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Archive for Monday, August 3, 2009

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Facing odds: Woman doesn’t let blindness overcome ambitions

Chikako Mochizuki, a doctoral student at Kansas University who is blind, has mascara applied during a makeover by Clinique counter manager Sue Hopkins at Weaver’s department store.
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Chikako Mochizuki, a doctoral student at Kansas University who is blind, has mascara applied during a makeover by Clinique counter manager Sue Hopkins at Weaver’s department store. '

August 3, 2009

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Despite a busy academic schedule, Kansas University doctoral student Chikako Mochizuki, 42, still reads novels, watches movies, travels internationally and experiments with makeup.

“I’ve been a bookworm since childhood, and I’ve seen the ‘Sound of Music’ more times than I remember,” she admits.

This life might be seen as even more remarkable, considering Mochizuki has been blind her entire life, the result of an oxygen overdose administered after her premature birth in Japan.

Still, Mochizuki has developed a love of makeup, something she learned as an exchange student in the United States during her senior year in high school.

“It was a positive culture shock, because Japanese schools didn’t allow makeup or perfume,” she says.

She found a Clinique store, learned about different color shades and skin tones and spent most of her first monthly allowance on makeup.

She learned colors by asking what they are like — hot, cold, soft, hard.

“I learn very much through using my ears,” she says. “I ask lots of questions.”

After graduating from James Madison Memorial High School in Wisconsin, she traveled to Michigan to get her first dog guide. Until then, she’d managed with a white cane.

Despite the cause of her blindness, her parents refused advice to file a negligence suit.

“My parents were so grateful doctors saved my life,” she explains. “They’ve always insisted I could do anything I wanted if I put my mind to it. They said I might have to work harder than others, but I could do it.”

She learned English in seventh grade.

“I almost failed my first English tests,” she recalls. “I decided I needed to do better and spent the whole summer studying my English textbook. My grades went up high. By ninth grade, I wanted to go to (the) U.S. because it was a cool thing. Students who attended American schools were considered good and very bright.”

Exchange programs refused her applications because of the blindness.

“I felt it was unfair to penalize me for being blind,” she says. “I complained often to my teachers. In 11th grade, a teacher connected me with Mister Donuts’ charity that raises many funds for students with disabilities to study abroad.”

Her parents were reluctant to let her go and only agreed after she passed three required exams.

“I promised them I’d remain in Japan after the year. I broke my promise. I wanted to return to America,” she admits. “I told them U.S. colleges were cheaper and would save lots of money.”

She graduated with a B.S. and M.A. from Georgia College in Milledgeville, Ga. She returned to work in a Japanese library, then decided she needed a Ph.D. to get a stable teaching job. She came to KU in 2003, graduated with an M.A. in East Asian history, worked as a graduate teaching assistant and embarked on her doctoral research.

Mochizuki considers her achievements unremarkable.

“Humans have incredible strength, except when computers and cell phones break down,” she says. “You’d be surprised at how much you could accomplish if you had to.”

Comments

begin60 5 years, 1 month ago

Congratulations to Ms. Mochizuki for pursuing her dreams and using her obvious potential and talents. I have run into her and her dog many times on campus and around town. She is a very elegant and poised woman. The real issue that desperately needs attention and raised awareness in Lawrence is not the high odds and tough road facing those with physical limitations but the tremendous dehibilitating societal and attitudinal barriers that exist in KS and this part of the lower midwest generally.

We deserve a model of disability that treats it as a social construct and places it in parallel with other kinds of diversity, such as race, religion,gender, age, and sexual orientation. It's a wrong and offensive and unacceptable expression of backward prejudice to assume people with physical limitations need help and to approach even complete strangers in public based on this assumption when they are simply exhibiting their normal characteristics. People who are treated in this manner are often hardly grateful and might even be expected to get as angry as Professor Gates did at the time of his recent racial-profiling moment. Such an intimate violation of privacy and personal boundaries by total strangers can be experienced as threatening and embarrassing.

Here is a link to a google preview of a book that advances very sane and progressive views disability:

http://books.google.com/books?id=ZIKDpx6KGH0C&pg=PA24&dq=disability+and+minority+model&lr=#v=onepage&q=&f=false

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Dot Nary 5 years, 1 month ago

Great choice of book chapter by begin60--the author, Rhoda Olkin, is a psychotherapist, professor, researcher, wife, mother--and person with post-polio. We need to promote progressive views regarding disability as our population ages, injured veterans return in large numbers, and the number of person living with some type of disability skyrockets. Disability cross-cuts all other minority groups. Yet, barriers abound and the attiitudinal ones are the most difficult to address. I believe that aging baby boomers will gain a lot from those of us who have struggled for years to make communities, bureaucracies and organizations more accessible to all.

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