivalrous or the almost dismissive. I think there, I think there, there are two routes to go. At least for me, when people learned that I had a visual impairment, they almost reacted differently. Like there wasn't, I guess like some people perceived it as, I didn't need to be as independent. I've had comments. I don't know if you've ever had these before, where people were like, “oh, your husband can drive you around.” Or that, like, if I were to date somebody they would almost be like my chaperone.

Mia: Right.

Marissa: Yeah. It is far more natural, to presume it is for a woman who's blind than a man who's blind.

Mia: Yeah. I've definitely thought about that. Like, you know, like if I get married and like, I have kids, like how would it be if I were to get divorced, you know, I didn't have that person to rely on. And I feel like that's not something like people would say to men, like, you know, men are just independent, you know.

Marissa: It’s hard for me to think about. You want to ask for help from people like your family and romantic partners and friends, but then you don't want it to turn into a relationship where you're somehow dependent on them.

Mia: Yeah, it is. It is a hard line to cross.

Marisa: And I don't know about you too, but at least with appearances as well. I think it's interesting with blindness because some people assume that I don't care about the way that I look or that I wouldn't want to present in a very feminine way because of my blindness. I don't know if you've ever had that before, where like, people are surprised even with Molly, Burke, people are surprised that like she does her makeup and then she cares about fashion because people will say things like, “well, if you can't really see, why does it matter to you?”

Mia: Yeah, I know. Totally. I definitely see that in Molly Burke's comments and I'm like, “oh, no, like. She can do her makeup and wear nice clothes.“ I made a Tiktok a couple of months ago, explaining how I do my eyeliner, because I know that for people who have visual impairments, I had to find ways to like, be able to do my makeup. So the way I explained it is like, I use my camera on my phone facing camera and I like to zoom in on it so I can see my eye. Interesting.

Marissa: Yeah, I might need to watch that because I still don't know how to do eyeliner.

Mia: Yeah. I've, you know, tried using a magnified mirror and I don't really like it. I don't know. Anyway, so I made this Tiktok, and some people in the comments were like, well, “I'm not even blind and I can’t do my makeup” or like, “I can’t even do my makeup that good.” So it's kind of like downplaying that like I was doing eye makeup and they're like surprised by that.

Marissa: Well, I believe that dressing femininely or doing your makeup is not all about just the like the visual appearance. But I think that also involves ways to express yourself that are beyond like the visual. I think what's interesting about Molly Burke, for example, she talks about how she enjoys different textures or feelings of fabrics and that they make her feel more confident and it doesn't have to relate to her like visual appearance necessarily.

Mia: Yeah. Because it makes her feel good and that feels good for herself.

Marissa: So how do you think your gender influences the way that you complete tasks and live independently as a blind?

Mia: I feel like, you know, I'm not a cane user and I haven't, I used the cane when I was in the airport. It was just so people would know that I was visually impaired and the moment I brought out the cane, people definitely made room for me. And I'm assuming that's like, you know, men have the same thing, So I feel like people were more open to helping me. And I don't know if that would be different if I was a man.

Marissa: So yeah, I think for me though, like I think the combination of being blind and female makes me a little bit more nervous about traveling independently and especially I have something like a cane or something that IDs me as blind. It makes me very nervous. Like, is this going to make me appear more vulnerable? Because we know that when like disabled women experience sexual assault at higher rates than able-bodied women. And it makes me nervous, especially when I'm out on my own and like, you know, by myself in the city, for example, or on public transit, because I thought, what if I don't even know. Like, what if I don't even see them until they're right next to me? You know what I mean?

Mia: Yeah. Yeah. I've definitely, that's definitely been something I've thought about a lot. Like next semester I have, for some reason, I scheduled a class that ends at like 6:00 PM and, you know, yeah. In the winter it's going to get dark. So I was like, I'm going to have to, you know, I'll bring my cane with me because if it's going to be dark, I might not be able to see the steps. And that's like, steps are like a big issue for me. So. Like, what if I am just, you know if they're gonna, if you know, there's like a kidnapper or someone who sees this like a tiny little girl with a cane.

Marissa: Yeah. I feel that way too because I am also very short.

Mia: Yeah. It's like an easy target.

Marissa: So when I, I told you, I went to some of these conventions for people with albinism and they did this self-defense course tailored for visually impaired people. Right? And the people that I was with were all bigger than me. Like I was the tiniest one there, so I didn't really learn any self-defense skills because what ended up happening is that they would grab me and it'd be like “Marissa, you're going in the van.” And I was too puny to like, you know, fend them off.

So I feel that the other challenge too, is that I don't, I'm afraid of these things, but I don't want it to stop me from traveling on my own or doing what sighted people do on a daily basis, if that makes any sense, because I feel like, I feel like sometimes I encounter, I encounter people. They have the best intentions, but it's almost like they expect me to be less independent because there are bad people out there. It's almost as if I should have to change my behavior to prevent my own assault. If that makes any sense.

With self-defense training, you can see this with able-bodied women. You'll see all of these Facebook posts about how to defend yourself or ads for pepper spray or stun guns, or like those little key chains that can break the car windows. So much talk about what women can do, but there's not nearly as much conversation going on. Like, how do we prevent these assaults from occurring in the first place? What makes men think that they can do this to people, especially disabled women?

Mia: No, I think, you know, being in college, I don't know if your campus has, I think my campus has these little blue things.

Marissa: Yeah. My concern with them is I don't really know. So if it's a night out, right. And I'm trying to find one, so I'll be able to find one. But I wonder if I would know what to press. Do they even have braille?

Mia: Yeah. That's a good question.

Marissa: I've never, ever like actually been up to one of them. I don't think, I don't know if like some kidnappers gonna be like, okay, let me just wait for you to call us, like, to figure out how to use the blue light system. I don't think they're just going to stand to the side and hold on and let me get like the pepper spray out of my bag. Like, just give me one second and then you can continue with robbing me.

Mia: Yeah, that's a very good point. I haven't carried pepper spray yet because, well, what if I sprayed in my own eyes?

Marissa: I know I told my mom that I wanted to get pepper spray and she was like, you're going to spray it in your eyes.

Mia: That is exactly what my family said.

Marissa: Yeah. I mean, they're not wrong, right?

Mia: Totally.

Marissa: Yeah. I feel like even if I wasn't, even if I wasn't legally blind, I'm still very clumsy and I would do that anyway, but the blindness definitely doesn't help. Yeah, yeah, no segue a bit into talking about LGBTQ+ representation in the disabled community.

So as a disabled woman, one thing that I noticed is that people don't perceive me and other disabled people as like sexual or interested in a relationship. And I was wondering how that works for you as a member of the LGBT community. Like how that intersection works out?

Mia: So I came out as bi when I was 16. So I think in just the area that I lived in, you know, my parents were very supportive. I'm so thankful to have supportive people in my life, but at the same time it was kind of like, oh, “you're kind of young to be coming out, and on top of that, you have a disability” So it's kind of like, you know, people thinking that you're not old enough to know on top of like being disabled. So it was a matter of people taking me seriously.

Marissa: I think sometimes with a disability people can perceive you as more childish or innocent. There's a lot of infantilization that goes on in the media. Like for example, You ever seen, like the, it, these usually come around in the spring when they have like, “oh, this person asked the disabled person to prom or homecoming” or something perceived as this like good deed that this able-bodied person is doing, rather than like the idea that they could be like platonically or romantically interested in one another is just like out of the question, it's just something that they're doing for like community service.

Mia: Yeah, totally. It's like, they just want a pat on the back to be like, oh, I did something good today.

Marissa: So how do you navigate dating and LGBT spaces and like disclosing your disability?

Mia: So in the area that I live in, public transportation is not very accessible. You know, like we do have buses, but it's like, if I wanted to get somewhere, that's like 10 minutes away, it would take me like 40 minutes. So it's, you know, if I were ever to be going on a date with a girl, it would be. So, how am I going to get there? It would be late. So it was weird having your day come to pick you up on the first date. Like, you know, I've had, I had a girl who’d come pick me up from my house. And then she had to like, she met my dad and I was like, that's kind of awkward having to like, meet my dad.

Marissa: And I guess it's kind of hard too, because like, if they're picking you up. Like, you're going to be alone in the car with them. It's not like you can take it. Like if you're in an area with public transit, you can meet in a coffee shop or restaurant or neutral space with a lot of other people. But if you're in a more suburban area, you kind of have to rely on them to get to the date, unless, unless they want like their mom to drop you off, like in middle school and you'd go to the movie theater.

Mia Yeah. I guess it was always just a matter of like, “oh, I'm going to go to your house. Like, can you drive me home?” And it would be. We had to talk about how I was going to get there. And like, as a matter of trying to find how I was going to get somewhere, and that was a big thing for me. And I'm excited to be going to college where hopefully, I mean, I've heard good things about western’s public transportation.vSo hopefully that's not as big of an issue for me.

Marissa: Yeah. I was doing research for this episode. I was also looking into some statistics about the accessibility of like LGBTQ community centers. And it was really interesting because I found, for example, that only 18% of these community centers have like braille signs and materials and only 70% of them are, have accessible parking and are wheelchair accessible, which is something interesting to think about because like these services are there for like people who are queer, but then. It's not really considering what other challenges they might be facing. So it's almost like, I guess sometimes like these, I mean, if someone gives you a pamphlet and you can't read it, it can’t really help you.

Mia: Yeah. I feel like there needs to be more intersectionality between the LGBTQ community and the disabled community. I feel like they're kind of two separate things.

Marissa: Yeah. And I think this goes back to the idea that people like don't you like those who are disabled as, you know, having, like being sexual and wanting to have like relationships with other people.

Mia: Last year I read something about how, like there was a pride parade that wasn't wheelchair accessible and that's just like, so upsetting, like for, you know, like the LGBTQ plus community that is like, everybody's welcome. But yet it's not always accessible for the disabled.

Marissa Even just like, navigating the crowds or something, like at a pride parade, I would find it very intimidating. I don't know about you, but I never did well with concerts. Large public events freak me out.

Mia: Yeah. You know, I haven't been to large crowds in a while, but it is something that like, you know, I have to make sure that I'm like next to somebody that I know. And I'll ask my friends. I'll be like, Make sure I'm still next to you, please. I went to see the fireworks.

Marissa: I was in DC for the 4th of July, and I went to go see the fireworks with my friends. And I basically formed this chain. Like we all held each other's hands, like a single file, like a little conga line. I loved that. I mean anyone can get lost in these situations, but it's something that we have to think about a lot more than my sighted friends. Cause they can't just look across the room and be like, oh wait. We can't just find them right away though.

I will say, I don't know, your hair is not, your hair is not as white as mine. I feel like it helps though because people say, “oh, I always look for the hair when I, when I'm trying to find you”. And I'm like, well, easy to find.

Mia: Yeah, that is true. I am more like dirty blonde hair.

Marissa; Yeah, no, my, I guess mine is more like a platinum blonde, I guess, but I guess for sighted people it’s a good marker, so I will not get lost for very long.

Mia: Yeah. I don't know about you, but I, when I'm looking for people, I like to look for like distinctive things. Like my mom has curly hair and in the winter where it's like a bright red coat. So that's how I like to find her. If I'm on my feet, a lot of times, like clothes or like colored hair.

Marissa: Before we head out, is there anything else you would like to add about your experiences with gender blindness, anything of the sorts?

Mia: Oh yeah, I definitely had, um, this also kind of like a question for you know, I've never used dating apps. But let's say someone were to like, would you disclose your disability to someone, you know, like on dating apps, do you have it in your bio? Would you be like, “oh, I'm visually impaired” That's always something I've thought about. Like, do I tell someone before the date, or I dunno, it's up to anyone to decide what they're going to do, but yeah, that's, that's really interesting.

Marissa: So my current partner is also visually impaired. Like we have the same exact condition. So I've never really been in a position where in romantic relationships I've had to disclose it. I have had to more recently, like when I was at my summer program, because no one knew who I was, I had to basically say it just to avoid any kind of awkwardness.

So if I were to use a dating app, I don't know if I would put it in the bio necessarily, but. My disability has become much more of a part of my life since I started the podcast, something that I really enjoy doing. So I probably would bring it up that way. Not, you know, not just as like, “oh, I can't drive,” but “you know, this is something that I'm really passionate about and that I enjoy speaking about” I feel like that answer really shifted for me. I think if you would ask me the same question a few years ago, I'd have been like, “oh no, like not talking about it at all.”

Mia: Yeah. I totally agree. Like I'm someone who I will disclose it right away. Like, it won't be the first thing that I say, but I'm always like, “oh, by the way, like, I am visually impaired” and if I'm meeting someone somewhere, I like to make sure that I know where they're sitting. So things like that, like I feel I'd rather disclose it, disclose my disability. Cause then if I don't, it's like, you know, kind of awkward, like, why can't you find where the table?

Marissa: It's funny because I guess, especially since we're not full-time cane or guide dog users, we can pass really easily as sighted and then weird little things like that will happen.

Mia: Right. Yeah, I agree.

Marissa: So generally, like with your sighted partners, how has disclosing that been for you positively? Has it changed like your relationship with them at all?

Mia: No, I don't. I think I definitely have pretty positive experiences, again, I don't know if I would have these positive experiences, if it was with a man, like sometimes men aren't as welcoming to it. Yeah. Especially being like queer. It's like, you know, you're already not heterosexual, so into like different types of people.

Marissa: No, that makes sense. Yeah. And then notice, like, when I introduce myself in the context of like club meetings or something, I mean, both genders have done this, but I'll tell them about it. Like, Hey, you know, just so you know, like if we're working together, tutoring a student, for example, like I might not be able to see everything on this. And then they're usually very short about it. They're like, “oh, thank you for sharing.” And then they just move on to the next subject as quickly as possible. Like, we can talk about this? It's not like, it's not, it doesn't have to be the elephant in the room.

Mia: Yeah, totally.

Marissa: And also I feel like I have a lot of, I feel like, I don't know about you. I feel like I have a lot of, I feel like I have a lot of blind moments or just crazy things have happened to me, various falling into, um, doors post. I've got a lot of good, awkward moments I could share.

Mia: Oh yeah, totally. I've fallen down stairs and stuff.

Marissa: Yeah and at school, we have these horrifying red brick stairs. Of course, they don't have any markings on them because it would just make them ugly. Right.? So, I posted about it on my Instagram story, I was wearing wedges like three-inch wedges because why not? And I was trying to go down these steps and I had like, I didn't completely wipe out, but I was pretty close. Oh yeah. It was not a good moment. And there were like three other people there and they were just looking at me.

Mia: I know that's so uncomfortable, especially with, so it's, it's worse than they just stare at you. Like at least ask if I'm okay. Right? I don't know if this is the same thing for you, but I feel like it takes me longer to walk downstairs. Also like if my friends are ahead of me and they have to like, wait for me to, because, you know, I have to like feel where the step is. So like I'm taking so long to walk down the stairs, but yeah, I feel like once you have the first step down, like, can you have an idea of how long each step is? It's a lot easier.

Marissa: At the Lincoln Memorial I did that. It's not too bad going up steps for me. It's going down, going down. Cause you know, like the Lincoln Memorial steps are like, there's like the stuff and then there's like the landing, then there's more stuff. So I was like, oh my God. I know. I was like, can we put some tactile, like some yellow stripes on these steps? I think they would have wanted some tactile strips there.

Mia: Yeah. That would have been nice.

Marissa: Yeah. I had to have my friend hold my hand while walking down. Cause I was like, “oh boy. I don't know if you have poor depth perception as well.” Cause you said you don't really have vision in one eye, right?

Mia: Yeah. I have horrible depth perception. Actually, when I was in DC, we went to Jenny's ice cream.

Marissa: I haven't been there yet. I need to go.

Mia: It's so good. The lady handed me my ice cream cone and I don't know why, but I didn't go in the right direction. So I reached a totally different way. She was like, “oh, like you gotta move your hand.” She probably was like, “why was she really so confused?”

Marissa: I feel like I always run into that. If I'm at a restaurant and the waiters try to hand you something like water or something, or like the way I don't want to drop my food on everybody else.

But thank you so much for doing this with me. I really appreciate it. I think this podcast, like one of the reasons I started this was so I can meet other people like you. And I think it's really special that if I hadn't ever started the podcast, we probably would have never interacted with each other on the internet for the podcast.

I never talked about my disability on social media. And now that I, now that I have started doing that, I've met so many people and it's really cool. So thank you so much for being willing to share your story and come onto this podcast. I know it can be pretty nerve-wracking talking into a camera, especially like I find it awkward when you’re not speaking right in front of people. I always find that awkward. So I really appreciate you for being vulnerable and putting yourself out there.

Well, everyone that was Mia Parra. I hope you enjoyed the episode. I had a great time recording it. I did not have nearly as much fun editing it, so I recorded the episode at the beginning of August when I was still at home, but I moved back to school two weeks ago. And while I was in the library editing this episode, I did it on anchor. It's the website where I distribute the podcast through. So it's all online, right? My iPad disconnects from the WiFi at the school. And I lost like 20 minutes of progress on this episode. This happened to me twice. It wasn't just a one-time thing. So I've probably listened to this episode more than I have listened to any other Legally Blonde & Blind episode, just because I had to go back so many times. Thankfully it was a good one. Otherwise, I would have been very annoyed.

Anyways, if you enjoyed today's episode, make sure to follow Legally Blonde & Blind on Spotify, apple podcast, Google podcast, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also follow my social media pages on Facebook or my Instagram @legallybb_. My Twitter account has the same username. Not going to lie. I just can't get into Twitter. So Instagram and Facebook are the most reliable sources for updates on legally blonde and blind. I think the Twitter account only has two followers. So if you want to be the third, go for it, but I don't post many updates on there.

All in all, thank you for watching, and I hope to see you soon!


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