I like to think of myself as some kind of writing expert. I post here regularly, and I put forth pithy thoughts on Facebook and Twitter. However, there is evidence that I’m not as expertly as I believe myself to be.

In January, I landed a gig writing for a group called WordAgents. My 90-day probationary period recently concluded, and so did my employment. I knew it was coming.

During that introductory period, they guarantee you an assignment at least every other week but strive to get you something every week. The first month I got something every week. After that, only once every three weeks. What happened?

There are some stringent guidelines they have in place. Among them are restrictions on fonts, limits on paragraph size, and where to use “Format 1” and “Format 2” and the like. I didn’t get all those correct. They are serious about this stuff. I kept putting my article title in the “Title” format instead of “Heading 1.” My editor hated me. My last assignment was the week of March 16. After two weeks with no job, I knew I was history.

No worries here – I’ve learned some lessons that I’ll use going forward. As my business grows (and revenue along with it), I’ll apply these lessons, plus take some courses to improve my skills. But there are some resources I struggle to use.

My Roadblock

Reading books is the biggest one. I have about a dozen half-finished or un-started books. Why? Because of not being able to see. I have a pretty substantial visual impairment. My vision is 20/200. If you’re unsure what that means, here it is: What the average person can see from 200 feet away, I have to be only 20 feet away to view it. Everything I see is clear; it just seems to be a lot further away than it is. I’m also extremely light-sensitive. I wear sunglasses every time I go outside unless it’s raining. Even a little sunlight bothers me.

When I’m working online, I can mitigate this disability. I have screen magnification software on the laptop so I can read and type comfortably. As I sit here now, the software magnifies my screen six times. It messes up other people’s equilibrium when they look at my screen. I can do my VA and writing work more efficiently with this software. And I’ve been typing on one type of keyboard or another for well over 30 years now. I can type at a pretty good speed without having to look at the keys. Most typists will understand this.

Read a book?

But an actual, physical book? That’s another animal. I have a hand-held magnifying glass that magnifies things seven times. But have you ever tried to read a book by holding it with one hand while trying to use your other hand for something else? If I’m in the middle of the book, it’s no big deal. But at the beginning or end, the book is more challenging to balance. It’s not impossible. But it’s just challenging enough that I can quickly put reading a book on the back burner.

There are some decent retailers like independentliving.com that sell products to people with disabilities. I have tried a few “hands-free” magnifiers. Most of them only magnify 1.5 or two times, which isn’t enough. Therefore, it is challenging to add reading books to my list of ways to grow my skills. 

Push Through

I must praise my mother for at least one lesson she taught me. If a roadblock is in the way of reaching your goals, you can whine about it or do something about it. She would tell me this whenever I was upset about something relating to my vision.

Kids on a playground can be vicious in their treatment of different people. I look so different from everyone else, it was too much for a lot of my classmates, all the way through high school. My low vision made it tough to excel in sports, and the superior athletes would verbally abuse me for it. Mom would always ask, “so what are you going to do about it?” There wasn’t much I could do to be a world-class athlete, but I could apply myself in the classroom. Not every classmate treated me like I was a leper, so I could gravitate toward those who were accepting and pay no attention to the ones that weren’t.

Working in Business

Throughout my adulthood, I have worked to push past barriers. There seemed to be a switch that got flipped between high school and college. I had no problem making friends in college or once I started working. As technology has advanced, I have used it to my advantage, such as with the magnification software. I am grateful that Mom refused to let me sit in self-pity when I thought my visual impairment was keeping me from accomplishing anything. Thanks, Mom!

Now I just need to find something to help me read these books.