The Blind Kite runner Of Turkey


The Blind Kite runner Of Turkey

     Prolog: "With my cane and my brain I can go anywhere." The instructor said. He was blind, an American, one of 9 professionals in blindness who had been invited to put on a training workshop for blindness professionals in Turkey. This workshop's approach to teaching the blind--structured discovery learning -- was new for Turkey.

     "In this class we will first teach you the technique for the use of this long white cane. Next we will put you into structured learning situations where you will discover what you face and learn how to manage yourself and travel independently. The result will be that you will become confident in your skills and be able to go anywhere. This is our expectation. And what will make this experience most effective for you, is that later when you provide instruction in the use of the long white cane, you will have the same high expectation of your own students."

     Today I will begin with a story, a true story.

     I am a teacher of the blind; I work in a government school in Turkey. My favorite skill to teach is the use of the long white cane. It brings more confidence and independence to a blind person than any other skill. I have a story to tell, an amazing tale of personal triumph of one small blind boy.

     Baris was a ten-year-old boy at one of the government schools for the blind. He lost his sight at an early age from an infection. His family out of love and low expectations pampered and sheltered him. Like many of the younger blind, he did not have many friends, seldom played outside, had very little physical activity, and was overweight and out of shape.

     When I began working with Baris, getting him to accept the cane was not difficult, as long as it was indoors and slow moving. Getting him outdoors with the cane was at first impossible. I even put on my blindfolds from the training workshop and showed him how to walk fast and to run.

     To gain further trust and interest in going out with the cane, I introduced the craft project that the workshop instructors used on us teachers back when we were the students. It was building a kite from raw materials from a design he'd gotten off the Internet. It was then I learned of Baris's dream. Every year his village celebrates the coming of Spring by holding a kite festival. Baris had never participated; first being taken there in the arms of his father, later lead by the hand, always being on the sidelines. He would be told of the boys and men running and hear the paper-bodies vibrating as the kites were launched into the sky. He could only imagine the beautiful ever-changing patterns of soaring, diving, criss-crossings of the myriad of paper gifts to God as they swirled in the blue of the Spring sky. His training with the cane went well after that, until Baris left us mid winter.

     We missed Baris, wondering how he was making out. Then in early Spring we received a letter from his parents. It was a thank you and the following picture.

Newspaper photograph--Description: In a large field, people are massed on two sides of a wide clear lane, cheering wildly as down the lane one small, lone figure is running, long white cane extended out in front, left arm back, pulling a soaring bright red kite. Photo caption: "The Blind Kite Runner of Turkey."


e-mail responses to

**1. This Thought Provoker illustrates the rewards of high expectations and also raises questions about how to make those expectations reality with professionals in blindness.

Unfortunately, far to many professionals in work with the blind choose their profession out of a desire to help those they believe to be dependent and incapable of normal lives. They see themselves as care-takers. They see themselves as fulfilling the needs of their students. As care-givers.

Unfortunately, until a professional begins to examine his or her own motives little progress can be made. There is a tendency for us to all use the same words but to not understand their meaning at the same levels. We all say, "I want to help blind people be independent." "I want my students to live normal lives." "I think blind people are capable and normal."

The difficulty with saying these things is that we mean such different things. One person means that, within limits, a blind person can be normal. Perhaps not be able to raise children but be normal in other ways--maybe have a job in a workshop. Another professional means that blind people can be independent--but not cross streets because it's to dangerous in our town. Another person says, "Blind people can travel, but, not very quickly and only in familiar areas." And, another professional says, "I believe blind people can be normal, but, you have to be realistic, they aren't going to be able to read Braille very quickly."

So, the challenge for each of us is to study our own attitudes and ask ourselves hard questions about whether we truly believe in blind people. This professional challenge is at the center of our success. It will define outcomes for our students and we are defining outcomes for the next generation of people who are blind.

Michael Bullis Executive Director MD TAP, Maryland Department of Disabilities

**2. There are many keys to open the door to the whole wide world of independent living. The trick is finding the one that speaks to the individual student. My grandfather owned a black and white pinto pony that he let me ride as a child. Racing across the pasture with the wind in my hair meant total freedom to that long ago little girl whose world was growing daily more murky. When I finally lost all vision at age eight, grandfather sold him. I could only regain any sense of freedom by pumping my swing as high as I could go. My mother taught me to roller-skate and to swim and although these activities were fun, they weren't the same. I regained my ability to race the wind when I was matched with a fifteen month old German Shepherd Labrador cross in the summer between high school and college. Like dancers, we moved in perfect synchronization. Changing direction in mid step, dashing across campus, weaving expertly through other students with no concern over low hanging branches, uneven pavement or the unexpected blockade of our path. Tammy only needed to glance up and back at me for me to know she was asking whether I wanted to turn into the library, field house or science building. The whack of her tail told me she saw a friend of ours, a slowing pace meant pay attention, here is a curb, step, this is going to be tight to get through here. Some blind people find their way back into the world through sailing, rowing, goal ball, tandem cycling, downhill or cross country skiing. Whether books music, or computers is the key depends on the individual. It isn't so much the entry point in to the greater world that matters as it is that we find it. Go forthlike

a medieval yeoman with your quarterstaff in hand or like a knight with his warhorse, but go forth.

DeAnna Quietwater Noriega MO

**3. This story reminded me of a man I met at a camp for people who are blind in N. CA last summer.
This man, about 50 years old, was never allowed to be independent and lived with his mother until she died last year. He is areal nice guy, very intelligent to talk with, can write and play music, but can't take care of himself. When his mother died, his family had to get him connected with a full time car giver.

So this is a nice story about a boy who can perhaps walk about and fly a kite, but will he be allowed to learn to be independent at home? Will he be aloud to go to school independently? Will he be allowed to cook and clean house? Will he be allowed to learn how to get about in his town and elsewhere by himself? Or is his family so enchanted with his being blind and able to make a kite and fly it that is all they will allow?

Patricia LaFrance-Wolf

**4. Many blind people are sheltered, confined within the home by their parents, the schools, their walls which they put up around them and by their surroundings and friends.

Many blind people are not also shown that there is a world beyond their walls, which, if they are allowed, is a great world, with sights, smells, sounds and tastes.

To explore that world, you may have to use forbidden techniques to enter it., You may have to disobey the rules of blind etiquette by doing what is told to you not to do, by getting hurt and running, by tasting the things that other kids, other people, others who have more ambitious nature do without question.

I learned to ride a bicycle at age 12. Late bloomer, I know, but my grandparents were like this Turkish father and family, who sheltered me and told me that I didn't dare do that which the other neighborhood kids tended to do. I played cards with Tommy Albert, dominos with another neighbor kid and gave out Valentine's cards to girls in my school, but didn't feel a sense of kinship, a sense of belonging.

I learned to ride that bike and fly.

I learned to work on cars and found a sense of self-worth.

I learned that I could cry happy tears at finding a sense of achievement and a goal that I could attain.

But, when I really felt the sense of achievement was when I got my Seeing Eye dog and, this, in effect, was my kite, something I could use to enter a world free of barriers, through whose eyes, as I held her harness handle, I would enter doors that were at one time closed to me.

A sense of forbidden world was not locked before me with the door barred closed with iron bars and locks.

The newspaper article and picture of the little boy might symbolize to those of us blind people who have felt this freedom that this was the key to his entrée into the world of his dreams. Many blind do not realize their dreams because they are stifled or stunted in their growth by their own limitations or those imposed upon them by others who are blinder than the people whom they are trying to protect.

Thanks for your most gracious efforts and I so enjoy this ability to write and contribute, and as I've read many of the other contributions, I feel they have as well.

Michael Townsend Arlington, Virginia.

**5. The kite in this story is a splendid allegory for the realized hopes and dreams of those who dare to try.

George Cassell

**6. As for the Thought Provoker, I can appreciate the optimism expressed in this story, and know that such a radical change can happen to some blind people. However, it's my experience that blind children who have been custodialized seldom turn out to be independent, forward-thinking blind adults. Most people who have been taught 'you can't', or 'you shouldn't' or, 'let me do that for you' grow to believe these false statements. They become engrained in them so deeply they can never fully be erased. Perhaps the 80/20 rule applies here, meaning that of those custodialized blind kids, 20% might overcome the misconceptions they were raised with. The key, although I haven't figured out how best to do this, is to change the paradigms of the parents. If they believe in the abilities of blind people, it will naturally trickle down to their children.

Chris Kuell Danbury, CT

**7. hmmm sounds like a great story but with my experiences, sounds like just that, a story.

At the age of 30, I am still complex on recognizing where I am and how to get around places I have never been with my cane. Granted I have never gone anywhere myself without pre-training.

I recall one day in my college days, where with a Mobility instructor, I had memorized 3 campuses over two different summers. However, one day walking back from dinner, as I had done on occasion myself if my friends had to go other ways, I got lost, scared and had no idea where I was.

I was just walking down a walkway, trailing the grass line on my right, waiting for the walkway to slope down, letting me know that I was at the one way street that just on the other side leads to my dorm. I felt that it had been a little longer than normal and that I felt I had walked a little further than normal. I did not feel a slope yet, so I just figured I was a bit tired after a day of classes and kept walking. When I felt the shade of a tree, I got scared. I knew there was no trees anywhere near the walkway or the dorm.

I started to head back the way I had come. Being nervous , and basically in the "flight-fight response" mode, I walked extra careful, being aware of all my senses. I had walked a bit and heard cars on a busy street, and this further confused me and made me even more scared. I had no idea where I was.

This is a busy college with day and evening classes, undergrad and grad students, so I don’t know why I did not hear anyone. Why no one said "hey, you need help?" or anything like that.

I once again felt that I had walked too far so once again, I turned back around and walked away from the traffic sounds. One of the RA's of my building spotted me and told me to stop. I stopped and turned to where the voice was coming from. I am sure I was the happiest person in the world for that moment. Somehow, I had crossed the street already, and there was a road parallel to the front of the dorm that I had walked down and at the end of that street was where there was a main street.

It has been my experience, that people see you coming and they get out of your way. So it seems that no one is around. To ask for help when no one is around is just like if a tree falls and no one is around, does it make a sound?

My hat's off for the blind folks who can somehow just get on a train-bus and get off in untraveled territories.

Jonathan Alpert NFB Human Services Mailing List

**8. Hi Jonathan:

It is the most natural thing to get disoriented/lost from time to time.
The light dependent do it frequently as well as the blind; however, they
use clues to re-orient themselves. The intent of the structured
discovery model is to teach blind folks to do the same re-orientation
as we move about; at least that is my best take on it. With it you
should not need to learn routes, but would have the freedom to fly
your kite and still be able to find your way home, or to the ice cream
shop or the kite shop.

Hopefully you will have the chance to learn this technique closer to
home than Turkey!

We all have lots to learn and challenges. It took courage for Erik W
to climb all those tall peaks as a blind person, so at times, I borrow
some of his courage and cross the strange intersection and travel the
trails of NYC's Central Park sometimes just to challenge myself.

JD Townsend, LCSW Daytona Beach, Florida, NFB Human Services Mailing List

**9. This is a wonderful story. Baris really learned about the independence his cane could give him. He was finally able to do what he could only imagine, when he went with his father to see the other kite runners. I'm sure this was the first step to much more progress, both for Baris and his parents.

Cindy Handel Willow Street, Pa.

**10. Baris presents a good example of what motivation can do. A properly motivated individual can attain almost any goal.


**11. Considering the circumstances, this was a good step up. It reminds me of a movie I saw on TV years ago, titled, "To Race the Wind." It is the true story of Harold Krents, a blind college student who got into running.
Both stories are considered great triumphs in societies where the blind are given low expectations.
But, what if you approach everyone with higher expectations? Regardless of whether a person is blind or not, what if you expected a little more than the norm? For example, expect a seventh grader to have a high school reading level. If somebody walks a mile, go two with him. And whatever the so-called conventional wisdom expects of a blind person, tell him to never mind that, and expect a little bit more.

David Lafleche Rode Island

**12. **cool story. Is it true?

Sarah L. Gales AdLib Center for Independent Living, Advocate/Peer Counselor

...From Me: I wrote her back and said no. But that I bet this senario has played out more times then we could count.

**13. Hi Jonathan:

It is the most natural thing to get disoriented/lost from time to time.
light dependent do it frequently as well as the blind; however, they
use clues to re-orient themselves. The intent of the structured
discovery model is to teach blind folks to do the same re-orientation
as we move about; at least that is my best take on it. With it you
should not need to learn routes, but would have the freedom to fly
your kite and still be able to find your way home, or to the ice cream
shop or the kite shop.

Hopefully you will have the chance to learn this technique closer to
home than Turkey!

We all have lots to learn and challenges. It took courage for Erik W
to climb all those tall peaks as a blind person, so at times, I borrow
some of his courage and cross the strange intersection and travel the
trails of NYC's Central Park sometimes just to challenge myself.

JD Townsend, LCSW Daytona Beach, Florida, Earth, Sol System Helping the light dependent

**14. I really liked the response to this thought provoker about having higher expectations for everyone, not only the blind. If we don't, how are we going to move forward? As for the thought provoker directly, it reminds me of the time I decided I wasn't going to be amazing just "for a blind kid." I don't remember what triggered it but I remember all the sighted people around me doing a lot more things a lot faster and easier but still being told I was completely amazing on a daily basis. I recognized a discontinuity there and after some probing learned from my mom that I was doing things slower and missing out on some other things altogether. I had to forbid those words "for a blind person." So after that I have always done everything and went anywhere and forbid myself to be scared of walking fast or going without a sighted guide in that big mysterious abyss we call the world. I started out running into a lot of poles and listening a lot harder trying to keep up with my sighted friends. I stopped asking for help in the lunchroom I (and my mobility teacher) thought was impossible and confusing and getting lost countless times. but I came to realize that I was not going to die from a bump on the forehead or a missed dinner due to an unexpected trip to the opposite end of the neighborhood. But I learned every inch of my neighborhood and have since gone to college, traveled to Asia and Europe found work and been all over our own country.

I really believe that you can't learn without making mistakes and maybe the more mistakes you make the more you learn. This happened long before I found out about the NFB but when I applied for a scholarship in 1999 I didn't get it but I ended up with a lot more. I found a whole lot of other blind people that shared my attitude about expectations. I love Nike's slogan "Just Do It" and I would really rather "Do It" and suffer a failure than just sit at home and wait around for sighted people.

Mike Sivill Corvallis, OR

**15. I have taken a long time to respond to this thought provoker because it did indeed stir up my thoughts.

I have Retinitis Pigmentosa. My vision loss fully manifested when I was in my mid forties. I am now in my mid fifties. My vision in my right eye is hazy, wavy, and virtually useless. My vision in my left eye is nearly 20/20 but with less than 10 degrees of periphery.

I consider myself very fortunate to have any vision at all. Using the residual vision I have, I can read, write, cook, and do housekeeping. I paint, craft and I am learning to play a musical instrument. I am a whiz on the computer. The one thing I cannot do, and fear the most, has to do with mobility. I rarely go out. When I do venture out, it is with someone who will guide me while I use my cane. For the past decade or so, I have become a virtual recluse. I have

Before I continue with my experiences, let me add that I enjoyed reading The Blind Kite Runner of Turkey. Having read Khalid Hosseini's, The Kite Runner, I can certainly appreciate Baris's desire to participate in his country's cultural pastime of kite running. Like the protagonist of The Kite Runner, both boys' journey is one of discovery and personal growth.

I did note, however, that the Baris photo caption reads, "ONE, LONE, figure running...” Where were all of the other people? Did they clear away so that Baris had an unimpeded path to run? Did they do that in consideration for the blind boy? In my experiences, real life is not like that. Sometimes people move and sometimes they do not.

Because I have some vision, and in many cases when I am not moving, I appear to be normal sighted, my cane becomes invalid in the eyes of those who see me with it. I am merely a person holding a long, white cane. Many people cannot conceive of a semi-sighted person using this device. A cane is for the totally blind, right? Most times, I have to explain my visual impairment to cashiers, waiters, bank tellers, etc. If I do not, they stand beside me and wait until I acknowledge them. They will not hand me change, or tell me where they placed my packages. They do not direct me to the credit/debit card machine. They will place my credit/debit card down on the counter where I cannot see it. When I am next on a line, I often cannot tell it is my turn.

Perhaps it is because I can look directly at a person, that my cane becomes incongruous to them. I have been told repeatedly that “I don't look blind." I grow weary of going out. I know what I will encounter. I have had people reach out directly in front of me to take an item from a shelf I was scanning. They scare the wits out of me because I was unaware of them. Often these people invade my personal space and LEAN on me as if I were not there. Now that is creepy.

I have ventured out into my own neighborhood with my cane. A car that turned right as I crossed a street nearly hit me. This also happened to me while I was with my OM instructor. The both of us crossed a busy intersection. A driver, taking a left turn, came close to hitting us both. Needless to say, I am frightened of being on my own with or without the cane.

Despite this long story, I have thought hard about limiting my life because of fear. I have already given up 10 years. Fear has kept me from an independent, productive life. Baris's story has inspired me to contact my O-M instructor once again. If it is true that with a cane and a brain I can go anywhere, I will try again, though I remain dubious.

Virginia Sblendorio, Barnegat, NJ

**16. I personally thought that this thought provoker just proves that with some help and support dreams can come true. This little boy set his "sights" on flying a kite, blind or not. And he got there with the support, understanding, and willingness to help and train of another human being. I just think it symbolizes how the NFB reaches out to blind individuals who don't know what it's like to live on an equal level with our sighted companions, and lift them out of the "darkness." I enjoyed it.


**17. A brief moment in time. A small boy, kite string in hand, long white cane swinging ahead. A story of some interest to most readers. A pause during which they nod and smile, then go on with their day. But for young blind children all over Turkey, this is a mighty event. For many it will be a beginning point. A realization that their lives can be different.
Such small acts can bring huge returns.

Carl Jarvis ACB-L listserv

**18. The key, although I haven't figured out how best to do this, is to change the paradigms of the parents. If they believe in the abilities of blind people, it will naturally trickle down to their children.

Easy answer for Chris Kuell: Send the parents to an NFB convention. It works!

Lori Stayer Merrick, New Yourk