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Reaching For a Rainbow

Editor's Note: Editor's Note: Tanja Heidmann lives in Hamburg, Germany. She enjoys computers, singing, playing the guitar and writing poetry and short stories. She has a web page at:

I was born blind in October, 1977. I went to schools for the blind and Learned how to be a telephone operator and a secretary.

I got my diploma in 2000, and finally in the summer of 2001 I began working as a telephone operator in a company near my hometown. I then lived near Hanover where I also went to school.

Before the job started, I had to undergo a three month crash course in Telephony, which was ironic given my previous training, but the authorities said it would be better. Ok, so far so good.

In the course, however, I had some problems. Other students ignored me, and teachers didn't recognize my needs. It was no rarity that I couldn't do my homework and that none was willing to do teamwork with me. I thought that, once I was employed, things would be better, but that proved not to be the case.

The company basically employed me because they wanted to be charitable to a blind person. As before, I was ignored by my colleagues, and the boss was often on their side.

In 2002, the company had to fire all its employees, including me.

A few months later, my friend in Austria, Maria, Told me that her employer was searching for workers. It is an exhibition on blindness for sighted people.

I agreed to try the job in December, and I really liked it. I liked it so much, in fact, that I went to Austria again in February, 2003, for a few weeks.

But this time, the support I got from my colleagues was not as good as Before, and I also learned that they had reduced the workers' wages.

Another friend in Hamburg, Germany, did the same job. Since I Liked this kind of work, I asked her if any new employees were needed. At the end of March

I had an interview, and they agreed to employ me once I got cane training. I also had to wait till I got a room sponsored by an organization that helps the blind. But when that was settled, everything could start.

I went to Hamburg in October and had my exam at work in November. In December I started working part-time till I got a full contract in January. But it was a limited contract. I was advised to seek employment elsewhere since the duration of the exhibition was uncertain.

At first, I didn't want to believe it, but I have to. As I sit here in front of my computer today, I can't believe that this repeatedly happens to me.

Whenever I get near to the rainbow and try to touch it, it disappears.

QUOTE: How Discrimination Works by Maya Angelou

It excludes It patronizes It stereotypes It makes you invisible It trivializes what you say It takes credit for your work It blames you - the victim

It turns you into an object It treats you like a child It pushes you onto the margins It des-sexualizes you/it over-sexualizes you It mis-uses authority and turns you into a criminal, It makes everything about your culture exotic, It ascribes to your whole group the negative behaviour of one individual,It describes a norm - and puts you outside it

People hope that by tagging or labelling a person they won't have to consider if that person loves spring flowers, or is frightened of the dark, or longs for Christmas. You put on a label and that's all the person is.