From A Different Culture


From A Different Culture

      “Did you guys meet the new blind girl who started today? She’s from, ah, somewhere in, ah, Africa.” Steven asked with his usual rapid speed sentences as he burst into the room, red pony tail swinging, long white cane tapping hard, nearly running over the group of visually impaired senior high students gathered for the twice-a-month after school discussion.

     “Yeah, isn’t she coming?” Asked Marla, her oriental features showing a serious interest, her deep-southern accent from her adopted American family drawing out her words. “Weee allll are here.”

     “Africa! I thought she was from South America! What’s her name?” asked Ryan, an African American guy that looked like he could be a lineman for the school football team and was exactly that.

     Tara, a petite blonde with thick glasses, added, “Yeah, I saw her too! Mrs. Brown was showing her around…orienting her to where her classes were and she was using a white cane. And I didn’t get real close, not close enough to see her too clearly, but she had this dress-looking thing on.”

     “She’s in my algebra class an’…she’s got this cute accent and her name is something like Garlic or something.” Said Jose, his soft Hispanic accent telling of his second generation, Old Mexico origins.

     “So, Mr. Jennings…!” Spoke up Chelsea, addressing the only staff person in the room. Her blue eyes sparkled with the effort to squint, her head tilted sideways, peering out of the corner of her eye as she will when she is trying hard to visually focus on something. “What’s the story with this mysterious woman?”

     “Well….let’s all get settled into our chairs and we can talk about this.” Answered the teacher. And as the gathering of students found open seats, tucked canes and school bags out of the way, Mr. Jennings began to process and weigh how to address the issues at hand. The students’ obvious curiosity and relevance to their own lives would make this a natural topic and, if directed well, they’d not have to get into specifics and breach the confidential issues as to why Garlica was not present. Images of his and Mrs. Brown’s recent home visit to Garlica and her family came flooding back into his mind. It had been their first meeting with her parents…the father dominating the interaction, answering all questions, even when it was his wife or daughter who were addressed. And it was he, Mr. Jennings, the male of the two professionals in attendance that the father addressed; giving Mrs. Brown only the briefest of arrogant glances when it was she who asked the question. Yes, here was a serious issue for a discussion—how different cultures handled blindness; expectations, family hierarchy, the gender of the blind person, and the cultural expectations when the blind person is not yet an adult.


mail responses to

**1. This Thought Provoker I can see is a set up for the reader to think about cultural customs. This I think would be the starting place to understand that girl’s behavior and to know from which to make judgments about her and how to interact with her and to maybe change her. However, when any two cultures meet there has to be a two-way flow to this interaction and this can be a very sensitive time and if not handled right, it could at a worse case scenario develop into something like war. (Not necessarily a shooting war, but a warring of the wills and if you get that going, any forward progress of gaining mutual respect and change of a side is then halted.) I would think that the family of the new girl would want her to become acclimated to the new culture by learning the language and the ways of her peers. I know this is getting into the psychology of how any or all immigrants react to a new culture in which they plan to live. What an interesting time for the students of the host country, a great opportunity to learn about how other people life and react to blindness which in turn will help themselves to better understand and live with their own blindness.

Charles Bloomberg

**2. Yes! You've entered the realm of the foreign blind person! This is an absolutely perfect teachable moment for Mister Jennings. Without breaching confidentiality, whatever that is, he needs to address how the girl's culture deals with blindness. If possible, the school should have some projects for the students to research difference blindness techniques, tactics and cultural expectations for blind people. They should also deal with the gender issues both here and in that girl's homeland.

Ben Bloomgren Scottsdale, Arizona

**3. Hi there,
I suppose the questions/comments this TP makes me ask/make are: How is it she can use a cane? Would not her father restrict the ability of any instructor to be able to work with her? If the scenario was real why not structure the meeting to be during the day so the father had no choice over the ability of his child to attend. Let's face it there are still many cultures where people who are blind are not allowed out of the house or are always guided by someone else and never learn any independence.

Penny Stevenson NFB NOBE listserv

**4. Culture and gender issues are and have always been, a potential conflict in all social constructs. My particular field is systemic family therapy, and I'm
constantly challenged to find ways to change some of the inequities among family members, especially in male-dominated ethnic groups, like the one you
describe in the new thought provoker. In fact, family therapy in general, within the last ten years or so, has had to make some radical adjustments in
order to keep up with the immigration of families. As a blind professional, I am always intrigued by how less-privileged countries treat the disabled.
I am lucky to be where I am, living as I do, my struggles seem small when compared to how others struggle. I wonder how this young African girl copes,
what tools she is accustomed to using (other than her cane), and how her family treats her blindness. All these things can make or break her ability to

The formula for my success may differ a bit, but we have more in common than not.

Regards,Ann Chiappetta, MFT Intern

**5. What an excellent thought provoker!
Coming from different cultures, how do we find a common ground to allow us to explore together something as emotional as blindness?
We talk of our American Culture, but in fact we are a nation of sub cultures.
In my years working in the Adult Orientation and Training Center at Washington State Services for the Blind, students came from around the world. They arrived from many Pacific Rim Nations, from India, from Ethiopia, from Europe and South America.
I expected to be confronted with different attitudes and beliefs about blindness. But what caught me off guard initially was the existence of many sub cultures within our own nation.
We have built up a myth that we all share in some common heritage with similar values and understandings.
So I was startled when an army major marched his wife and son into my office and demanded that I "do something" for his son.
"They(the school for the blind) are throwing him out". For the first time he actually stared at his son. "He's going to be 21. What are you going to do for him?"
I turned to the son and asked, "What would you like to do?"
"He doesn't have a clue. He's half deaf and blind. That's why we're here.
That's what you're supposed to tell us."
I'd known this family when the boy was a new baby.
When the father learned that his son was "defective" he went about his life as if the child did not exist. As soon as he learned of the school for the blind he jumped at the chance to "do right" by his son and get him out of sight.
Then there was the young woman who brought her husband to the center. She helped him get settled into the dorm, touching and squeezing him and whispering encouragement into his ear. She then went home, packed everything in the house, took their 6 year old daughter and disappeared from the face of the Earth.
A young woman was kidnapped and forced into prostitution. She managed to escape and returned home. But she was guilt ridden, a feeling which was encouraged by her family, and she entered a Convent. We got to know her after she had put a gun to her temple and blinded herself.
In each of these situations we believed that we were dealing from a common understanding. We were all Americans, with the same history. Or at least that was what we'd been brought up to believe.
Probably what helped me the most in working with newly blind people and their loved ones was to begin with an open mind. No expectations or preconceived notions. I made it a policy never to read the records from the Vocational Counselors until I had made the initial contact and formed my own first impression.

Carl Jarvis ACB-L listserv

**6. I don't think this is a blindness question. To me it is a culture question.
I can't even begin to ponder the complications of blindness on a culture that is so different from ours, especially with so little information on the culture itself.

Kathleen Gasper ACB-L listserv

**7. It is too bad that people don't realize it could be them and not us that are unable to see .
I have been totally blind since 1980 and I try to tell others I have lost my eyesight and not my mind and don't pass judgment on us before they actually get to know a blind or visually impaired person.

Alan Hagenstein Minot, N.D.

**8. This story has a wonderful examples of multi-culturalism, such as accent, ethnic physical characteristic. It also gave a good example of male-dominate cultures.
However, my concern is that the teacher, Mr. Jennings did not address why the new girl was not the meeting. Neither did he discuss her exact place of origin. Could she be from Africa? South America? Could she have been from a Muslim country such as Somalia based on the long dress she was seen wearing in school? The biggest concern I have is will his ( Jennings) failure to disclose what he and other's deem private business, set up a deep sense of mistrust and information between the rest of the blind students and the new comer?

John Minnesota

**9. I must admit, this didn't actually provoke much thought at all. It is rather clear what needs to be done: Garlica needs to show up, present herself, possibly
give a brief biography, then answer questions. It's that simple.
I take this position, because I am already thinking on the subject, though not quite the same as it is in this Thought Provoker. I am writing a novel about
a blind schoolteacher, and one chapter has her introducing herself to the class. There was bound to be some curiosity as to how a totally-blind woman could
handle a mainstream class. So I asked myself, "How would I handle this situation? How would I break the ice?"
I had this character break the ice with a few jokes; then explain who she is, where she's from, why she's here, and why she's blind. I believe it is abslutely
necessary to get these things out in the open immediately. That way, the "new" person would not be such an object of curiosity. Then everybody could relax,
settle down into a routine, and the blindness and cultural differences won't be a distraction.
That's how the situation with Garlica should be handled, even if it takes up an entire class session or two. Get it out of the way, get familiar, then carry
on. No big deal. It's as simple as that.

David Lafleche

**10. If Garlica were a boy, would he have been with the rest of the blind and visually impaired group that day?
Do Garlica's parents know that this group includes members from very diverse backgrounds?
I know this may sound arrogant, but I've seen too many situations when culture gets in the way of persons with disabilities living independently.
I certainly recognize cultural differences, but some aspects of disability transcend cultural differences.

Bob Hachey

**11. The issues of blindness, gender, and gender roles vary from one culture to another. I think that in most American families, or families with Western values and ideas, the woman is allowed to be addressed as well as is permitted to give her input about herself. She can seek the help that she needs to cope with her blindness. When raising a family, she can put in her say as to what is going to go on and what is not going to go on in the household, etc. In families who hold Eastern values, on the other hand, the male dominates everything. The woman cannot go out on her own, so she's often accompanied by her husband or dad. All questions, then, that are intended to be directed at her are to be directed to the male and he answers for her. Thus, if he feels that the new gal doesn't need help in coping with her blindness but she, herself, does, then she has to go along with what he says. Whatever thoughts she may have had of receiving training goes out the window if he doesn't feel she needs it.
The other thing to consider is how blindness is viewed. Though we live in a technologically advanced society with adaptive equipment and more people not viewing blindness as a detriment, there are still many people in every country of the world who still view blindness as a shameful characteristic and a detriment to family and society. Blindness, then, is to be kept hidden. In fact, a few months ago, I got back in touch with one of the orphanage workers who took care of me. She lives in Britain now, but she still sees me as the "poor girl" because I'm blind. Even though I've told her of my many accomplishments, including completing a four-year degree in Social Work and Drug Counseling, she still cannot fathom how I did it and how I manage.
What it really boils down to in all this is for all of us to understand the differing views of gender roles and blindness across culture lines. We can educate all we want, but the societies and individuals from different countries and family upbringing have to want to be educated. They have to want to see blindness as an asset and women as able and equal as men. We cannot make male-dominant societies and those who view blindness as a detriment think the way we do unless they want to. Remember, there was one time here in America when blindness was viewed as a shameful characteristic and a detriment. There was also a time here in America when male dominated everything.


**12. I was trying throughout that whole thing to figure out why the girl was separated from the other children, then being spoken about by teachers--especially, as though she was some sort of fascinating painting or something. I also wondered if that school welcomed all blind people in such a manner. Then, it interested me that the story brought out the other black child's interest in her as opposed to other children's curiosity. Around here, the white kids would have either been as interested or disinterested as the black children as interracial dating is just an acceptable thing, or it isn't--depends on the family.
But we definitely have many cultures and subcultures right here in America and race doesn't, necessarily, dictate them all.
And like you, Carl, I always do my own evaluations first, then read or listen to others' evaluations or opinions of the client.

Jessie ACB-L listserv

**13. I really like these short stories of blind people. Studying mankind is a never ending nor dull task. It really would be a fascinating book to read that would have chapter after chapter of these thought provoking little stories depicting the story of blindness around the world. I would want a chapter for each major culture, showing gender differences, age differences, etc. this for we who love the intricacies of how people live, change, cope and generally the adaptive nature of the Human Race.


**14. I don't believe your thought provoker gives us enough information to know much about the culture of Garlic’s family. We also cannot know if how her father behaved in this situation was any different from any situation where men and women, adults and children, were involved in a discussion. I grew up in a community where the Priest made all of the decisions for the members of his Parish--what clubs they could join, who their friends could be etc. He treated all of the youth the same way. It didn't have anything to do with disability, or ethnicity or anything else for that matter. Some people are controlling and some aren't. I'm not so sure, based on the information in this thought provoker, that Mr. Jennings has any responsibility or right to discuss cultural differences with these students. They are a little "stand offish" already. Why make it worse?

Janis Stanger

**15. When I hear the word culture I remember all the problems disabled people had with taxi drivers who refused to learn about new different laws and allow assist and guide dogs in stores and taxis they said it was against their religion but it was against their culture not religious discrimination. I often wondered if we behaved as badly in their homeland as they did here what would have happened to us? "When in Rome do as the Romans do" is an old saying but an apt one.

Diane dotson Victoria BC

**16. An intrusting take on our youth, of today, and the different ethnic and religious background of our society. The class showed an excited exuberance that are prevalent in our youth today. The question that is lingering in the back of my mind is the Teacher's reaction. Is he going to play it, very PC. And tell or not tell there new classmate comes from a Muslim Family, where there culture is male oriented. That is why her
Father dominates there Family conversation. I did make an observation
true or not true, we all do projecting of our self's just as the class was doing in the telling of the story.

Robin Rush Nebraska

**17. The timing of this Thought Provoker was just right for me. I am a foreign language student, legally blind, and lately I’ve been wondering about how the
blind/visually impaired are treated in different countries around the world.
I am hoping to go to Mexico this summer for a few weeks to earn some college credit, and eventually I would like to travel around the world. I don’t really
have any travel experience, and I’m a little concerned about going to a country whose language I don’t speak very well, especially with my vision. I’ll
go with somebody if I can, but I’m not sure if that’s going to happen. Are there any readers who have experience traveling to different countries who could
give me some ideas about what to expect and how I can make the trip a little easier? Thank you.

Sean; Las Cruces, NM;

**18. In my case, my ethnicity worked for my benefit. The first born daughter is an extension of her mother and her chief assistant. Therefore, I was expected to learn basic housekeeping, cooking, childcare things at an early age to help my mother. Blindness was no excuse for not filling that role.
This gave me a real head start toward independent living skills. It also gave me a chance to develop a positive self image at home that went a long way toward protecting me from accepting low expectations from the outside world. Academically, I fared well too because my family expected education to buffer me from the problems of blindness in a way they didn't expect my sighted siblings to need. After all, if my brothers worked at blue collar jobs, they didn't need to perform well in school. They wanted college for me to serve as a magic talisman toward making my way in the white world.
The over protection they gave was more in the realm of expecting me to be respectful, well mannered, a princess in all I did. An example of virtue and ladylike behavior was demanded despite my tomboy tendencies. That didn't prepare me well for dealing with the freer lifestyle I met when I left home to attend university, but it did ground me well to be successful once I overcame a shyness in dealing with people outside my large extended family. I had a good friend in high school who was low vision and Chinese.
She had to fight a continuous battle to avoid being married off before she could finish high school. We joked a lot about the ways she sabotaged potential matches by being clumsy and pouring tea on visiting prospective mothers-in-law. She would binge on chocolate to make her complexion break out, exaggerate her vision problems and in anyway possible attempt to appear a poor choice for their sons. She was a sophomore when I graduated, so I don't know if she succeeded in at least finishing high school, but she had hopes for college. Since Chippewa are matrilineal, I was lucky to have a mother with a thirst for education who wanted me to achieve a college degree. Having been born at the right time to take full advantage of affirmative action, I had no trouble getting into schools or my first job.
After all, I was not only blind, female, but also native American, a walking talking quota filler.

DeAnna Quietwater Noriega

**19. There was a time, during my education at the Kansas School for the Blind, that interracial dating was not allowed. And if it happened, the couple kept a low profile.

Richie Gardenhire, Anchorage, Alaska. ACB-L listserv

**20. I agree with Linda (Resp. # 11) that it is very difficult to overcome one’s cultural prejudices, particularly about blindness. Using a historical analogy,
I’m thinking of the issue of slavery before the American Civil War, and the aftermath of undoing this system shortly after hostilities ceased. A lot of
whites in the South refused to be educated that black people were just as human, just as capable or incapable, just as good, bad, or indifferent as any
white person. It took more than a century for this country to realize that, and quite honestly there are still a lot of people here who view black people
as fundamentally different from whites and refuse to have anything to do with them. Or if they do, the black person is treated in a condescending or rude

I also think that this young girl is going to have a hard row to hoe if she wants to be a fully functioning human being with the same rights and responsibilities
we all share. For it sounds to me that she has the duel problems of being both blind and a female. Thus, depending on the culture from which she has arisen,
in which blindness and one’s female gender are considered signs of weakness and inferiority, to whatever degree, she may end up swallowing her discontents,
if she has any, until she’s free to make her own way in the world. Of course, I wonder if she can even do that much if her father dominates the situation
as completely as he seems to do in this story.

Good job!

John D. Coveleski, Minneapolis, MN (

**21. Interesting one. Here we have not only a blind girl but also a girl from a culture where women, like children, are considered inferior to men, where men
do the talking and the deciding for them. How much more difficult it must be for women who are considered less than merely 2nd class. I can't help wondering
what kind of future is in store for her.

Carolyn Clearwater, FL

**22. I didn't get my point across clearly, as we both like, here is another try Parents come to another country for the kids, bringing cultural differences with them, this confuses the family. Dad had been the head of his family unit culturally it was law! Now Mom and the kids learn different ways. Dad loses his power over family. The kids pick up other cultures no longer subservient to traditional ways In your story there are many different cultures, plus the blindness. Parents sacrificed home and culture for the children who pick up other cultures from each other. I believe this a win win situation for the children

Diane Dobson

**23. The students were obviously well-trained in participating in conversations with each other. They seemed a little hesitant to find out from the person herself where she is exactly from. It shows they have confidence but not enough to draw her out of herself.
Talking directly is a great idea but if they haven't had the practice to try with out being criticized, this will be a tricky exchange at best. Questions could be asked that would evoke empathy about a new person joining the group. Discussions could concentrate on the similarities between the students, on what hobbies, interests and abilities are. All these things can be accomplished with directed questions that would bring up an awareness of what it was like to be a new person in a group of students. Experiences like this can be valuable for any one to learn about others and what similarities and differences they have but we are all in commonality in that they are teenagers, they have visual impairments, are in high school and very conscientious about being "alone" in a new situation. Sharing their own experiences of what it was like to be the outsider would also benefit the facilitation of the conversation.
The main idea is that we are all constantly being introduced to new groups of people and even though we are all different, there are some things that all have in common. Some relief may be found in that fact.

Helen A. Reilly
Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist Staff Braille Instructor
New Mexico School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

**24. Nice story. Having the fortune of meeting and talking with African Immigrants, that is the culture way. I personally find it quite respectful.
We should all learn this kind of respect!

Sincerely; Jack Mindrup Nebraska

**25. On the one hand, I see nothing wrong with Garlic’s not attending the twice-a-month discussion on blindness, if she doesn't want to - and those 5 words, "if she doesn't want to," are my whole point.
On the other hand, it just might be that the male hierarchy present in her family are preventing Garlica from attending the meeting. That is much like the over protectiveness of parents of their blind children which has always, so far as I know, been present in our own culture. Those few blind kids who have not had to contend with such parental overprotectiveness are extremely fortunate.

Jeff Frye Overland Park, Kansas

**26. (Can we help this lady?) I might like to post my frustrations as a partially sighted person. I am blind in the left eye and I am so sick of people in stores standing within inches
of my body on my left side. They have no idea I am blind, but these people expect me to politely not step on their feet or touch them inappropriately
-- or whatever. Plus, I am MOST INTERESTED in making sure that I do not step into them in a way that will make THEM touch ME inappropriately!
I am really going nuts from little kids. These little 2-foot people are running around like crazy and I usually can't see them until I have already stepped
on them.
At this point, I want to strap a Yosemite Sam patch onto my left shoulder saying "BACK OFF."
I also have ADHD, which is another reason why I find these people crowding my space so distressful.
Lastly, I sell used books for a living and spend approximately 6 hours a day in thrift stores--where, unfortunately, most people seem to have the manners
of coyotes in a feeding frenzy.
Is this the sort of thing that is suitable for posting in your forum? I am just going crazy. I just want to scream at people "Get out of my space!" Can
somebody help me deal with this before I go bonkers?

Thanks Sharon

FROM ME: I Already wrote her, essentially advising her to look strongly at learning to use a long white cane, like take a telescopic cane with her and pull it out when she needs it, such as in the situations she outlined above. What do the rest of you think?

**27. Hi Robert,
I would like to say something to Sharon.
Sharon, I very much concur with Robert's reply to your message. You certainly know better than I the nature of your problem, for I am totally blind; but because we are both legally blind (at least in one eye!), we run into people and things, like the kids you mentioned, unless we are using canes.
You may not need a cane all the time; in fact, you probably don't.
If I were you, I would get a collapsible cane, or a telescopic cane, for yourself. You can get them from the National Federation of the Blind, from Ambutech, from virtually anyplace selling white canes.
Make sure the cane, at full length, goes from the floor to your nose. Orientation and mobility so-called "specialists" used to think that a cane should go from the floor to your sternum (your breastbone, halfway up one arm), and I personally find it hard to believe that some so-called "specialists" believe this. You just don't dare walk rapidly using such a short cane; with a cane going to your nose, you can run.
So see how tall you are to your nose, and order a cane that long.
You also might want to take some brief training in cane travel - either from an O&M instructor, or from another blind individual. Not knowing what state you live in, I don't know if the O&M instructors in your area are any good or not. I think Robert will concur that many so-called "specialists" really, really need to improve.

Jeff Frye Overland Park, Kansas

**28. In regards to Resp. 26. I think that carrying a telescoping cane whould be a good start. Yes, it will feel strange because there is the fear of being stigmatized. However, in lieu of the difficulties of seeing in front of her, I would rather be stigmatized, carrying my white cane than look strange because I might appear different with my trying to navigate and maintain my personal space between me and those around me. The next thing is to just have patient with yourself and those around you.


**29. The rather remarkable inter-cultural group meeting is an ideal venue for their upcoming discussion.
I'm continuously confronted with the issue they are encountering. It's always a challenge to learn that most of our world views blindness as such a limiting experience. By word, tone, gesture, stance, and attitude, many people convey the thought that blindness is tantamount to brainlessness.
Yet, other values permeate behaviors as well. Many people consider that an "afflicted" person needs constant and continuous care. Recently the mother of a nine-year-old boy swore to me she would shower and dress him until the day she died. This is her idea of good parenting; she had no intention of considering her son inferior, just someone who needed constant care.
I think that dealing with multi-cultural aspects of attitudes towards blindness is far easier than dealing with my own culture's reliance upon a state of perpetuated ignorance to sustain a belief that blindness means "affliction". In the U.S., where money and education are meant to leave no one out, there is no excuse for negative and narrow concepts to confine realities any longer.
Great piece!

Kat Guam

**30. I don't know that I have anything to add to the discussion, except to reflect on the nature of the responses you have received. What has struck me about the majority of the responses is the underlying desire to find a way to welcome this young woman. No matter what the individual's cultural background, philosophical views of blindness, or background, blindness professional or otherwise, most want to reach out to her. I think the most powerful thing that any of us can offer to other blind people, or the blind people we work with if we happen to be sighted, is a sense of real hope. It is good to see that so many others have that within them.

Regarding Sharon's question, I want to let her know that many of us travel with the long white cane, and most people I know that use a cane have some sight. If you need to fix a car, you need the right tools to do the job. If you need to move safely through the world, and your vision isn't always allowing you to do this, then you also need the right tools. Not just a cane, or a guide dog, but the proper training to know how to do things successfully without your vision. You also need to address whatever other things may be interfering with your ability to handle the world around you, so if you haven't already spoken with your doctor about the options that may be available for you, you may want to do so.

I teach cane travel here in Nebraska, and I have had several students over the years with ADHD, and with the training, and treatment for their ADHD, they have gone on to live much more successfully. Sharon, please feel free to contact me at

Perhaps I can help you figure out the rehabilitation options that are available to you.

Jeff Altman MA NOMC

**31. Thanks so much for the suggestions. I will log onto the forum later and jump into the discussion -- I guess there is a way to post items directly?
Regarfding the white cane --
I am legally blind in one eye only. While a resident in California, I was told that it is illegal to use a red-tipped cane unless you are legally blind
in BOTH eyes - so I don't think this is an option for me. Plus, I would feel like such a phony sympathy grabber. I know that my situation is so much
better than the majority of people you deal with who are probably legally blind in both eyes. I just would feel like a jerk using a cane--even if it is
legal! Plus, I drive a car. Wouldn't I look like a real jerk carrying around my cane and then having people see me hop behind the driver's seat?
I used to be blind in both eyes, but a cornea transplant revived my right eye and now my vision in my right eye is somewhere around 20/40 -- maybe 20/60
now. I no longer visit optometrists or ophthalmologists. It is because of an ophthalmologist that I am partially sighted. His hand slipped during my
second cornea transplant surgery on my left eye. He then slapped a bandage over my eye and hoped I wouldn't notice the loss of my lens and iris. Four
months later, I developed endopthalmitis (I think that's what it's called) and had to have surgery on Christmas day 1998! That is the day that I realized
my eye was truly gone. Although I have some nerve damage from the infection, I can still see light and sometimes shadow.
Because my iris is permanently stuck wide open, there is no way to insert a new lens. Plus, a second cornea transplant could leave me even worse off than
I already am (I am very likely to reject the cornea).
When people look me in the eyes, they can tell I am blind because my cornea is clouded over. I have no idea whether most people notice my cloudy eye or
not because in the seven years since I lost my left eye, I have had only a handful of people ask questions about my eye. Usually, it is to remark: "Wow!
I never noticed that you have different colored eyes!" My eyes are brown, but they mistake my cloudy cornea as being a blue eye!
Sometimes when I get to know people well enough, I will share with them about my blindness. It is so weird. Most people cut me off at the pass. Sometimes
they remark, "Yeah, I noticed that." And then they make it quite clear that they don't want to hear any more about it.
I never considered going on a forum before because I only feel disabled at certain times (like when trying to park -- no depth perception -- or when I fall
down because I didn't realize I was stepping off of a curb -- or when somebody is standing just inches away from me and I can't see them). But while I'm
at it, I would like to ask -- do blind people freak other people out? Does it make them uncomfortable? Very few people want to hear ANYTHING about my
blindness. Is this commonly experienced by other blind people?
Thanks. I know I'm overwhelming you with questions. It's just that I have no one to discuss these things with. I have no idea why I never thought of
checking out a forum before so I could find out if other people experience the same things that I do.
Have a great evening


PS: My problem in Fuch's corneal dystrophy. Runs in the family -- my grandmom, my mom, and my daughter--we all have it. Usually, Fuch's has a much happier
ending. Most people don't end up blind from their transplant (although my grandmother did -- but that was back in the 70s when techniques weren't so great).
Most people have their transplants and have better vision than most regular people.

**32. Hello Sharon:
One question I would like to ask is: Who told you that it was illegal to use a red-tipped cane unless you're legally blind in both eyes? I know that you drive, but you might want to check with a legal expert on this for future reference. I'm sure that there are people at the services for the blind who might know. Even if you might not be receiving services from them, there might be someone who could network you with someone who works for the services for the blind in California who might know the real, legal answer on that. Who knows. Someone else might ask you a question about it or happen to bring it up in some kind of casual conversation. Then, you will, at least, have an idea on the real scoop on red-tipped canes and being legally blind in both eyes vs. only in one eye.
As for traveling with a white cane yet being able to drive, I know of a lot of people who have limited driver's licenses. Many of them can drive during the day but not at night. So, their limited driver's licenses permits them to drive only during the day. I know that that's not the case for you, but, as Jeff suggested, carrying a folding or telescoping cane might be a start. You don't have to always have your cane extended or unfolded unless you feel you absolutely need it. When you're not using it, you can carry it in your purse. There are also cane holsters you can buy or make that you wear on your belt loop. Nobody would ever know that you're carrying a cane in your purse or in a cane holster unless you point it out.
People are often to busy to notice those little details. Yes, some people are going to freak out, especially if they've seen you driving. If there's one thing I've learned about people, I've learned that there's always going to be something people will point out or freak out about. It's just the way the real world works. If it wasn't about your partial blindness yet you being able to drive, then it would be something else from how you dress, how you talk, how you walk, etc. People are always quick to make judgments rather than look at themselves in the mirror or think about their mean attitudes towards other people. Then, there are those many people who are still quite ignorant about blindness. There are still many who believe that blindness only means total darkness and no light. They aren't aware, or they refuse to be educated to the fact that there are varying degrees of blindness. So, I wouldn't worry about what people think about you using a cane yet being able to drive.
I really don't know what kind of blindness I am considered to be since there are many definitions, depending on who you're talking to. Some would say that I'm partially blind to low vision while others would say that I'm totally blind. I can only see out of my left eye, but I can only see light, dark, and some colors. My right eye never developed, so I have a prosthesis. My left eye, on the other hand, has scar tissue, which I was born with. All the eye doctors told me that, even with surgery, there was a ten percent chance of some of my sight being restored, but not all of it, with a ninety percent chance that I would lose all my sight. A cornea transplant was not an option. Like you, I have brown eyes, but the scar tissue on my left eye has made people think that my eye was blue.
Like you, I used to be very self-conscious about my blindness. My adopted mother often made me feel ashamed of being blind. She would make me hide my cane when in public, or she would whine and gripe about how my cane tip was catching on her nylons or shoes. The many questions people asked me about my eyes also made me feel uncomfortable because some meant well by their questions while others used my answers to hurt me. It got to the point that it was hard to tell whether or not their questions were well-intended. As I grew older, though, the less uncomfortable I've become.
This is not to say, though, that there aren't times when I do get to feeling uncomfortable because there are those times. From a distance, however, nobody can tell either that I'm blind even if I am seen walking down the street with my white cane. In most cases, my white cane doesn't phase them.
Because of the many still long-held beliefs about blind people not being able to function as well and independently as sighted people do, it is hard for people to believe that I'm actually blind. In fact, I've had people say that I was pretending to be blind. It sounds like that might be some of what is going on in your situation. This is not uncommon. When sighted people who don't know much about blind people other than what they've been told (as passed down through the many generations) encounter well and independent-functioning blind people, they become uncomfortable because they see that we've broken the molded stereotype of blind people. It is similar to Whites who believe that people of color aren't educated or cannot be educated. When they encounter people of color who have four-year college degrees or Master's degrees, they are intimidated and shut down. That's when you find people like that not wanting to talk anymore. Well, I think that some sighted people's encounter with you is intimidating to them because you are blind yet you can drive. You are blind yet you can live and function independently. You don't walk like a zombie or babble to yourself like some retarded person. Blind people being retarded and babbling to themselves is another one of the many stereotypes some have of blind people.
In short, it's the people, themselves, who seem to have a problem, not you. What you need to do is to let go of feeling like a "phony sympathy grabber" if you decide to get a cane. As my husband often tells me, "don't be too proud". That is something he has also had to learn with his disability. He has a spinal cord injury from being beat by some Black gang members back in 1994. Though he can walk short distances, he still uses a power wheelchair outside our house and for long distances. Being too proud can lead to trouble. That, I've learned time and time again.
Well, I hope that my letter helps answer your questions. If you would like to write me directly, my e-mail address will be at the end. Feel free to ask as many questions as you wish. Blindness can be an inconvenience in the sighted world, but it can also be an educational tool to rid the fear of the unknown.


**33. I wasn't going to respond to this one, seeing as it's rather "old." However, David Lafleche's response prompted me to write something anyway.
I don't think it is as simple as David's response is making it out to be. And that isn't just because Garlica is blind, in fact it really doesn't have anything
to do with her blindness. Garlica is from a different culture, and is obviously governed by different rules. Clearly her father is the leader of the family,
and that family is clearly male dominated. Garlica may not be given the option to go to the meeting after school.
And as for Garlica standing up in front of the class and telling about herself, she may not have the confidence yet. Her father apparently looks down on
women, and I think it sounds like her self esteem has suffered from that. That on top of the fact that she is in a new country, and more than likely learning
a new language, mean that standing up in front of so many of her peers would probably be a real challenge for her.

Karen Anderson Omaha, Nebraska