I didn’t need to be able to see to know that 11-year-old Ali Krage was hopping from one foot to the other when she introduced herself to me back in 2004. “I’m blind like you and I can read Braille and I go to the same school my twin sister goes to, but she can see, can you give me your email address? We can be pen pals!” Who could refuse an invitation like that? Ali and I have used adaptive technology to keep in touch ever since. The email messages she sends these days come with the tagline “Sent from my iPhone,” and when she left home to go away to school last fall, I kept up with her progress by reading her tweets. Here she is now with a guest post about what it’s been like learning how to live on her own.
One of the best decisions I have ever made
by Ali Krage
My name is Ali Krage and I am 20 years old. I attend the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired and this is my first time being at a school with only blind and visually impaired students. This is my first year here. The school is far away from my home in the Chicago suburbs — it’s located about 30 minutes from Springfield, Illinois, and it serves elementary school, middle school, and high school students. They also have a transition program, where they teach us daily living skills, and that’s what I am a part of.
When I was in public school, they did their best to teach things like folding laundry and cooking, but in order to do these things, I’d have to be pulled out of classes. Here at ISVI, daily living is actually a class in itself. They have Life Management, where we learn how to do laundry and we learn different life skills. They teach us about self confidence and advocating for ourselves.
Like it goes with any new experience, I was nervous. I was nervous to be away from home for so long. I was nervous I wouldn’t make many friends. I was excited, though, too. I was looking forward to learning new things, and I knew that in the end this would turn out to be a worthwhile experience.
I have been here since August 19, and this is my home away from home, my second family. I have met a variety of different people — we come from different parts of the state, we have different visual impairments, and we have a wide range of interests. Such diversity is pleasant. It’s amazing how people with so many different personalities can get along so well. I actually heard from a teacher once that this is one of the most mature and nicest group of kids they’ve had so far.
In the beginning of January, I requested some job experience. I figured it’d help; I’ll be here for only one more year after this, and the more experience I get, the better. After filling some forms out, I got a job as a volunteer at the Jacksonville Area Center for Independent Living (JACIL). I am an office assistant. I work the front desk and manage the phones, and sometimes I put stamps on postcards or make Braille labels. It really depends on what they need.
I have gotten so much out of this experience so far. I love my job, I love my friends, and I love this place all together. Coming here was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.