It's Not The Same


It's Not The Same

     “It’s not the same! You guys talk and talk about blindness…” Andy addressed the group, his speech accelerating ever faster, words tumbling out with emotion, “You learn to use your cane or your dog, walk up and down the streets going to wherever you want, use cabs and buses and escalators! You’re all a whiz on the computer, have fancy notetakers or PDA’s, whatever you call them, and you all can read Braille! You’re all well educated! College was no problem! Most of you work…can do most jobs! And when people talk to you, they can stand there and look you in the eye and you don’t look that different!” Drained from his impassioned speech, Andy allowed his body to slump back into the seat of his power wheelchair. Peering around, he tried to judge the reactions of the other members of the blind consumer group; one of several groups that he attended.

     “Andy, I don’t believe we were purposefully cutting you and your unique situation out of what we are discussing.” Spoke up Sarah, one of the group who had been an active participant in that month's philosophical discussion concerning living with blindness. “For my part, and I believe I can say what I perceive other members were saying, we were speaking from our own personal experience.”

     “I’m sorry.” Andy rejoined, his voice still showing he was upset. “I just get frustrated, mad that these discussions are always about you guys.”

     “No!” “Wait a minute!” “Andy, dude!” spoke up several members.

     “Now wait a minute!” Andy continued. “I know you guys aren’t picking on me. I know you don’t really mean to overlook me, guys like me, but you are always talking about how wonderful all your alternatives work, that blindness isn’t really a big handicap! But that’s all you guys have! What about us that have other problems, too? How about addressing them?”

     “Of course,” said Sarah. “We know that not all blind people are just blind. And well, to hold a discussion on those of us who have multiple issues, we’d best have that discussion when we can do it justice. Right now…” she consulted her Braille watch, “we have five minutes before the restaurant here is expecting us to clear out. So I purpose we discuss your topic next meeting. Will you lead it?”

     “Yes.” Andy answered.

     After adjournment, Andy worked the joystick of his chair maneuvering between tables, through doorways, and out to the van; its lift already lowered and waiting.

     At home, the early evening’s level of remaining sunlight still allowed Andy to follow the lighter color of the sidewalk as it cut through the darker shades of the bordering grass. Inside the specially designed apartment for the wheelchair user, Andy first motored into the bathroom, using the various grab-bars to move himself about, then went into the kitchen. There he maneuvered to where he could stand up at the kitchen sink to brush his teeth; a life-long habit, a place which his mother always detested anyone to spit into, but it worked best for him.

     Thinking to himself, “That meeting tonight…maybe I got somewhere with them.” His mind flashed back over his early days in business college, still living at home, his parents trying to help him with his studies. Next, his only volunteer experience of work--answering phones for a non-profit, typing out messages. Then his failed attempts to find paid employment; his VR counselors not taking him seriously, not really helping. Then his moving out of his parents’ home and into this supervised apartment setting. And all of it was…better, but it still was…not the same.


e-mail responses to

**1. My name is Rita Weyler. I live in Grand Junction Colorado. I am totally blind, have epilepsy and arthritis. I also have dyslexia in certain situations.
I haven't been just blind since I was 20 years old. It is not the same. My seizures affect my orientation.
Blindness groups often don't acknowledge these differences. I have often felt as if I was being looked down upon. Not everyone has the same level of
skill in each area. It is often enough for me to have these other health issues acknowledged. I am a person too, and am just as important.

Rita Weyler

**2. This provoker was kind of a deja vous, coming as it did on the heels of my mail to nfb-talk on the same issue over the weekend.
By and large it is what it is called -- a thought provoker, and thoughtfully written, but I have some objections.

But first I should say that I'm glad you had Sara (the chapter leader) request that the disabled man come and speak about his experiences. This gave a glimmer of hope that his difficulties could be addressed.

However what bothers me about the provoker is the little specter of a stereotype that implies that a person in this man's condition could not get through school, could not use all the nifty adaptive devices, could not get a job, etc. In short, all human beings, whatever their attributes don't want to be type cast -- and you see the nfb battling the stereotypes of blindness all the time, and doing a good job of it. Persons with multiple disabilities want the same acceptance in society as everyone else, and the chance to tell their stories.
The only difference with multiply disabled persons is that they have to develop different coping skills that maximize their abilities and strengths.
Sometimes their greatest strength is a strong will.
BTW: The man in the story lived at home during college and apparently received help from his family. In my case, I wanted to be independent so bad at that age that I applied for and got a scholarship and went out of state to school and hired readers--but also had enough vision at that time to read print. And I purposely tried things I was not allowed to do at home, such as cook (at home, my family was afraid I would burn myself...
Oh and when I got out of school I got a job and held it for 12 years until I had to leave for health reasons.
But I won't write my autobiography to the list.

The point is that there are many, many combinations of disabilities/abilities, and all of us are unique (like everyone
else??*smile*) -- and each person needs to find the road that is best for him/her.
And the road is sometimes a hard one, but can also be rewarding.

Sorry for the long post. I was just surprised to see this provoker.
Take care.

Laura Eaves NFBtalk listserv

FROM ME: I wrote this lady back and thanked her for saying what she did. I also said that for this TP to not serve to further promote that old stereo type, that we need people to write in and give the positive side to this issue. I also informed her that over the years I have received several emails from individuals who felt that THOUGHT PROVOKER as a forum did not touch on the unique needs of the person with multiple disabilities. And so this TP is a first in what could be a series of provoking scenarios to discuss the unique differences and/or similarities of the individual with only blindness to those with more challenges in their life.

**3. No, it definitely wasn't the same as the other people. It sounds like they were mobile, but without vision. He was almost blind and wasn't very mobile at all being in an electric wheelchair. He probably sat at those meetings listening to everybody else airing their problems and getting frustrated because he didn't have the same problems as the others. He probably had a lot more problems. He sounded like he had a fairly independent life though.
He had a totally different set of circumstances than his friends. Why did he feel that he had to be the same as they were? Did they leave him behind?
I think he felt they did. I think he felt left out of the group because he had an entirely different set of problems than they did. Maybe this wasn't the right group for him to be comfortable in. What do you think? What would be a good solution for his problem? So many people spend too much time talking about their individual problems. I'd like to know what happened at the next group meeting. I hope the other people in the group listened to him and tried to learn from his situation, because it was certainly a formidable handicap to cope with. If I were in his situation, how would I get around being totally blind and in an electric wheelchair?
He wasn't totally blind, but if he got going pretty fast, mobility would be dangerous, I think.

Leslie Miller

**4. When we want to proclaim that it is just not the same, I think we need to look a little deeper and figure out what we are saying. We all have differences that Make life different for us than it is for others. I think it is important to find people to support us in whatever issue we are dealing with. If we are dealing with multiple issues, we may need to get support from a variety of sources. I think sometimes the best we can do is to acknowledge that we don't understand everything someone else is going through. I also think that as people who experience life from a different perspective than others, we have to be patient with people who don't share our perspective. We have to capitalize on parts of our lives that we can share and gently teach about the things that seem to separate us from others. It is important to keep in mind that everyone has times in life when "it just isn't the same.

Nancy Coffman
Lincoln, NE

**5. “It’s not the same!” Wine, Wine, Wine. I’ve heard that one before. What this guy doesn’t get is that the philosophy of either of this countries two major consumer groups does fit any and all blind individuals unique needs. Both the ACB and the NFB stand to boost the personal morale and resources to live life as we need and this is the point where this guy gets lost! First, each group covers the broad stroke of blindness and the understandings and needs there within. Then, each group has sub-groups or like in the NFB there are divisions and interest groups. And it is within the smaller sub-groups where any super unique attention for additional disability issues can be address.

Really, this thought provoker is like dayziavue. My chapter was having a discussion on living with blindness and one of our members broke in to the middle of it, he was quiet up to then, and in an angry voice he accused us of not being sensitive to the needs of people like him who had other issues along with the blindness. I was shocked! My answer to him was, “We are having a discussion here and if you want to take part in it, then speak up.”

May Parker

**6. Unless I am missing something here, I would simply have to concur with Andy in the
sented scenario, it really isn't the same. Because of the deliberate focused efforts upon solely blindness issues, members of blind consumer organizations likely do fall short of a full appreciation of the challenges faced by folks like Andy but it doesn't mean our example can't or shouldn't be emulated by other specialized disability groups, or for that matter, throughout society. The fact is that the needs of these various populations is uniquely different and calls for diverse strategies of direct action.

Groups of people with ambulatory disabilities, for example, have courageously launched extremely effective public awareness campaigns in the past, drawing attention to the fact of way too many inaccessible buses and other public facilities in a number of metropolitan areas. I also recall the very successful Deaf President Now movement of students at Gallaudet University in Washington, D. C. in the mid 1980s to appoint a deaf person on the University's Board of Directors. These are among some of the finest examples of successful public demonstrations ever done to effect meaningful change.

The National Federation of the Blind is also steeped in its proud history of similar actions on behalf of the nation's blind which have resulted in lasting positive changes in both the collective experience and in individual lives. We regularly gather together to address the extremely unique issues facing blind people. Often, there is overlap with folks who happen to be blind in addition to their other disabilities. It is, of course, a judgment call as to how to choose the right organization with which to identify oneself.

Finally, as part of a series of recently held public meetings held by our blindness agency, someone who uses a wheelchair but who is not blind raised the idea of publicly supported housing for people with disabilities. This might perhaps be a genuine aspiration for disabled folks, I have no idea, but for the blind? It is not part of the yearning for equal integration into all facets of society that blind people have. We live in a free country so people may choose to privately organize whatever housing situation might meet their needs but it is not, nor should it be, the domain of a public or private blindness agency to be involved in such a venture.

Unless Andy has a special connection or affinity to help blind people achieve their goals, he might well enough join with his blind friends socially in other activities in which they may find commonality. The organized blind welcomes every like minded person, regardless of other disabilities or abilities, in our ongoing march towards first class citizenship.

Maurice Peret, NOMC
Richmond Virginia

**7. As I have said before, it has been my experience that successful blind people are reluctant to reach a hand back to help others to get where they are. I have been involved in the Ski for Light program, and in blind bowling. I have often found that the best skiers and bowlers do not want to bother to mentor those who are not as proficient. I have often heard statements like, "If I did it on my own, so can you". Also, I have not heard of very many instances where successful blind persons have helped get other blind persons hired at companies where they are working. it's like, "I got mine, and that's all I care about".

When I attended college, I got involved in disability politics. I joined the campus disabled students union. It was run by people in wheelchairs, and the prevailing attitude seemed to be that after issues like curb and building ramps, handicapped parking, and things like that were addressed, then they just might turn to addressing the concerns of the blind students. I guess that we all feel like our issues should come first.

Andy Baracco ACB-L listserv

**8. Andy, You are very right about helping one another. That's why here in Florida we have started a mentoring program. Actually, there are some who want to
help others succeed, and we really do care about our fellow man.

William ACB-L listserv

**9. Another good thought provoker. I think for me, this struck quite a few chords, I know I have sometimes been called a superblink, or something to that tune, and have been reminded that not all people can achieve the same things. This is not something that is unique to blindness however it is often seen in terms of blindness skills, not everyone can use computers, canes, read Braille etc. So I think that from this angle this guy with additional disabilities has a couple of options. First he could start by trying to see more of the similarities than the differences, start a network of people who share similar kinds of problems, and I don't mean this should be restricted to people who are in wheelchairs, realistically there are going to be other people who feel just as left out of the community because they can't use computers etc. Perhaps too, there should be more support for people with additional disabilities that gives time just for their issues. I think it is great that this group is prepared to allow Andy time to express his views but also he needs to realize that this is a support group for people who are blind and it is just as important that they can share their opinions too and not have to be constantly bending to him. I mean this happens to me all the time, I live in a sighted world. I could spend 100% of my time at university, saying 'I can't see this or that, Blind people do this or that...' there is a time for me to express my opinions placing importance on the side of blindness and there are times when I need to express the other parts of myself. I think I need to put this into more of a context. I am studying to be a teacher. in my classes at university I am inundated with times where I could plug for the blind child and bring it all back to blindness but really that can become tedious and tiring and repetitive, I would suggest that my peers would very soon tune out every time I opened my mouth were that the case 'oh here comes another diatribe about blindness'. Instead, I choose my time, I make sure that everyone realizes that blind students have unique needs and I remind my teachers of this fact too, but there are times when I respond to stuff just like anyone else does. I can also get tired of always championing the blindness cause, sometimes you just need to give it a break for awhile.
I suppose I also got annoyed at the fact this Andy made such far reaching generalizations, you can all... well I doubt all of them could do all of that stuff. Who can walk up and down any street going wherever we want, there is the risk that the streets could be unsafe from things that our dogs or canes can't protect us from. People with dogs can't always get cabs they are often refused, let's also face that most people can't always afford to catch cabs, or that is the reality where I live. Not all people can use escalators either, some people are scared, some are limited by their dogs. And really that they all can read Braille... what a pipe dream, more people nowadays can't read Braille than those who can. College not being a problem, who hasn't faced learning difficulties, material not being put into alternative formats, campuses being large and disorientating... as for work - sure many Americans have pushed the boundaries of jobs they can do but under employment and unemployment are still terrible problems worldwide. And that last statement, people standing and looking in your eyes... hah! Maybe if you wear glasses to hide your deformed eyes, or wear contacts or have implants. For me, most people still have trouble meeting me in the eyes (okay, so some people can't choose which eye to look at ... I make full use of my remaining peripheral vision). People still stare at people with canes or dogs, (okay in my case with their chins dropping to the ground because of the beautiful partnership we make)...
How much in the end comes down to things not directly associated with blindness or disability, the way we were brought up, the expectations we had placed on us by our parents, our schools, our friends. Who did we associate with, those with disabilities, those without? Did we choose to go into a field already heavily associated as 'jobs that blind people can do', such as telephony, piano tuning, massage therapy or by going into something less well associated, like medicine, teaching (in my country), industrial design etc?
I think it is very rare that we can look at blindness on its own and isolate it as a single factor in anything.
This provoker gave me plenty to think about and hope it does to others too.

Penny Stevenson and Guide dog Valkyrie in Australia nobe-l listserv

**10. Many years ago, I saw a movie about teenage whom round his pickup from coming back visit his girlfriend. In process of rounding the pickup he was paralyzed for rest of his life. The movie tell his story how he never ask why me. It tell of his rehab time in hospital and his graduation speech from high school. Shown his become an accountant. But with his or other problem in life people seem to look at you say, get lost I do not want to face you. Anything different the general public do not want you around. Like most cases they like you to never leave your home so they do not have to face real world. They do not want to deal with it, whether you are blind, in wheelchair, leg brace, wearing hearing aid, and etc.

Sorry guy, but general public is going to see me out. The have to face the real world out there.

I have found children to be worst. I give in college speech on subject of what you in school have to go through. Almost every students in that class was over at my desk asking what I spoke was true. I told them it was very true how children treat other children.

How do your children treat other children?

Dexter Terry Blind-X listserv

**11. the article was interesting.
Thanks for sharing.
I know I would feel out of place in a wheel chair until I could learn how to get around better.
Then I think I would fit in just fine.
thanks again.

Dmgina NFBtalk listserv

**12. Well from the Thought Provoker we know Andy is partially sighted, uses an electric wheelchair but I believe he stood at the kitchen sink to brush his teeth.

We don't know if he has finger numbness preventing him from reading Braille, spasticity, a speech impediment etc. He attended business college so he probably has a high school diploma but his V.R. counselor would not take him serious when he wanted to look for work.

I would say Andy is capable of independent mobility with the use of his electric wheelchair under certain conditions and if he is still interested in gainful employment, get his case re-opened with his state commission for the blind or whoever he deals with.

He is probably going to need to do a lot of advocacy for himself so he will want to do a fair bit of homework before he approaches the commission, like getting tested as to his aptitudes and capabilities and having a fairly good idea of the sort of work he is looking for and a clear idea of what he expects the commission to do for/to him.

He will need to be the driving force behind his job search and probably need to get what he needs from the commission in the way of funding for retraining, equipment etc by twisting arms and taking any adverse decisions promptly to a formal appeal and if need be, to court.

He will fully document all his contacts with the commission and others and religiously follow up on all calls and leads.

Andy will probably be able to land a fairly decent job if he does all of this long enough.

It is interesting that the disabled people from the rich part of town usually get pretty much what they want while folks with fewer lawyers in the family or on retainer don't get their calls returned.

Brian Ottawa Canada

**13. Had to comment on your thought provoker this week on this list.
I hope that everyone doesn't mind.

The situation you presented can work both ways.

As an example, there was a K-Mart article posted the other day, and I believe that I posted it and other list members had some comments regarding the settlement.

Basically, the settlement, as it was regarded in that article, took the hard of hearing or deaf and the wheel chair user into consideration, and pointed out the "victories" in quotes, that these disabled groups had won. Yet, blind consumers were not addressed, either because there wasn't anything that this settlement outlined for us, or that our particular side of the story was not as well represented by our organizations to which we pay allegiance. Well, some of us do.

If your subject, Andy in a power chair, is able to drive, to see and to navigate well, perhaps employers found him as uncomfortable to be around as a blind individual, with their dogs, their canes, their rolling around eyes, their weird habits, like clicking, snapping of finger sand the rocking.

Oh, but you say, blind people don't act weird? Perhaps, ones who have had vision previously might not, but there are some blind persons who've not had sight, who are not told that these habits are not normal and who do these things into their adult lives. And, for these folks, and not the super blinks, or the ones who've achieved after having gone blind, this scenario maybe altogether different.

The Erik Weyhenmeyers, the Ray Charles' and the Tom Sullivan's of the world are few and far between. But, the average Joe's and Mary's have still achieved great things. But, they may not be as handsomely rewarded because the super blink's value outshines theirs.

Andy's is a real life scenario, and as such, your presentation is very much appreciated. However, there is another side to the thought provoker question, and I believe I've spoken to that. Thanks for bringing this to my attention each week. It's truly interesting reading.

Mike&Glore Jacksonville, Florida Blind-X listserv

**14. Mike, the question is though in what way does the issue brought up by the thought provoker not deal with say the issues you mentioned such as the blind who have social habits that may put the sighted off as they send the wrong kind of message nonverbally. I do not think that is the point of the article really. I think those who have additional disabilities do indeed have some issues that the blind generally might not understand but I believe the one-philosophy fits all concept is not even fair to the blind alone.

Lisa Carmelle Blind-X listserv

**15. Hi all,
I would suggest that though this article points out the difficulties when dealing with issues for the multiple-disabled, the comment can be made that one philosophy fits all blind persons is equally inadequate to address the individual differences amongst the blind. The implication in this article from Andy's point of view is that one solution for those who are only blind works but it does not work for those with more than one disability. I would suggest that one solution fits all in the way of philosophy works no better for all blind persons either.

It is why though I do not use DVS I think it should be available for those who benefit from it or enjoy it. It is why I have traveled for decades without audible traffic signals but believe if they help some they should be available whether I use them or not. Their presence frankly is not going to hamper my traveling abilities.

I think Braille is wonderful but it does not work for everyone and frankly does not even work for me all the time so I am delighted to have more than one approach to address many of these issues. For me this article is interesting because of what it implies in terms of basic assumptions and not because of the failure to address the needs of those with several disabilities including blindness.

Lisa Carmelle Blind-X listserv

**16. I have to get into this one! I am legally blind and mobility impaired not bound to a wheelchair Its true blindness is an inconvenience [NFB] but living in a wheelchair is more than that! We fought for access. Blind persons give us a bad time for fighting to have access to washrooms transportation etc. A blind man here went to city hall to have ramps removed from sidewalks after we fought for years to have them installed I pointed out at a council meeting tactile strips would make him aware of sidewalk ramps, without the ramps we couldn't safely exit a sidewalk in wheelchairs. Some apartments are designed for the mobility impaired I live in one but they were mostly designed by none disabled persons who have no idea of the barriers we face.
Sinks are to high just try using the sink from a kitchen chair sometime or cooking on a countertop range with out burning your face. Yes doors have been widened bathrooms are larger so we can turn around in our chairs, The blindness organization I belong to have moved their head office to a building that's completely inaccessible for wheelchairs AGMS out of town meetings but will not look into access re-land transportation from the airport. Then refuse to include me via computer. You must come or get some one to carry your proxy. I don't believe in proxies It is not the same when you have multiple disabilities

Diane Dobson Victoria BC Canada

**17. I can see his frustrations because it is very difficult to consider these multiple disability issues. The vast majority of blind people that I know are blind. They do not have other things with which to deal. When you don't know people with those problems, it is impossible to discuss what you don't know. When I was in community college, I had a friend who had CP. It was almost impossible for me to consider what he had to do on a daily basis.
I am someone who has to struggle every day not to try to put people in the same boxes that I enjoy inhabiting. I can see some of my CP friends blasting off like that during a consumer group meeting.

Ben Bloomgren

**18. Interesting. Andy's concern is one that I've thought about frequently over the years, especially since I've become more attuned to the needs of others.
In my former life as a VR counselor and advocate, both of blindness issues, I met and worked with several people, who were blind and had physical disabilities. Most of the needs were similar, but some were quite different. I've also known and worked with many people, who are sighted, but use wheelchairs. Three things I've learned are: 1, attitudes frequently dictate how someone succeeds or fails, regardless of disability; 2, each individual decides on and influences his or her own success; and 3, how we react to others, has much to do with how they respond to us. By the way, the term, "wheelchair bound" is generally incorrect and rather demeaning to some wheelchair users. In Andy's case, he is certainly not "bound" to a chair.

I expect that Andy feels that his specific disability is more serious than that of others, because he is limited in some ways that others may not be.
That may be true, but everyone has varying challenges, the real issue is how do we respond or cope with them. Andy may not be able to walk, but he can see some, which helps in getting around. How is that worse than someone, who has been blind from birth and has less than adequate orientation skills?
On the other hand, Andy's concerns brings up the issue of working together to achieve access for all, instead of just looking out for ourselves. In the case of orientation and mobility, curbs are usually good for the blind traveler, but would be dangerous and a serious obstacle for a person such as Andy. Blended sidewalk/streets may be wonderful for a wheelchair user, but could be disastrous for the blind traveler. The key is to work together to obtain what is best for all.

I'm fhappy to read that Andy is participating in a support group. What other activities is she involved with. He may not be working, but he certainly can volunteer with other community activities, such as serving on advisory committees for local and regional agencies and governments. After all, his particular experiences would be invaluable, depending how is ideas are
presented and whether he is accepted.

Lastly, I'm encouraged that the group appears willing to discuss Andy's particular concerns, and hope that it will result in greater understanding of the needs and coping skills of others.
Next, if his VR counselor didn't seem to take him seriously, he was in his
right to complain, requesting a new case worker.

Doug Hall Fl USA

**19. Now THAT'S what I call a Thought Provoker! This was definitely the toughest one yet. I admit I had written a lengthy response already; but I reconsidered
it. I found it was VERY difficult to respond to it without sounding as if I'm coming down too hard on Andy.
Andy definitely needs to talk. He needs patience, because it simply isn't possible to air out everything in one meeting. At least the moderator promised
him a turn in the next meeting. He must get these issues off his chest, or he's going to explode. Even if he has to join two support groups, he must talk!
But Andy also needs to realize that he must not play the "I'm-more-disabled-than-you" card, even though it is true. There is the very real possibility of
inciting an equal reaction from the other members. One or more of them might have retorted, "Oh, yeah? At least you can still drive!" If there's a diabetic
in the group, he just might say, "Oh, yeah? How would YOU like to take shots three times a day?!" Have you ever heard the analogy about six people with
problems, sitting in a circle? They were blind, deaf, paralyzed, cancerous, diabetic and palsied, respectively. Each argued that "his" problem was worse
than "yours." So they swapped. After five minutes, each wanted his original problem back! Thus, they that compare themselves among themselves are not wise.
I'll tell you one thing they all have in common: lousy counselors! If I had a penny for every time a disabled person protested against a mean or incompetent
social worker...! One person on my own list said so just the other day! Not to mention all those Thought Provokers that touched on the subject. ("You don't
need that!") But that's what you get when a disability counselor does that as a "job." A volunteer would be much better, because that person's willingness
to GIVE time and effort would certainly accomplish a lot more!
I wish I could talk to Andy. I'm not disabled; but who says you have to be? All you need is a willing heart and an open ear. But the recipient must have
patience and humility to make it work. I recall delivering a pizza to a guy in a wheelchair. He lived in a cramped, old apartment that wasn't suitable
for wheelchair use. I offered to help him open the door. He refused, muttering expletives under his breath.
But it's all totally unnecessary. The counselor needs to be understanding, and the recipient needs to be patient.
If this sounds rambling and disjointed to you, I don't blame you. But, hey, that's why I'm subscribing to this list. I'm here to learn. And at this stage,
I cannot say with any confidence that I have an adequate answer to this dilemma. Maybe I could, if I knew Andy personally. But I'd have to do a whole lot
of listening; certainly more than can be done in one group session.

David Lafleche

**20. Well, well, well, somebody's actually written a piece about how The Other Half lives. Sorry for turning on the sarcasm, Robert, but you've pegged an issue which is close to my heart. This time you've written a piece which is true. I can actually see this happening!

No, in case anyone wants to know I'm JPB, just plain blind. I have no other disabilities except a mouth that's opinionated and a mind that might be too intelligent for its own good.

But to get back to the topic at hand. What irks me to no end are those folks who are blind that refuse categorically to see anyone's issues except their own. They're too arrogant to need audible traffic signals. Too proud to need textured sidewalks on ramps and near subway platforms. They're too blind to see that some folks actually do need Para transit services, DVS videos, any number of accommodations for physically disabled folks. All they know is their own bailiwicks and they insist that they are right and that everyone else must follow
what they believe people need. They also insist, loudly,
prophanely, and often in writing, that they speak for all the blind.
They don't! They do not speak for children, not really. They do not speak for the deaf-blind. They do not speak for those who are developmentally disabled. They do not speak for people over working age. No, they only speak for people between the ages of 20 and 60.
That's a pretty narrow group, yet they claim they speak for all the blind. I don't understand this at all. I have never understood it, ever!

The *only* way PWD are going to get accommodations that match the needs of all is if we quit being insular and look at the wider world, turn some of the compassion shown to us on those who have less than we, or who have different needs than do we!

Ann K. Parsons

**21. I'm not sure if these thoughts are relevant, in fact I'm not sure what this thought provoker is actually getting at, but a few things come to mind.

First. It's been my experience that sighted people do NOT assume that a blind person is "just blind." By the way I am treated by the world at large, I must infer that I am assumed to have many disabilities, blindness being only the most visible. A blind person is treated as deaf, retarded, physically weak/disabled, etc. I do not have, nor do I wish to have, much experience with blind people "traveling in packs," and I'm sure that those blind people in the advocacy group mentioned in your passage do feel, as I myself feel, that blindness is not much of a disability, and only a "handicap," when sighted people insist on forcing a handicap on the blind.
It would seem that Andy is not even blind, from this essay, and I think he's right--blindness is the least sever of all the disabilities.

Having said that, a little about myself: I have Usher's syndrome, which is the cause of my blindness (from birth) and is the cause of my slowly increasing hearing loss. I am moderately to severely hearing disabled as well, and I find this to be a much greater barrier or disability than blindness ever was. I can understand Andy's frustration, because it often seems that blind people are the most vocal and insistent, and I don't hear much about other disability groups--not that I spend my time looking, I admit.

I don't know what I’m getting at, but then I don't know what you're getting at either.

Mark BurningHawk BlindLaw listserv

**22. I really enjoyed this because he is right on so many issues but should hold his head high for maneuvering around so many obstacles in his life. I admire people that have persevered so many jags in their life and keep trudging forward and have weathered so many storms and still stay afloat.
I can understand his views on how some blind folks have a feeling they walk a bit above some that haven't excelled to the degree they have. Everyone has their own abilities and personalities and some people have different degrees of demons to fight but some just don't count their blessings for their accomplishments but at the same time don't ignore others that are less fortunate.

Alan Hagenstein

**23. When I was told that I was going blind in 1957, the young Air Force captain who was the doctor, pulled his chair in front of me, put both of his hands on my knees as I sat in the examination chair, and he looked me straight in the eye.

"I'm, afraid you are going blind, Sergeant Theall. You have two options.
You can curl up in the corner, feel miserable and make everyone around miserable, or you can accept the condition and get on with your life. You are young and have a long life ahead of you."

My response was to begin crying and I said to him, "Yeah, easy for you to say, Doc."

I went back to my hospital bed in the middle of the afternoon and cried myself to sleep. I awoke at about 2:00 AM in the dark, and in the quiet of that morning, I gave considerable thought to what that young doctor had said and I resolved to do just what he had said. I moved on and I have never looked back. I have never lost hope. I sought and secured employment until my retirement in 2000. I married, had five children, and will soon be a great grandfather.

I have never expected anyone else to offer me any more moral support than that given to sighted people. I have availed myself of institutional services when necessary and have led quite a full life.

The young man in the wheel chair should do the same.

James O. Theall, Longmont, Colorado

**24. The uniqueness in each person is a characteristic of being human. We are all unique in our own way.
I think what Andy was trying to communicate was his need for his impaired and non-impaired peers to understand his uniqueness, that he is the same and yet very different.
Compassion for others for where they are in their lives is a great gift and sometimes takes a lifetime to develop. Though I am not physically handicapped there are some things that happened in my life that put me into a place where it was difficult for people to understand exactly what I was moving through in my own struggles. I have absolutely no idea what it is like to be physically handicapped so I cannot pretend that I do.
My point is that sometimes where we are in life is a place where few people have been and in that place I seek understanding, compassion, respect and honor. It becomes difficult when I expect people to be able to understand what I went through when I know that unless they went through it they cannot possibly understand all the aspects of it. Sure, some of the similar aspects like the severe loneliness and the wish that somebody "could only be me for a day of the worst of my life", then maybe they would understand but even if that were possible, they still wouldn't understand because the essence of the experiences wouldn't be theirs.
I don't know, I am not sure if you understand what I am trying to say.
I am wondering if you understand what I am trying to say?
It is kind of like someone who doesn't understands tells somebody without thinking, Well, all you have to do is get over it it is no big deal. Has some one ever told you to "get over it."? That is a difficult place to be.
Thanks for responding.
I hope that we can continue this and that it will make some sense to you.
Thanks for the topic. But am I missing what Andy is trying to say? I might just understand it from the peculiarity of my situation earlier in my life.

Helen Reilly New Mexico

**25. I have an observation about this Andy character that I wish to put forward. Might this young man be one of those few handicapped persons who is immature due to his up bringing? We have all seen them; parents have a handicapped child born to them and they not knowing any better, baby the child all the years he is with them. There are several points in the story that show a glimmer of parents trying too hard to help the handicapped child, like with school. And usually these types of individuals end up not having a realistic assessment of what they can really do; usually think they deserve more than what they get and when they don’t get it, they get verbal about it, crying “discrimination.”

The wary parents who have a handicapped child might be wise to take a close look at this Andy character and think about what set of expectations they place upon their child.

Marvin Dotson

**26. "It's Not The Same", should give each of us in ACB pause for thought. What is it that brings new people to our organization? Indeed, why did each of us venture out to that first gathering of blind people?
In the story, Andy presents what I consider the number one reason. That is, we need someone to listen to us. Someone to really hear us.
And what is it that we usually do when a new person comes into our midst?
We *tell them how it is. We become so focused on making certain that they know just who we are and what we do, that we fail to stop and listen.
Before we become engrossed in telling how important and wonderful we are, we need to stop and listen. We need to let the new folks know that we want to get to know them. We want to learn what it is to be in their shoes...or wheel chairs...
All of us old timers already know just how super special and wonderful ACB is. What we don't know is who this new person is. And until we know who they are we can't really offer them anything.

Carl Jarvis ACB-L listserv

**27. I to would feel very strange and out of place in a wheel chair or if I lost my hearing. I would ask in my own way for one of those implants. I think I could in time adjust to being in a wheel chair better than If I lost my hearing. If I lost my sense of smeller taste or feel I would be lost and immediately pray and ask for a cure. Being blind is nothing compared to these other handicaps.

Karen Crowder NFBtalk listserv

**28. Please direct me to that group. Everyone in my NFB chapter seems totally together and I find it disconcerting.

Patricia H. USA

**29. People are different whether they have a disability or are so called normal.
I would be classed vanilla blind since I don't have additional problems I guess. However, I am a totally blind person and that means I don't have the benefit of any light, shadow motion or other useful vision. I do have an excellent sense of direction, good balance, very good manual dexterity and memory. All of these things make it easier for me to use alternative skills to compensate for my lacks in other areas. I am not naturally technical in my thinking so computer stuff is a grueling learning curve for me. I love music but can't play an instrument. I have good physical coordination, but no particular aptitude for any sport. I guess what I am saying is that each human being has talents and abilities and other areas where they lack them.
Finding out what you have and figuring out how to compensate for the areas where you have weaknesses is just part of figuring out how to optimize living. I once shared a room with a woman with severe cerebral palsy. She had a wonderful sense of humor, quick mind and we found many ways to help each other. She used her vision to help us navigate, her humor to amuse and entertain and I could reach for things, carry, lift and push buttons out of her reach. We were only roommates for a long weekend, but both enjoyed the experience I think. It does seem unfair sometimes that some folks have more than their fair share of physical problems to overcome, but no one ever said life would be fair and it isn't what we lack that matters as much as what we do with what we have that counts in how our lives play out.

DeAnna Quietwater Noriega

**30. I don't want to make it sound too simplistic, but sometimes it seems as if a person is handicapped only by how they perceive their handicap or allow others to perceive their handicap. I spoke with a young woman who had lost vision in one eye due to an accident, she was slowly losing vision in the other eye due to a different issue, she lost both her parents (one to a health issue and one to an accident at different times). Yet she did not see herself as having problems. No matter what the disability is, it is sometimes how the person handles it (or has been taught to work with it).
She said there are so many people with problems that she would like to work with after graduation. She considered herself very lucky to be where she was in her life. She was bright and won a scholarship based on attitude and overcoming obstacles. She didn't feel she should really have won this because she felt there were so many others who were so much more in need than she. I also corresponded with another woman. She had such a positive attitude and felt that if you approached others with an independent and
positive attitude than that is how they would treat you. I acknowledge that some don't allow us to get beyond the outward physical
appearances; then that is their loss. I also have an acquaintance with an "invisible" disability. Looking at her, you would not know that she is unable to hold a job, has never worked (maybe briefly in a "sheltered" situation, but couldn't maintain that), and has no social life. She lives a solitary life, protected by her family. Now at age 58, her parents are gone and she lives with one of two remaining relatives.

Deborah Eades

**29. OK Robert now you asked for it! No it is not the same about 20 years ago I had a series of strokes that put me in a wheelchair I was lucky I should have died then instead I got on my computer and began advocating for the disabled, was accepted in a program to get an assist dog, I accepted the fact I was disabled life was different but good. Then I became a diabetic That caused my optic nerve to break! The doctor said you are legally blind! I thought what's that mean? Well it meant my name was dropped from the assist dog list! I was told to get a guide dog I wanted a dog but cnib said no It meant I no longer could count on the paraplegic association for help or advice. In Canada the National Institute for the blind rules. They are not my kind of organization In fact I hate their poor little blindies attitude. nib is known as Mother cnib! who does everything for the blind encouraging dependence on cnib! I learned being legally blind is no more than annoying in my case my biggest problem is cnib who influence peoples attitude from concern to pity! I don't need or want anything to do with cnib. I learned my way from a nfb list. People are always telling me cnib will solve any problems I may encounter boy is the public brainwashed by that charity! It makes me sick! I am a very independent old lady! Who knows paraplegia is a disability, being Visually impaired is damn annoying when I can't vote independently in private or read any book I want that's annoying. Having to sit in a wheelchair 20 hours a day is a disability that blind persons can't possibly understand. There seems to be a on going conflict between the mobility impaired and the blind. I am both. the Canadian government has decided blindness rules. I disagree!

Diane Dobson Canada

**31. Past generations of Americans have been guilty of excess in judging other people (this generation as well). The Inquisition and the Salem witch trials are glaring examples, but other examples abound throughout history. Today we
live in an age of greater understanding and acceptance, which is certainly
preferable - unless it degenerates into careless acceptance of things which
are clearly wrong - in which case the pendulum swings too far the other way.
We are to be tolerant of debatable things, as in Andy's case.

Orientation is understanding where you are, where you wish to go, and how to get there. Good orientation is built upon a student's understanding of
his/her body in relation to the environment. Mobility is the physical
ability to move safely, independently, and efficiently. Learning and using good orientation and mobility will have lifelong
implications for a student's ability to participate in social, recreational,
educational, and employment opportunities. It is possible that Andy did not have proper O&M training. Also, his
counselor may not have been the best.

I am visually handicapped and have been all my life, using brail only. I
also have a eighty-five percent hearing loss and use a wheelchair and
walker. Nonetheless, my life has been exciting and rewarding. When I was in
my twenties, I enjoyed water skiing, fishing, hiking in mountains, canoeing,
and hunting with my brother. But I can no longer do these things now that I
am fifty-four. I know what it is like to live both worlds. So please do not
tell me the old story, "I did it." Because you had lots of outside help.

Conclusion: If you, a loved one, a client, or patient is visually impaired,
Travel Vision can help. There is a wide range of services available for you.
O&M instructors can help in a variety of ways. Counseling is also available
for those that need help accepting their disability. Friends and loved ones
may also need help understanding and accepting the visual impairment. With
the help of an O&M instructor, a person can learn to live a happy and
productive life.

Gerald Blundell in TX

**32. I think the thing that I take away from this provoker is that it’s not the same and it’s not just that blind people are different than other
disabled people. Blind people are in and of themselves different from each other, with our own unique skills and/or lacks. But this is the same as it
is for others who don’t have any obvious disabilities. And the differences between blind people are often based in how each one of us views blindness.
I tend to view my blindness, for instance, as a part of me; it’s just as natural for me to be blind as it is for someone else to have blue eyes. My wife
tends to view things a little differently, and lately I’ve discovered that she sometimes, if not often, wishes she could see due to the fact that the public
still has relatively negative views about blindness.

So too, a person born blind will probably have different feelings about their blindness than someone who has lost their sight in a car or hunting
accident. Of course, this is not to say that those who are blind as a result of a car accident won’t come to accept their blindness just as easily as a
blind person born since birth, and there are some people who have been born blind who will regard their lack of sight as more of a disability than a nuisance.
I think, though, that whether you view your blindness in at least neutral terms or whether you view it as a curse is largely dependent on your support
system. If you have a good support system, you’re far more likely to just go on with life with the usual scrapes and scabs as the rest of the populace.
But if your support system views your blindness as an abject tragedy or badge of disgrace, you’re all the more likely to have troubles within yourself
about accepting blindness as a natural part of life. Other than that, nothing really profound on the subject from this end.

John D. Coveleski Minneapolis, MN

**33. From the thought-provoker, it seems like Andy's experience has been more negative than for many of the well-adjusted blind people we know. Although I don't have a multiple handicap, I have been coming into contact with people who are in wheelchairs and imagine that their life must be quite different and more frustrating than what we have. It's like they have two strikes against them. Even if a person in a wheelchair isn't blind, he has more difficulty because he can't do the things that we so easily take for granted. I guess it must be frustrating.


It would be good if he could perhaps get some one-on-one counseling or meet with blind people who could help him in a more individual way. It might not be the total answer because he will have to motivate himself to do things like find work and private housing. But it can be done.

Mary Jo Partyka New Jersey

**33. Resp. 5 talked about how Andy seemed to be whining in the group about his issues of mobility not being addressed. Resp. 5 also talked about how there
are various subgroups within the nFB and ACB. Then, the respondent talked about the one blind person at the chapter meeting who angrily broke into the
discussion, accusing the group of not addressing their other disability (disabilities). My question, then is; How can one say, "speak up and address
your issues" if the person at the chapter meeting did? Sure, the approach may have sounded accusatory, but that person may have already been having a
bad day. That person may have also gone through this time and time again and was at their wit's end.
To me, Andy wasn't whining. I believe that he was trying to get a point across in the best way he knew how, and that method was either the only way
he could come up with or the first method he could think of within a short amount of time. It is also possible that he never knew that there were subgroups
for blind people with other disabilities. How would he know to ask about such groups unless someone mentions it? If nobody mentions it, then it's "out
of sight, out of mind'. So, to Andy, for all practical purposes, such subgroups don't exist. Thus, his frustration and anger.

As for whether or not the discussion about Andy's issues with mobility continued at the next meeting, I would like to believe that it did. I would
also like to believe that he was informed about the groups for blind and multipli-disabled people after that first meeting or at the next meeting.