Equal Opportunity, Equal Responsibility


Equal Opportunity, Equal Responsibility

      "I know he'd let you out of some of this if you just asked." Said the librarian. She was assisting me to find the materials I needed to complete a couple of projects for my History of Economics class. I was working days,
full-time, plus, on a part-time evenings and night schedule, taking some
classes to update myself so I can advance in my career.

     Later, knowing I'd just make the last bus, I rushed up to where I could hear
a crowd of people waiting at the bus stop. "Here!" A woman called to
me. I knew she must be sitting at the very end of the bench. "Take my
seat!" She said in an insistive voice. I kept moving, igknowledging her offer with a small grin and negative shake of the head.

     When the bus arrived I stayed back, waiting my turn at the door. Up in the
bus, inserting my coins into the fare-box, the driver says, "Hey Bud. You
know you could get one of those picture IDs and pay half fare?" I nodded,
moving on back to the half-way point, I found an empty aisle chair with
my cane.

     Seated for the long ride home, I thought over my life, my dreams, my
expectations for myself. I examined the choices I had made along the way, where they had taken me, what they had given me.

e-mail responses to newmanrl@cox.net

**1. "What conditions must be met in order to achieve equal opportunity?” Personal responsibility should trump Social Engineering every time this subject is discussed. Too often people substitute equality of outcome for
equality of opportunity.”

Dave Mitchell (Tempe, Arizona USA)

**2. "Allow me to answer it like this- "Hey brother." The black student slipped in beside the blind student. "Saw Yaa in the library. Saw Yaa at the stop. Saw Yaa climb aboard. Saw those people trying to do for you, suggesting things. But you held yourself proud, didn't accept what you didn't need and did it in a respectful way. I guess I'm telling you all this cause I think you be like me. Do'n like how my granddaddy taught us, 'You get as good as you give.'”

Jessy Williams (Michigan USA)

FROM ME: "Responsibility mentioned once and implied by behavior once.
With responsibility coming up twice so far, let's track this thread through all incoming responses.
Second, if this fits; What should the blind or visually impaired population/person be doing that they presently aren't?"

**3. “This subject of "equal opportunity" strikes a responsive cord in my very
core. So often we hear this issue of "equal opportunity" harped on but
without giving consideration to what it requires. I'm pleased to see this
angle of it addressed.

When our noble forefathers and even biblical writers, made the statement
that all men are created equal, it wasn't meant to be taken to mean that
everyone is capable of doing anything that he may want to do. This
reference to being created equal has to do with human worth and dignity. We
are all in equal standing in this category. Some of us may find it
difficult to reach out and demand it of others at times, but nevertheless,
this does not mean that we do not deserve it.
When getting down to "equal opportunity" however, this is an entirely
different ball game.

Along with equal opportunity comes equal responsibility. Blindness is no
reason for copping out and saying that certain requirements should be
deferred because of our blindness. Granted, certain modifications may need
to be instituted, but these modifications should be with the aim of meeting
and upholding the same requirements as do our sighted counterparts. With
every opportunity come specific requirements and abilities. If we, blind or
sighted, can not meet the criteria for a specific opportunity, then we
should strive to equip ourselves with the needed skills for it, or look for
another opportunity.

I have learned that for some of us "out-of-sight" individuals the hardest
thing that we have had to learn is when to say, "I can't do this, but I can
do something else."

The incapability to perform a specific task does not make us a failure.
Failure is constituted by failing to try instead of being unsuccessful.
When we do not succeed at one thing we must be determined to try harder to
do something else. In this manner we can keep on until we find our area of
expertise and finally find our niche in life. This is when we make our
Opportunity become equal.”

Freda Trusty (Dallas, Texas USA)

**4. “As an old New York subway and bus strap-hanger and
pole-clutcher, I remember days when I'd rush from
work exhausted and would willingly have traded my
eyeteeth for a seat. If I'd actually been offered a
seat, I'd have been ecstatic!

But on days when I had to use a cane for arthritis, I
refused all seat offers. Did I have to show the
world that I may be (temporarily) disabled, but not
in need of help? I know I was cutting my nose to
spite my face, because a seat would have relieved a
lot of pain in my ankles and knees on those bad days.
What was I trying to prove by refusing a seat, that I
was tough? That I didn't want to be the object of
pity? I lived in a city of 8 million people. It
wasn't likely I'd see any of those people again, so
why did I have to act like I could do anything they
could do. . . especially when I knew I couldn't.”

Carolyn (Clearwater, Florida (USA)

FROM ME: “She writes- ‘why did I have to act like I could do anything they
could do.’ How about this strategy? Positive or negative? Helpful to bring about equal opportunity or not?”

**5. “This story recounts a number of separate events. Although they all
occurred in reasonably quick succession, and although they all happened to
the same person, they are different enough from one another that I believe
each must be assessed on its own merit.

It is not clear why the librarian was suggesting that the student request
special treatment from his professor, i.e. it may have been because he is
blind, because she was aware of his over-committed life, or because she
wanted to get out of offering him the assistance he needed. In the end,
however, it doesn't matter. A passing grade on an assignment is a
declaration to the world that the student is adequately capable of dealing
with the subject matter at hand. Any form of special treatment would more
than likely result in an artificially high mark which, in turn, would, at
best, be a lie regarding the student's abilities, and, at worst, falsely
qualify him for a job.

The woman who offered him her seat at the bus stop meant well. He was
right, however, in wanting her to keep her seat. Without being able to see
her, after all, for all he knew, she may have been carrying a lot of
groceries, been pregnant, or had any number of other good reasons which
would have made it better for her to remain seated. He was quite rude,
however, for not stopping to politely and verbally thank her for her
kindness, and to explain that he would really prefer that she would keep
her seat, and that he felt so full of energy that he'd rather stand
anyway. If, on the other hand, he really was exhausted and would have
rather sat down, and if he only wanted to stay standing in order to assert
his independence as a blind person, then he was being an arrogant
hypocrite, and willing to trample on the feelings of others in order to
prove it.

Waiting his turn to board the bus was the right thing to do. Blindness is
no excuse to demand better treatment.

I'm not sure what the bus driver was offering him. Was it a half-price
pass which the bus company offers to everyone in order to encourage less
use of money when boarding (our local bus company does do that sort of
thing in order to reduce its money counting costs), or was it a special
reduced fare pass for blind passengers? If it was the former, then the
student was a fool to reject it. If it was the latter, then, whether or
not he intended to follow through and get it, he treated the driver rather
poorly. The driver didn't have to tell him about that method whereby he
could save a bit of money. All he needed to do, and should have done, was
politely thank the driver for that very useful information.

This does raise the question, however, of whether or not an independent
blind person should take advantage of special offers for blind people,
e.g. reduced bus fare. I think that they should, but that they must always
do so with the right attitude. Our local bus company offers free bus
transportation to blind people, recognizing that many need to travel with
an attendant and, rather than make each attendant go through some special
procedure each time she is helping a blind person, it simplifies the whole
matter by allowing blind people to travel for free. All I have to do is,
once a year, go and pick up a pass. I also have no qualms at all about
claiming a few thousand dollars of income tax deduction each year which is
available to each blind person in my country because our government
recognizes that a blind person often has additional living expenses, e.g.
the purchase of special equipment (like the Braille display which is
connected to my computer).

Any person, blind or otherwise, must never greedily go after whatever
special benefits he may be entitled to. He should graciously accept them
in the spirit with which they're offered, and, should they exceed his
needs, be prompt to generously pass them along whenever he encounters
others who have needs which he is able to meet. If everyone had this
attitude, then those who offer benefits would never worry about whether or
not they were giving out too much as they'd know that the selflessness of
the recipients would, in and of itself, be the process which would
properly redistribute the wealth so that it achieved the maximum possible
benefit to all.

Some final thoughts: Blind people should never put their need to assert
their independence ahead of the feelings of others. Sometimes it is
necessary and right to humbly accept an unneeded, and even unwanted, offer
of assistance, even if that offer is counter-productive (like being led
the wrong way across an intersection), simply because it is more wrong to
offend the one offering the assistance. One must never put personal goals
ahead of the feelings of other people. Those who do may well eventually
get their just reward when, in an unexpected moment of true need, others
assume that assistance wouldn't be appreciated and probably isn't actually
needed anyway. Even if you never need assistance from anyone else
throughout your entire life, how would such arrogant insensitivity on your
part help other blind people who are less independent and do need to rely
on the benevolence of others?”

Dave Mielke (856 Grenon Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Web:http://dave.mielke.cc/ )

FROM ME: “Sometime soon we will have a PROVOKER
On the subject of special price reduction and/or services for the blind; good or bad.”

**6. “Well, this seems to be an easy Thought Provoker for me, and I know not all
will agree. I tend to look at life a lot more simpler than most. Many
times people try and complicate simple issues and therefore keep themselves
busy with the unimportant. This robs us of our time here on this earth. We
let people steal our time....or we give it away! This topic (to me) is not
about being EQUAL...but being kind and helpful!

So here is my simple answer to this topic:

So what if someone is polite and offers you a seat. So what if the driver
informs you of a benefit you may have not known was available. It sounds
to me like folks are just being nice. We would be the first to complain if
they did something really wrong...

Get a life, love not hate, build up, not tear down. People need to be
needed and if I fulfill that in such a small way as to accept a kind
gesture...then I'm for it! I, in turn will do a kind deed for the next

Joyce Cass Pratt(USA)

FROM ME: “How do we get that balance between ‘the being nice’ and ‘the being forthright? If desired, how do we nicely hold off those who wish to not allow us to take charge?”

**7. “This Thought Provoker got my attention. I
Have been blind for 6 years I've had to really decide on what to do with my
life in somewhat of a short period. After attending blind rehab in 3
different states, I thought I could accomplish almost anything. Almost 3yrs
of rehab and 2yrs of college I realized that I jumped into more than I could
chew. As much as I thought I was prepared I wasn't. I've learned a lot since
I enrolled in college. Get ready for the worst, in most classes I was the
stereotypical disabled student. Some very fine classmates and then some
rather rude ones. I want to obtain my Bachelors Degree, and some little set
backs are not going to stop me. I do look back at what my dreams are and what
expectations I have, some of the choices I've taken have set me back a
little. But I have a lot of faith in God to help me make it through all of
the obstacles. What I'm trying to say is to really stop and think hard about
what you want to do at that one point in your life. Live everyday of your
life, day by day. Some of us are more fortunate than others.”

Mark Patlan (Omaha, Nebraska USA)

**8. “After reading this short short, the word that popped into my mind first was DIGNITY. Self reliance and making a way in the world like everybody else.
Equal to the task of the sighted folks and possessed of a work ethic my Grandmother would smile at. Whenever I was dating, she would wonder if he was
a "hard worker" a "nose to the grindstone" person who could also allow themselves to have some fun.
I'm picturing this fellow asking his girl out to dinner and surprising her with the new dance steps he learned because he knows how much she loves to dance.
This scenario creates the type of success that anyone can achieve if willing. Also he wasn't being rude by taking the special favors or cuts in line.
He was asserting his oneness with the rest of the world. I would bet he would give up his seat for a very pregnant woman or an elderly person. I get
the feeling we are dealing with a real stand up human being here!

Suzanne Lange (California USA)

FROM ME: “Dignity, self reliant, standup type of guy… If each and every blind/visually impaired person were to exhibit this type of behavior to the best of their ability, what do you think the result would be?”

**9. “I find this man in this short story to be courageous. His
principles are to be admired. He wants to be treated as an equal despite
his visual impairment. I have known such a person.”

C. Ross (Winnipeg,

FROM ME: “’Principles!’ Break down the plural part of this one; to make the whole of ‘principles,’ there must be several actions going on, what are they."

**10. “Just my thought on this and that is what are we doing with our lives
today and have done with them in the past. I know that looking at mind as
to what I have done and what could be done different with it and how it
might have changed if any.
I know that I have enjoyed my life and what I have done with mind and I
like what I have done.

I do know that some people don't feel like they are doing anything but
with a little help they can move forward and sometime that is all it
takes to get them in a forward direction like the lady giving up her seat
and the bus driver informing him about the bus pass for half price just
little things that can help and make a person thing that not all people
are bad and they just want to help the blind move forward and in a
positive direction.”

Willie Burton (Arkansas U.S.A.)

FROM ME: “What impression does a person with a White cane give when seen paying full fair? (In this thought/question, no outsider is suggesting another option.)"

**11. “I enjoy this thought-PROVOKER because it does present a few of the choices
that the most able blind folks must make each day when interacting with
the sighted majority. There's nothing wrong with the able-bodied blind
person not taking a seat ahead of others if he or she isn't profoundly
tired or burdened with heavy parcels. Likewise, all of us sighted and
blind have to decide if we want to qualify and follow the rules for
discounted mass transit. A regular subway rider in New York City can cut
their travel expenses in half if they buy certain passes that are offered
quarterly and yearly for instance--and this does not involve any handicap
other than not having sufficient cash to buy the long-term ride pass.
Now, the most serious matter for me was the one about workarounds for
students in handling paperwork. I generally think that disabled students
who're excused from doing the full load of reading, writing and being
tested are actually being short-changed. In this age of high tech
adaptive OCR there's seldom an excuse to simply waive the required student
work. When this must be the case because of handwritten items it should
be rare and adjusted to in the most equitable manner, such as the
instructor providing this handwritten material on tape.

I believe that taking advantage of discounts offered by society to
the blind traveler are nice but they in no way will ever equal the ease,
convenience and power that the sighted citizen has at his fingertips,
gripping a steering wheel. A trillion dollar plus road system lies ready
for his travelling wheels while the blind traveler often deals with
nearly non existent or totally unavailable mass transit of one type or

Will Smith (wilsmith@iglou.com)

**12. “I'm not exactly sure how to take this one. Should I give the blind guy
the thumbs up for turning down the woman's gracious offer of her spot on

the bench? She was only acting out of kindness and courteous, which
there's so little of these days. I'm not saying the guy had to take the
seat if he didn't want to but he certainly could have refused it in a
nicer way, like "Thank you, I appreciate the offer, but I’d prefer to
stand." Those who are rude for whatever their own reasons are going to
, and have, ruined it for those of us who very much appreciate kindness.

Should I applaud the blind guy for sticking his nose up to the use of a
half-fare handicapped bus pass? Those passes are given to us, and in
this case I don't believe it even has so much to do with human kindness,
but because from what I can see handicapped people are in the lowest
salaried jobs out there in general and a little help financially never
hurt anyone.
Do I think handicapped people have the right to have the same hopes,
aspirations and dreams as everyone else? Of course I do. And I believe
from the bottom of my heart that they, we, can achieve anything if we
work hard enough. Though I also believe it's going to be a tough haul.
As far as the last part, sitting on the bus and delving in my big dreams
for the future, I was exactly that way too. Dreams don't and won't come
true unless you put your every ounce of everything you've got into it.
And denial of refusal of what is not going to make it go away and is
certainly not going to help anything in any way.”

Patricia Hubschman (Levittown, New York USA)

**13. “I find new achievements on a weekly basis to meet as a blind person. Many
of these are meaningless to others but , they remain important to me. For
instance, How I might expand my knowledge at my job in order to run a
better office and remain competitive . Reaching out to shake one more hand
and meet those who are negative as well as positive in so many communities
which I travel in. Knowing that my dog Guide Ockham and I need to look
professional at all times makes me think, today will make the difference in
someone’s life. My utmost challenge for achievement will one day be to own
and run my office which I have designed to assist so many in educational
possibilities. Why change one would ask when I have a great employment
situation working in a Federally funded office. for all the right reasons as
many of would choose , I too would like to be my own boss and decide what
conference to attend and when to be home with my family and at the same time
remain successful in the business world. The money used to be a large part
of success but it did not take long to understand that family first will
always be my achievement in success. We as persons from a wide variety of
lifestyles choose to spell success in our own ways. It may very well be
accepting that half fare for the buss or getting a priority seat on a
plane . However still as individuals if we can help one person see our
positive outlook and remain within our boundaries of who we are then that
in itself, is total success. My friends, this format alone tells me that
many of you are still reaching for the stars and hoping for the right
opportunity and that is what makes us as human beings whom we are. Reach
out and take one more class, meet one more friend and lets work together to
educate this great world that persons who are blind have dreams and
feelings as well as realistic goals.”

Lee a. Stone (Hudson, New York U.S.A.

**14. “If we as blind persons take all the easements and
gim-me's of the world, we shall never gain equal opportunities. Granted, it
is hard to resist and easy to simply take, but if we are able to meld into
society, we must give where it hurts a bit. Oh, but I hate to give up those
half fares! Grin.”

Pam McVeigh (Ruston, Louisiana USA

**15. “Well, I think equal opportunity is a rather subject. Being a blind teenager, sometimes I just feel so alone. I feel as if no one
understands my sightless world. Granted, all teens have this sense at some
time. It's not just a specific characteristic of blindness.

I think that many sighted people, though, are very uncomfortable around
blind people, and therefore, don't know what to do or say. I've noticed,
though, that if some one truly takes the time to know me, they soon are
comfortable. I've had many adult influences in my life tell me my
personality helps. I am rarely mad, and try to smile or laugh when possible.
I feel it eases the tense situation. Of course, when you have other blind
students at your high school who are very much different then you, I feel as
if I'm under strict competition.”

Stacy (who has rambled on enough Wisconsin USA.)

**16. “I'm glad to see this item. I think the blind person in this story act4ed
much as I would, avoiding wasteful belligerence while insisting on the
giving as well as the receiving that are inseparable parts of first-class
status in our society.

Dealing with blindness is often not a simple matter. Sometimes, it is not
enough simply to remove the attitudinal barriers and their obstructive
progeny from life's thoroughfares: like people trying to farm near-barren
land, for example, we sometimes need assistance--tools and training--to
deal with the physical facts arising from being blind in this or that set
of circumstances.

There is one thing that seems to me a self-evident truth, however: we
will never, never be able to attain the equality in society most of us say
we want until it is as much a matter of course for us to pay our own way
as it is for our sighted peers who are in the same boat. (And paying your
own way includes, for me, standing on a crowded bus, just like the sighted
folks who get on with me and find no empty seats.) People who are too poor
to pay the full fare should get a break, though the best long-term
solution is to help them find a way out of poverty when that can be done.
People who have trouble standing should be offered a seat. The physical
fact of blindness is no excuse for a free ride or a sacrificed seat. And
if poor sighted people are forced to pay the full fare (as they mostly
are--unjust though it is), the blind should expect and be expected to do
the same.

In Massachusetts, we blind people have the option of riding free on the
subway system and many if not all buses. As far as I know, no other
disability group gets anything less than half-fare. Whatever the history
of it may be, one result is that we appear to the public to be the worst
off of all disability groups. More unjust, I think, is that, of those
receiving SSI and/or SSDI benefits, people who are not blind either get
lower benefits or are at greater risk of losing their benefits than people
who are: they need the break on transit fares more than we do!

When I have criticized this free ride policy, people have defended it in
part by saying, "Well, you have the choice to pay!" They mean, of course,
that it's perfectly valid for others to choose to ride free. Now, if all
sighted people had the same choice, I'd consider it stupid but at least
know I was being treated as a first-class citizen. This pseudodefense of
the policy attempts to ignore the fact that it gives the blind a special
benefit that has no logical relationship to the characteristic of
blindness, or to the many social consequences resulting from attitudes
towards that characteristic. (There does seem to be this pernicious
notion floating around that the blind deserve to have more choices about
accepting or avoiding normal responsibilities than the sighted. At least,
I've seen it a lot.)

Massachusetts and some other states give a property tax abatement to blind
homeowners. I regard this the same way as I do the free rides. Some have
argued that it helps with the cost of hiring somebody to paint one's home,
something that at least a totally blind person like me probably can't do.
I don't dismiss this out of hand, but note that in real life most sighted
people, as far as I can tell, also hire people to pain their homes.
Furthermore, I think there are better ways to deal with this and other
costs that may in some circumstances be regarded as costs of blindness.
(I also note that no other disability is or is likely to become a ground
for such a tax abatement, though many other disabilities would make it
difficult or impossible for one to paint one's house.) Furthermore, those
of us who work to get more state and local money put into Braille and
other things blind people need have no business seeing how little we can
pay in taxes on the ground of blindness.

Well, I've written at length on a matter very close indeed to my heart.
In the fall of 1977, about six month after I joined the National
Federation of the Blind (of which I'm no longer a member) because of its
message about the rights and responsibilities of equality, I stopped
taking the free rides: I knew I couldn't try to preach equality to any
good effect unless I tried to practice it. (It was much later before I
could rid myself of the SSI and SSDI system, but that imperfect system was
and remains partly based on economic need.) Some folks have called my wife
and me financially stupid for paying our ways, but I've never regretted my
decision. If I had the votes, I'd work hard to eradicate certain of these
token bennies and replace them with benefits based on financial need:
they'd be only band-aids for dealing with poverty, but band-aids are often
a necessary start.

Thanks for enduring this!”

Al Sten-Clanton (Boston, Massachusetts USA)

**17. “Equal Opportunity -- a loaded phrase indeed. Those of you on the BlindJob list
who have been reading about my less-than-equal experience at a job, will
understand my sentiment. I went in for an Admin. Assist. job and was not given a
fair chance to prove I could do the job. (see BlindJob for more info).

For a blind/vision impaired person, opportunity is a shifty, dark figure
skulking in the shadows. It is difficult to recognize because, even though we
see it as a good thing, others can take it away from us by their prejudices and

It is important to seize opportunities full-on and make the most of them, but
when they do not come -- what then? Well, then, we must make them come to us by
making ourselves more accessible/desirable -- by being our own advocates, not
expecting the world to provide us with a living. Carpe Diem.

By doing this, we can then shed some light and drive away the shadows that
conceal our chances at a fair and equal life.”

Shelley Proulx (Brighton, Massachusetts USA home.att.net/~phichta/home.htm)

**18. “This is a tough one, on the one hand there are concessions that need to
made in order to give blind people a fighting chance but the question
becomes how far to take it. I took a psychology class in college and the
professor seemed just awful, not listening when I protested that the
chapters in the book didn't match what was on the test and refusing to
alter the research assignment to something that was feasible for me. It
got so bad I finally had a serious anxiety attack which everyone had
thought was a seizure and my reader took it upon himself to confront
the professor on his unreasonable attitude. He was then informed that he
had had another blind student before. wanting to be fair he bent over
backwards to make the class easy for him thinking that was
accommodations. He was then confronted by a sighted student who asked why
the blind student got an a. for doing hardly nothing when he had to work
like a devil to just get a b. The professor was trying to avoid that
mistake by going the opposite way with me and needed a lot of explanation
and reassurance that granting me a couple small concessions such as
allowing me to supplement half the book reading with personal interviews
and finding some way to not make my quizzes count so much in the grade as
apparently I'd been sent the wrong textbook wasn't making it unduly easy
for me. I think people need to work on an individual bases as to what is
too much but I think going too far and making everything super easy for
the blind isn't a good thing either. Yes, things like reduced bus fair are
helpful and given the rate of unemployed blind, necessary but I have no
patience with blind people who use their condition to duck out of the
challenge of life. Life wasn't designed to be easy for everyone so why
should a body expect it to be just because they have the misfortune to be
blind. Ironically enough, my paper in the aforementioned class was
entitled Attitudes on Blindness Past and Present.”

Sue Ellen(USA)

FROM ME: “Think about the dilemma the instructor found himself in. What would you say to him to help him understand the situation?”

**19. “I hope I'm not way off the mark here, but it seems that the question is: If
you can get a break because you're blind, should you take it? I'm sure
there will be many who would say "No!" very emphatically, but my answer is,
"It depends".

In the story, the student has several opportunities to catch a break.

The librarian suggests that the teacher might lessen the workload because
the student is blind. This is something I would never consider doing. The
whole reason one goes to school in the first place is to better oneself.
Why cheat yourself out of the full benefit by wimping out? I do think that
fair and reasonable accommodations should be made for blind students, but the
work they do should be equal to that done by their sighted peers.

The second chance comes when the student is approaching the bus stop. A
woman offers her seat to the approaching blind student, who declines
politely. After all, there is nothing wrong with his legs, so why deprive
someone of her seat just because she offers?

The third opportunity comes when everyone boards the bus. The blind person
could probably cut in line and no one would say a word. However, this would
be terribly rude, and he is capable of recognizing when it is his turn to
board, so he waits. I once had a similar experience at the gas station. I
went in to pay while my wife checked the oil, etc. I accidentally cut in
front of someone, who didn't say a word. After a moment, I realized what I
had done, and apologized profusely, taking my rightful place at the end of
the line.

The last opportunity comes when the bus driver tells the blind person that
he can get a reduced fare for being blind. I infer from the story that the
person does not want to use this service. I disagree with this. You might
as well take advantage of it, because it is better to have money in your own
pocket than in someone else's. It does not diminish one as a person to get
a discount, so why not do it? When I was in college, I certainly could have
used all the money I could get. Besides, senior citizens get discounts
all the time. Here in Atlanta, you can even get a discount just because you
are a frequent rider. Might as well cash in with all of the others.

To sum up, my view is this: as long as you are not diminishing yourself by
taking advantage of a break, you might as well take it. For example, I am
strongly against affirmative action and quotas, even though they would
benefit me. These breaks would send a message to me that says, "We know you
can't really cut it out there with everyone else, so because you're blind,
we'll just make people deal with you." What a crock! If I can't make it on
my own, then I deserve what I get. On the other hand, the government gives
me a tax break for being blind. I also get free 411 information service
from the phone company because I'm blind. Do I take advantage of these
things? You bet I do! Why? Because these things level the playing field,
but they do not tilt it in my favor. I don't want to be "more equal" than
anyone else.

I guess the question is, which things are considered "taking advantage" and
which are just "leveling the playing field". That choice is up to the
individual's conscience to make.”

David L. Thurmond (Atlanta, Georgia USA

FROM ME: “Think through where it is you would draw the line on acceptance of special considerations offered the blind. Look back through the PROVOKER thus far and count and catalogue the various rationales we’ve seen thus far.”

**20. “From childhood onward, I have always consistently despised having extra
opportunities because I was blind. I believe that when we get other
people's seats, monetary discounts and extensions on assignments, the
message being conveyed is that ,as blind persons, we are inferior and less
capable and need their compensation to survive. My opinion is that extra
compensation when done out of pity is detrimental to the blind person's
pride and self-confidence. It says, "Since this person thinks I need his
help then I must really need it more than I thought I did." In today's
world the independent spirit that allows blind people to prove themselves
as capable individuals is very fragile. If we suffer too much abuse, the
blind may begin relying on sighted assistance more often and encouraging
the stereotype that we are helpless. Thus, I believe that extra
compensation does not give us an "equal opportunity"; in fact, it prevents
this from happening.

That said, there are a few situations in which I believe that we need
extra compensation. For example, it makes sense to me to charge blind bus
users less to ride the bus, since we must use the bus often, but it makes
no sense to me for a sighted person to give up their seat for a blind
person. We still have the same ability to stand, and there is no real
reason why we would need an already occupied seat. Instead, I would advise
the sighted person to give the blind person clear, understandable
directions about where there is an empty seat, rather than get up and do
all the thinking for him. Not only does that save the blind person's
dignity, but it also allows him a learning opportunity and, most of all, is
completely fair to both parties. Just because someone is blind does not
mean that he is not in the race of humanity.”

Arielle Silverman (Scottsdale, Arizona USA)

**22. “In Los Angeles, where I used to live, blind people were allowed to ride
the buses for free. As I had not yet begun to consider the philosophical
underpinnings of my actions, I used to accept the privilege without
thinking twice about it.

One day I was in a conversation with one of the bus drivers, and I
happened to mention that it sure would be nice if Braille bus schedules
were available. He said they would be too expensive to provide. Then he
pointed out, "You don't pay anything to ride the bus."

I thought about the implications of his comment. I realized that, by
accepting free rides, I became a recipient of charity instead of a bona
fide customer. In other words, if I'm unwilling to contribute anything to
the service, I lose some of my moral authority to make demands on the

I have had friends say to me, "You know, blindness is going to cause you
enough trouble in your life, you might as well take advantage of any
benefit you can get from it." I used to think they had a point. However,
I have now come to believe that if you want to attain equality in society,
you need to live as an equal member of that society, and that doesn't mean
grabbing up every freebie you can get. When we pay our own way, or refuse
to cut to the front of the line, we send the signal that we want and
expect not only the rights, but also the responsibilities of normal

Speaking of lines, I'm a bit puzzled by people who think we need to move
to the front of a line. Once at a social event, I entered the ladies'
room and asked someone where the end of the line was. "You can move up to
the front if you want," she answered. I simply asked, "Why?" She really
didn't have an answer.

There are some freebies that I think make sense, such as being exempt from
directory assistance charges because we can't read the phone book. But
many of the freebies and special privileges we are offered, both
officially and socially, really have nothing to do with the physical fact
of blindness. I believe we need to watch out for these and try to weed
them out.”

Masha Sten-Clanton (Boston, Massachusetts USA

**23. “I am replying to this thought PROVOKER, because it struck a chord in me. In
my hometown at Christmas time a charity sponsors a hundred dollar shopping
spree at the local K-Mart for the poor in our community. Roughly 1800
underprivileged people get a chance to buy Christmas presents for their
children. The charity also includes a 150 Blind people in their shopping
spree regardless of income. The first few years I lived here I went to the
shopping sprees, and felt ill at ease. However, that hundred dollars came
in handy at Christmas. I thought if I had to put up with some of the
hassles of being blind, I might as well take advantage of some of the
benefits. About four years ago at Christmas my girlfriend who is blind as
well, asked me why I was going to the shopping spree. She said "how do you
expect to be treated as an equal when your are willing to be treated as
underprivileged. You cannot demand equality on one hand, while having the
other hand searching for every hand out you can get." I stopped going to
the shopping sprees, because I was not underprivileged by any stretch of the
imagination. If I felt that I fit in with the 1800 I would have still gone,
but I could not justify it. I had blind friends that truly needed that
shopping spree to give their children a decent Christmas, and I believe that
was what this program was intended to do. I think my main problem was the
lumping of blind people and underprivileged people in the same category.
Yes there are a large number of blind people that fit however, that number
is getting smaller and smaller.”

Richard Thompson (Columbia, South Carolina USA)

**24. “For an individual who is dependent on an alternate medium such as
Braille or large print, doing research simply takes more time, as the
person either needs to use a research assistant or needs to scan
material, run it through an enlarger or a text reader, and then review
it independently. This can take a lot longer than a sighted person
needs to take to do the same work visually. That some teachers would
be willing to allow a blind student to take extra time or will agree to
modify the assignment to make it easier for the blind student to
complete the assignment in a timely manner is reasonable, as long as
the student is able to practice all skills expected for all other
students doing the same assignment. To be treated as though the
disability were an indication of lesser capability, however, is not
acceptable. Some overly sympathetic individuals seem to think that a
blind or obviously disabled individual is not capable of working to the
capacity of "normal" (in quotes) students, and thus needs to be given
unneeded breaks. This is insulting and patronizing, and doesn't allow
the individual to find his real limits or capabilities. Often this
attitude seems to be designed to build up the patronizing individual's
ego by "proving" (again in quotes) that the disabled person could never
have made it without the help of the non-disabled individual's bounty.

As for other courtesies such as bus passes for disabled individuals,
accepting seats offered by others, and so on--that depends. If a
disabled person is on public assistance or on a fixed income, then bus
passes may be considered part of the whole package. Anyone on a fixed
income can easily find himself or herself having to choose between
transportation or a decent diet, and for many blind individuals public
transportation is their only dependable way to get to work, school, the
store, the mall, and so on. Many smaller communities have no taxis or
the cost for such services can be far too expensive to use them
regularly. Therefore a bus pass can be a godsend. At the same time,
anyone who can afford to pay full fare on a regular basis should
probably be expected to do so, or at least get the standard discount
for a commuter pass rather than to get a free pass simply because he or
she is blind.

For disability reductions to enter theme parks, entertainment’s,
campgrounds, and so on, there as long as all serious disabilities are
treated the same I can see no reason not to accept the break unless the
disabled individual simply doesn't want to take advantage of the
courtesy. For most disabled people, just getting around such places
and finding how to get to a desired site within the park, etc., can
take such a long time that then having to wait in line would leave them
doing relatively little over the space of a day. Taking advantage of
such courtesies is not demeaning, and is not meant in any way to
belittle the disabled person's capabilities. They are simply
courtesies and nothing more, and can help the disabled person to enjoy
the experience on a par with the non-disabled people around them.

Accepting a seat on a bus or in a waiting area or so on is the decision
of the disabled person. If he or she feels sufficiently tired or
stressed that such a seat would be helpful, then it would behoove the
person to accept the courtesy. If not, then the individual should
courteously thank the person making the offer and say, no, not now.
This will reward someone else for being courteous and not leave them so
insulted that the person wouldn't think of making the offer to someone
who would benefit from such courtesy. By the same logic, if a disabled
individual becomes aware that someone who is even more in need of a
seat is present, the disabled person should offer the same courtesy
that has been offered him. Courtesy should always be a two-way street,
with each person capable of helping others doing so when the
opportunity presents itself. Women should be as willing to open a door
for a man behind her or who has his hands full as a gentleman is
willing to do so for a lady, if you take my meaning.

Not all offered help is appropriate, courteous, or even all that
helpful, of course. How many blind people have been forced across
streets they had never meant to cross, or "helped" to a business they
had never meant to visit? This is not courtesy--one offering courtesy
should continue to be courteous enough to accept a "No, thanks!" and
leave it at that.

There can be a fine line between courtesy and appropriate adaptations
on one hand and patronization and overbearing rudeness on the other.”

Bonnie L. Sherrell
Teacher at Large

FROM ME: “What do you think, should these reduced fairs be based on the disabled persons income? And not just the mere fact of disability”

**25. “This is another issue that makes me see red, which is better than seeing
nothing I guess. A white high school student asked me if I thought it was fair
that his black classmate with the same grades and test scores as he, was accepted
into Harvard while he was rejected. The white lad was the son of a factory worker,
a brilliant man but with no college education and the black youth was the son of a
Medical Doctor. "Don't you know they take that into consideration" I thought, but
did not say because I am friends with both families. The idea that somehow
accommodations are a special favor, an act of charity or pity is false and
repulsive. When the bus sign is printed in large letters with Braille and audio,
and when the school and library is accessible, then maybe you can ask this
question. Right now it sounds like NFB propaganda supported by ablest against the ADA. Why don't you just print a thought PROVOKER that says ‘all you crips stay home.’”

John Frank (AERnet)

FROM ME: “I wrote him back in part saying that though I am a member of the NFB I want this forum to be an open non-partisan arena, fore I do believe the best will rise to the top. He wrote back, paraphrasing some of what I wrote and with an additional response.”

“ Robert Newman wrote: John, . . . I appreciate your thoughts on my PROVOKER. Yes, I do belong to the NFB. So sure say what you feel, but keep an open mind too. (Not
saying you don't; just saying I think its important.)”

Reply: You are right to be sensitive to my response. I responded as if to an
extreme position of "we all had to be as good as sighted people." In as much as
possible, independence is a good thing but that concept was built up into a battle cry to allow for any training at all (which was good) and now it is presently
become a stumbling block on the way to environmental change and accommodations.
One of the hardest adjustment is to what I can do, what help I need and what help
I can expect to receive - and my life can not be compared to anyone else's as to
what the answer to those questions are. Yes independence is good but your
independence is not the same as mine.”

**FROM ME: “25 new responses. Taking responsibility is still the main theme; some new ways of saying it, doing it.”

**26. “Yes equal opportunity is a 2 sided coin simply because we who are blind can
choose to understand what equal opportunity is or is not.

When we have obtained a place in life we need to pay the price for that
place such as paying our own way, doing the work expected of us and doing
it responsibly, not asking favors of others and using our blindness as an
excuse in order to get out of something.

We need to see the reality of equal opportunity and realize that equal
opportunity does not always mean the same thing as it means to us.”

Francy (Blind-X; Chesepeake, Virginia USA)

**27. “I am sure that both the librarian and the woman at the end of the line
waiting for a bus were trying to be kind but, in reality, they were only
being condescending to one they thought inferior. It reminds me a bit of
the lady of the maor in Jane Austen's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE who was
complimented on her great condescension. If we want to be and do what
others are and do, we need to do what they do--often much, much more. This
can mean taking more time to do the work to qualify. However, we also need
to realize that our lives as blind individuals in a sighted universe can be
more stressful and expensive. Taking advantage of programs like reduced
transit fares, the ability to bring animals (guide dogs) into places
normally prohibited to animals or obtaining sighted guides in areas that
need description are not necessarily signs of taking advantage of pity. It
may be a fine line but we need always to be aware of the line. Few of us
want pity but using things available to us because of our limitations (and
we need to admit that they do exist) is not demeaning.”

Linda (Blind-X; Utah, USA

FROM ME: “’If we want to be and do what
others are and do--often much, much more.’ Do you think we have to work harder than the average person to achieve equal opportunity status?”

**28. “Linda, I agree with what you say. the woman who wanted to offer the
man a seat was being kind. she felt that by offering the seat she was
doing a good thing. Yes, it's condescending but, you know, you can't
tell people that.

Now the lady in the library, I agree was definitely out of line. If
you can do the work, then you should.

As for the half fair thinger, sure, if I can get a half fare because
I'm blind, I'll take it, and I will, just like most folks I know take
the senior citizen discounts if I can get them.”

Ann K. Parsons (Blind-X; Rochester, New York USA akp@eznet.net
MICQ Number: 33006854
WEB SITE: http://home.eznet.net/~akp)

**29. “How the hell can you have it both ways.

1 is condescending
2 the other is wrong
3 you would take the half fair because you are blind

1 offering the seat was not only condescending but out of pity
2 the lady in the library was acting again out of pity
3 the half fair again out of pity and you want equality-- well you best
take a look at equality

If you were not blind would you be expected to pay full fair? Yes of course
you would be, but alas what if you were this poor welfare person who is not

Now ask yourself who should pay full fair? Both because there is no free
lunch and we should not expect one.

Equality means paying your full share just like anyone else does!”

Francy (Blind-X; Chesepeake, Virginia USA)

FROM ME: “Can you think of a time when it is possible to have it ‘both ways?’ Might it be said, ‘A negative behavior cancels out a positive one and the result is at best no gain at all’”

**30. “Fran, since when has life ever come in blacks and whites? I meant
what I said. the lady on the bench was being patronizing, but she was
doing so in good faith. She didn't know any better. Should I blast
her for being kind? I don't think so. You have to pick your battles,

the lady in the library, on the other hand needed to know that the guy
would pull his full weight because in that position, and at that time,
she needed to be educated. And, it is not right to ask for special
favors if you have a disability; accommodations, you betcha, but not
special favors.

As for the last item, Yes, I'll take a half fare for a bus anytime
because I have to buy computer equipment, and other adaptive devices
that other people don't need to buy. Should the poor get half fare, I
don’t know, maybe they should. Problem is, how to prove poverty, Fran. I
suppose if you are on welfare you might get something. That would be
a way to tell.

And of course TANSTAAFL, Fran. However, just because someone is
taking a half fare doesn't mean that he or she isn't putting something
back into the system. It may not be money, it might be time, it might
even be prayer, but so long as something is given in return, then
there is no free lunch, it's paid for, paid in full.

this just reminded me of something that happened to me at the local
JCC. I was in the locker room getting ready to go home and this old
lady comes up to me and says, "Can I give you this quarter, please."

Now my first reaction was to scream "No, you old Biddy get out of
here, I'm not a beggar and I don't want your money!" But I didn't do
that. I stopped and thought. Why would this old lady who is from the
old country be doing this? And, Fran, I realized that she thought
that if she gave me the quarter, she would get a blessing from God.
Yes, Fran, that is what came to me as I stood there half dressed,
wondering what the deuce I was supposed to do. So this is what I
did. I thanked her, and I said, "No, Ma’am, I don't need your money,
but God bless you for thinking of it."

she wanted the blessing, Fran, it wasn't the money, it was the
blessing she was after, so I blessed her. what else could I have
done, Fran? To her way of thinking, to get a blessing from a blind
person was a good thing. Who am I to deny someone God's blessing, if
it is in my power to give it?”

Ann K. Parsons (Blind-X; Rochester, New York USA akp@eznet.net
MICQ Number: 33006854
WEB SITE: http://home.eznet.net/~akp)

FROM ME: “I’m sitting here wondering if this action of being part of ‘making someone else happy or at least not making them unhappy’ has something in part to do with perceived morals? Or is it no more then the outward manifestation of an inward cry for acceptance?”

**31. “My own view (and I'll admit I fail to be consistent as I deal with situations
for my own daughter) is that if you are need the service specifically because
of your blindness or if you are poor (a situation that for some people is
aggravated by special medical and equipment expenses or by underemployment),
then take advantage of the service (for example, most of us parents are happy
to get donated Braille writers and Braille books, same as we would be happy to
get good hand-me-down clothes or a great used car).

On the other hand, I am generally uncomfortable about discounts for blind
people, as a category, that have nothing obvious to do with blindness,
because I worry that the motivation behind the discounts may be pity, and
that taking advantage of such discounts may foster the continuation of
attitudes that limit the advancement of blind people in jobs and elsewhere
(besides which, doesn't it diminish a person's self-esteem to knowingly
accept pity on a regular basis?).

Have to tell a great story about my daughter. A couple of summers ago, when
she was ten years old, the carnival came through town. We had bought tickets
for some of the rides. Towards the end, when we were nearly out of tickets,
ride operators started mysteriously forgetting to collect her tickets. She
thought it was great to be getting free rides, and at first I didn't say
anything. But when she said she wanted to stay as long as possible and see
how many free rides she could get, I decided I really wanted to get going.
So, putting principle above convenience (like I said above, I'm not always
consistent, and this had been one of those times), I told her the truth:
"Mingkhwan, the only reason you are getting free rides is because people feel
sorry for you because you are blind." (I may have mentioned that the other
kids were probably not getting free rides)

On the very next ride she stuck her tickets right in the operator's face and
she didn't move until he took them.

May she always have that attitude!”

Ed Zehner (kidtalk)

FROM ME: “Parents, telling it straight to your child, how about that for a tactic? Then you wonder, what all had this father said and modeled to his daughter prior to this incident, to have gotten her to this state of awareness?”

**32. “I think it is important to distinguish between people giving you stuff on a
one-to-one basis out of pity i.e. free rides at the Carnival, vs. mandated
programs, discounts, etc. Blind folks and folks over 65 get a break on their
income taxes. Is that bad? Texas millionaires get a break on their taxes
called an "oil depletion allowance". Is that bad? People who make money
from the sale of stocks (having other people work and you make money off
their labor) get a tax break. Is that bad? Folks who own rental units make
money off someone else's labor (rent) and get a tax break. Is that bad?

I think it is silly for us to say Blind folks should not take advantage of
programs and benefits offered to them while Texas millionaires, stockholders
and landlords take advantage of every break that it allowed to them.”

Judith Lesner (kidtalk)

FROM ME: “’others do it, why shouldn’t I.’ How many times have we seen that as a major theme? And, so if others get away with it, does that then justify you/we doing it? Finally, what then is gained (for the individual for the group)?”

**33. “As per the librarian, someone questioned her motivation. One
thought that I had not seen, was the librarian may have realized the
magnitude of the projects for all the students. Nothing was said how she
reacted to other students in the same class. Also who knows about the main
character's motivation for doing the projects. Maybe the main character
enjoys the hard work, the discipline it takes to carry out the full load.

As per the lady on the bench, I have my own set of values and
morals. No one can be for certain what goes on in another's person's mind.
she may made the offer sincerely, she may have made the offer out of pity.
If felt the need for a seat I myself would decline the offer and sit on the
sidewalk, or the curb. I believe in first come first served balanced with
if there's someone in greater need then make the offer. (Pardon the
stereotyping) From personal experience, the average person who sees me, or
anyone with a "visible" disability, they presume other disabilities. (e.g. I
walk funny; therefore I think funny")

Regards to the bus driver, from this scenario it appears he was
truly trying to be helpful. Disability or no disability if there's a means
for me to get something at a lesser cost I will. I for one believe in
bargain hunting, sales, rebates, coupons, etc.

As for the main character doing a little soul searching -- that's
private and personal. I find it healthy for me to reflect on choices made
as well as choices before me.

In the end, mind reading is inaccurate. Opportunity may knock, but
I choose whether or not to answer the door.”

Geoffry Kettling (Victoria, Texas USA)

FROM ME: “When someone has that mind-set of not taking advantage of a reduced fare or convenient assist (a person who can afford not to), what else comes with that mind set?”

**34. “I have a question about your post: is it your experience?
The reason I question it is that I sincerely doubt that a librarian would
suggest you could get out of doing class work. We might suggest that
accommodations could be made, but not exemptions.

Just curious.”

Pamela C. Sieving MA MS Director of Library Services
W.K. Kellogg Eye Center
Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences
University of Michigan

FROM ME: “I wrote back to her- “Pam

You ask if this had really happened? Not to me, possibly not to anyone;
let's hope not. But this type of thing does go on and I had to choose a
bad-guy and in doing so I'm sorry if I might have offended anyone; I really
didn't put serious thought into the choice, conscious thought yes, it wasn't
a thing where I said the librarian would be the logical villain.

You know, this does raise a question... what if any training do Librarians
get on disability? Meaning, how to assist, what to expect, how their
behavior can and will effect the interaction and ultimately the success or
non-success of the student, etc.? Some of this would cover the practical
aspects of assistance, like reading for the blind or physically guiding the
blind (if necessary), what to offer or say and what not too, philosophy of
learning/study that your profession holds too and why, etc.. Even what ADA
says must be in a library facility.

So, bottom line, the librarian is a human, one that may not like the extra
work assisting a blind person may necessitate or they may have less
expectations of the blind student and think the work load too heavy for
them, etc. I had to pick someone.

Say, the THOUGHT PROVOKER could be used as a learning exercise in library
philosophy of professional awareness, etc.”

**35. (This relates to the above response-) “Hi! thanks for the thoughts, and the questions. I admit to being
somewhat sensitive: NPR, which credits the librarians on its news
programs, is about the only sure positive media coverage we get--all the
way from questions about our shushing behavior, to assumptions that we're
all little old ladies in Grey buns and Grey wool suits, to assumptions
that everyone and anyone who works in a library is, de facto, a librarian.
Be that as it may, I was really hoping that the incident was made up, or
third hand.

As to the more serious question: my library degree is ancient, and I've
not given much thought to the content these days on the disability issue.
I would expect that ADA is covered in library-management courses, which
most students take during their master's program. And everyone takes one
or more courses on particular library settings--academic, school, public,
special, medical--in which some might be covered.
Reference classes generally deal with personal-interaction models and
options. Again, I don't know what is generally covered. I will find out
from a few colleagues who currently teach in various programs. I'm in a
pool of 'outside reviewers' to assist in the accreditation process for the
American Library Association, but haven't been called into active duty.

At ALA conferences there are programs and discussion groups devoted to
services to various specialized groups. I suspect it's there that most
people get down to more practical aspects of how to plan for and provide
services. ALA does have a non-discrimination policy which we tweak every
year or two (IM’ also on Council, the official tweaking body!) in attempts
to put forward the principle that all have the right to the very best
possible library service.

Yesterday I was visited by the librarian from the Ann Arbor District
Library was is specifically designated as outreach librarian for all with
any sort of condition which would interfere or make impossible 'normal'
library use. The AADL got a $59,000 grant a few years ago to enable them
to provide computer-based specialized services--in fact, they put the
low-vision terminals and CCTV stuff right directly inside the door for
quite some time, hoping that if people tripped over the stuff, they'd ask
about using it. They're currently applying for a grant from the Gates
foundation, to do more. And trying to network with the state- and
federally-funded programs for the blind and visually impaired.

Rachel talked at length about trying to figure out how to let people know
about the services offered. It's not just a problem with this area; there
are a whole lot of library services which people don't know about, so
don't take advantage of. When it comes to general library use, we're not
doing a good job of creating the atmosphere in which people would ask (or
demand, if need be!)--or people just assume. Of course that's not always
true, and I hope it will be less and less true, as people become more
active consumer-advocates for themselves in all areas.

For myself: well, my collection is primarily clinical and research, but I
also have patient materials (and hey, patients are at many levels, so I
don't make assumptions about 2 sentences in large print being a
satisfactory answer for someone who's just been diagnosed with a really
scary condition they've never before heard of!). Some forms of visual
impairment are fairly obvious, and since I can't tell, I just ask: How
can I help? Can you see this? It's the only way I can think of to get
past the fact that no one walks in with a badge reading "20/200, 15
degrees of visual field". I pray that I do it in a way that indicates I
want to help, but can't get inside someone's eyes.
And then there are the less obvious issues. A good colleague of mine told
me last year--after I'd worked with her in ALA committee stuff for nearly
8 years!-- that she has some visual problems. She doesn't wear glasses,
there are no obvious differences between the way her eyes move, she never
runs into things or holds reading material differently than anyone
else--but she does require accommodations on computer use and some reading
material, it's just not obvious to anyone else. If she doesn't tell me,
I have no clue.

I will pursue what's happening in library schools these days, and let you
know the good or bad news. If you've seen anything in print (or other
media) with a good extended or short treatment of the subject, please
recommend it to me, and I'll pass it along every chance I get.

I learned a few years ago the acronym: TAB. Do you know it? Stands for
"temporarily able bodied". It's a good thing to remember: essentially
all of us will need accommodations at some point in our life, temporarily
or permanently.


Pamela C. Sieving, MA, MS
(Director of Library Services
W.K. Kellogg Eye Center
Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences

**36. “Everyone should make their own choices regarding what is "equal"
and "fair". The combination of one's own disability and circumstances make
the choices uniquely individual as they should be. I don't feel that I have
the right to "judge" someone's choices as no one else has the right to
"judge" my choices.

I have RP, hearing losses in both ears and a seizure disorder. I choose to
return to school, modifying some assignments, doing others as they are and
will choose more time on my comprehensives. I choose to take my own notes
with a laptop rather than use a note-taker. I don't have a reader but I am
not used to one. Others use them and that is what works for them.

I resent others "choosing" or rather presuming to "choose" for me. My
choices are made to level the playing field or life and that is my choice.
No one else has the right to make those choices for me or even to foist them
on me.”

Debra Streeter (Victoria, Texas USA)

FROM ME: “When a group is promoting independence, equal opportunity and taking responsibility, are they saying that you the individual do not have the right to make personal choices unique to your needs? How is it that these two ‘rules’ can coexist?”

**37. “After reading the recent responses, I felt that I had to get my two cents (sense?) in on a couple of issues I just cannot ignore. I was appalled at the
thought of putting your head in the Guillotine of Benevolence just because you are afraid to speak up and get your needs met! I certainly don't encourage
the students I work with to be rude, but would I ever allow some sighted "Do Gooder" to take them across a street where they had no intention of going?
No way! I am teaching them to speak up for what they need, do same workload as the rest of the kid I believe s in class and to become the best functioning adults
they can be. A quote that "Blind people should never put their need to assert their independence ahead of the feelings of others" is a cry of low esteem.
Although I don't like confrontations myself and I was taught the old world ways from a very strict Danish Grandmother, I have this spirit inside me that
speaks up when necessary. I don't equate blindness with pity and underachievement. I stress independence and individuality. When a sighted person asks
me a question concerning my student when he is sitting right there, I say: "Ask him, he'll tell you if he wants you to know." I can't tell you how empowering
that is.”

Suzanne Lange (California USA)

**38. “I have to say that when I read this one my first thought was that it seemed
like a blanket philosophy was being promoted. I tend to take a middle of
the road approach to the issue of "equal opportunity". For example, many
blind people are living on incomes as low as $500 a month. The bus
discounts are probably based on this assumption. were I a blind person with
a job, I would likely not take the discount. As a blind person living on
$500 a month, I am very likely to take it. In short, I think that in order
for me to accept equal responsibility, I absolutely must have equal access
and resources. This holds true in the world of academics as well. I was
once given the privilege of taking a test a couple of days late because of
the fact that my reader had not given me the material back until the day
before the test. The reader happened to be a fellow student who was
responsible for the same material. She was quite unhappy about the
concessions made for me, but the point was that I hadn't chosen to be lazy.
In fact, I am generally a very conscientious student and take advantage of
having the ability to read my own materials and get it done early. I have
turned down this kind of concession when the reason for my lack of
preparedness was my own laziness. But in the case I'm describing the
problem was a lazy reader who had asked for extensions on the deadline. I
realized later that she was being lazy, and she was fired. My point in
bringing this up is that there are certain situations in which concessions
do need to be made so that equal opportunity is achieved.”

Sarah J. Blake (ropgirl@mindspring.com

**39. “Everyone has to make some adjustments to allow them to make life a little bit
easier. For those with disabilities, be it vision, hearing, physical or
mental, everyday is a battle of some kind. Our society is not user friendly
for those with disabilities. I think that if things make your life easier
then you should use them, but I don't think that it should be used as a
crutch. You should be able to function in any situation that find yourself
in. If on occasion something makes life less of a battle, enjoy it.
I would not have taken the ladies seat because I would not need it. If my
funds were decreased because of the lack of employment/education due to my
vision, then yes I would apply for discounted bus fair. Many people with
disabilities are on a small fixed income with large medical bills to pay and
if something as small a decreased bus fair helps, so be it.
If the lady in the library want to help let her it is her job. Why should it
take a disabled person twice or three times as long to find the information
they need compared to the time it takes a "normal" person? That would not be
equality either.

The decision has to come from within. What the individual need and can

Trayce Rhodes (Concord, New Jersey USA)

FROM ME: “The lady here says- ‘If on occasion something makes life less of a battle, enjoy it.’ Is it, when is it okay for a person to occasionally ‘give in’ on one of the many things we have spoken of in this PROVOKER that some say is ‘your responsibility?’”

**40. “Although we should strive to carry our own weight in society, and not expect
special treatment, I don't believe that doing these things; refusing the
librarian's suggestion that the teacher may let you out of work, not
accepting a seat at a bus stop, and paying full fare, will by themselves
make a lot of an impression on the public. In order to receive equal
opportunity in the future, I think it would be helpful for the people with
whom we come in contact to understand why we're doing what we do. In none
of these situations did the person explain why he/she didn't want the
teacher to let him out of work; why he didn't want to accept the seat at the
bus stop, or why he paid full fare on the bus.. So, none of the people who
our friend came in contact with had any education at all about blindness.
We don't know whether they felt this person is very independent, or whether
he/she just didn't appreciate the help they were offering. So, although it
may become tiresome, I think we always have to be doing education. If we
do, maybe the opportunity will be there for advancement in the future.”

Cindy Handel (Willow Street, Pennsylvania USA

FROM ME: “When do actions speak louder than words? How much do you have to explain in order to create the right balance of ‘No thank you, because…?”

**41. “I often think about this issue, what does it hurt to accept these benefits as long as it doesn't hurt anyone...right? The answer is, and some will see this as NFB propaganda, it always hurts someone--yourself, whether you see it or not. As far fetched as it may sound, there is a fine line between being afforded special treatment and being denied access to what you need. This fact was driven home to my wife and me during a recent trip to visit my mother. We arrived late at the Greyhound station and the bus was standing room only. We were informed that unless someone was willing to give up their seats, we wouldn't be able to ride the bus, since we were blind and couldn't be allowed to stand. I was stunned. "Why not?" I snapped Thinking that I could understand in the case of my wife who was eight months pregnant, But there was absolutely no reason I couldn't stand.

"It's a liability issue," I was told.
"No," I snapped back, "It's discrimination...I'm just as capable of standing as anyone else on that bus."

The driver and station officials WERE unrelenting and persuaded two people to give up their seats for us. I was infuriated at the entire situation, but my alternatives were to either accept it or refuse, creating additional ill will, canceling the entire trip, and disappointing my daughter who was expecting us at my Mom's house that weekend. In the end, I set aside my principles and accepted the seat, vowing to write Greyhound a letter--which I have yet to write.

So, what's the point of this story, and what does it have to do with this PROVOKER? The point is that What had begun as a harmless courtesy on the part of Greyhound had become a condition I was expected to meet in order to utilize their services. Therefore, what had at first seemed a harmless courtesy had become a barrier to equal opportunity. Wile the consequence of these "courtesies" are not normally this dramatic, there are always consequences, so in deciding whether to accept special treatment, you should always consider whether you are willing to accept any potential consequences.”

David Bundy (Columbia, South Carolina , USA, bundy@pobox.com)

FROM ME: “This gentleman, as well as others have said that no matter if you bite the bullet and allow others to assist when you don’t need it or even if you stop them from giving unneeded assistance, that either way someone is going to get hurt. My question then is, ‘Can hurting and learning be active agents in a behavior changing process? If so, how then can hurting be a sometime positive building block to learning?”

**42. “Courtesy to others and not accepting help do not have to be mutually
exclusive. Accepting help that is not truly needed is also a sort of
discourtesy. To allow someone to sacrifice their convert or their time
thinking they are doing us a real favor when we may often be better
able to stand on a bus than the person offering the seat, for example,
is really squandering their good will. Yes, I have witnessed blind
people refusing help ungraciously, and I have probably done it myself
on a bad day, and we need to be conscious of the feelings of others
with whom we share this earth. But we also have a responsibility to
make good use of the help offered to us.

There is yet another aspect to accepting help or special consideration
that deserves consideration as well. What does it do to one's
self-image and self-confidence? I am not referring here to how it
makes us feel, although that is doubtlessly part of what I am saying.
Rather, I am trying to get at one's ability to be part of society,
perform a job function, perform expected tasks in our community, etc.
Because we are blind, we are often offered easier alternative paths to
follow. When I was in college, it was common for the instructor or an
assistant to read my math and physics tests onto a tape. This would
generally be done after the tests were handed out to the rest of the
students in a nearby office. This meant that I wouldn't be able to
actually start on my test until at least fifteen minutes after the rest
of the students. Since there was no way I could finish the test within
the same time frame as the rest of the students, having a delayed start
of fifteen minutes or more, I was told to bring the test back later in
the day when the instructor or assistant had free time. This
circumstance gave me a good deal of extra time to do the test, and I
shamelessly took advantage of it. As I got closer to graduation, I
began to wonder if I really deserved the grades I had received which
were reasonably good. I wondered how I would perform on the job when I
would likely not get any extra time. I decided to start imposing my
own time limit on myself. To make a long story short, my first test
under the imposed time limit was not a great success. However, I began
to better understand what I needed to study, and before long I was
performing as well within the time limits as I had done before.
Previously, when an instructor would offer to administer the test
directly, I found reasons not to take that route. Although my reasons
were sound, schedule conflicts and the like, deep down inside I was
worried that the instructor would see that I was not able to perform as
well. My fear was removed after imposing the time limit and my
confidence in myself as a blind person was greatly bolstered. Sure it
made me feel better about myself, but it also made me a better student
and it eventually helped me perform better on the job.

I have encountered similar, if less dramatic, parallels in my life;
situations I thought I could not handle but found out I could when
pressed. I may have denied some people the good feelings they may have
received from helping me, but I sincerely hope I didn't do so lightly
or without thanking them for caring. However, I have as a result been
better able to give back to that same society that wants to help me.
My goal is not simply to show how independent I can be. If I develop
my abilities to give back to society while gently redirecting the help
offered to me to persons who need it more, I believe all of us are
better served, blind and sighted alike.”

Steve Jacobson (Edina, Minnesota USA)

**43. “You ask this question?

If each and every
blind/visually impaired person were to exhibit this type of behavior to the
best of their ability, what do you think the result would be?"
From all the input in this first feed back I can kind of go along with. Yet
in this one that you pose the above question. If everyone to his/her best
of ability was to come across courteous, polite, friendly, caring, showing
compassion, feeling from the heart and You know just being a nice person.
It would be a lot easier in the handicap world!
thank you”

gene Stone (Portland, Maine USA geno@maine.rr.com)

**44. “She writes- 'why did I have to act like I could do anything they
could do.'

I grew up being the shortest for everything and people always telling me
"You are too small". Well, that is all I had to hear to prove them wrong.
I worked harder and did many things in life that people would have never
expected! NOW.....I am losing vision and I still work hard to "prove" I
can do things they say I can't. With this in mind, I also know when I
cannot do something and ask for help. People need to be "Needed", it is a
human need (In my opinion). It feels good to help someone else. It helps
me to stop thinking about my problems, at least for a little while. So, I
offer others help on things I can do.....and ask for help with things I
cannot. It really is that simple (To me).

PRIDE gets in our way so often....and it is not just a healthy pride, but an
unhealthy one. Like the person who stood instead of taking a seat, in pain
to make a point....I think that is an unhealthy pride. We all do it from
time to time.....we get tired of people feeling sorry....it is only human
nature. But to go around with a pride chip on our shoulder is wrong
also....Keep your head up, be proud and sensible at the same time!”

Joyce Cass Pratt (jpratt@cybernex.net)

**45. “What impression does a person with a White cane give when seen
paying full fair?

When I was about 13 years old, my father took me to the movies. he asked
the lady in the booth for 2 adult tickets. The lady stood there arguing
with my dad...she's not over 12....Even if she is, you can get away with 1/2
fare. Well, my dad put down money for 2 adults tickets and was not going
to change his mind. What a lesson in life he was giving me.

Now, visually impaired and my income is a lot lower, I will accept the lower
fare, because I am making a lot less money. I know that in the past, I paid
full fare (When I did not have to). I will accept a little break, because I
need one right now. If I was working full time and making a good salary,
then I would NOT pay the reduced fare.

(My 2 cents worth...discounted, that would be 1 1/2 cents)”

Joyce Cass Pratt

**46. “With equal opportunity comes equal responsibility. Blindness is no reason
for special favors. Part of achieving equal opportunity is accepting
responsibility for what that equal opportunity requires from me as a blind
person. When special favors or concessions are given simply because the
recipient is blind such as, for example, college courses being waved,
priority seating on bus or subway systems, we have to tell ourselves that
same person or organization who gave special concessions is probably not
going to hire a blind person. So we need to really think before we start
accepting these special things. Besides, where is the dignity in allowing
ourselves to be placed in the second-class citizen category. No thank you.
Treat me as an equal or leave me alone.”

Joyce Porter (Houston, Texas USA)

**48. “My first reaction--:
Good show!! Don't cater to others "insistence" to "help" you live your
life, do your tasks, accommodate you according to what they think you
should "have".

On further reflection, I think, the issue is more, that first, people
don't expect us to take responsibility, therefore, they do not offer
assistance, they "demand," we take the seat. They do not suggest we ask
our teachers for help or aid, "they insist we do it!" independent
action and thought on our part is somehow unheard of!

The second thing that occurs is that people who offer the seat get so
upset that we don't take their offer! We aren't given a choice, as are
others, and this disturbs me a bit more than does the attitude that
because I am blind I "have" to have "help!"

Hope this makes sense.”

P. Stevens (J.C. Tennessee USA

**49. “Well, I think it's like the $100 Christmas bonus for the blind which a town had. And the blind people of that town couldn't get hired anywhere. Nothing
is without a price. Taking a seat when one is capable of standing perpetuates the myth that blind people aren't capable of holding our own--standing,
hearing, etc. I think I'd just say no thank you but I appreciate your gesture (because they are trying to be thoughtful.”

Chris McKenzie (Rehab mailing list- USA)

**50. “One reply to this PROVOKER said, in part, the following:

He was quite rude,
> however, for not stopping to politely and verbally thank her for her
> kindness, and to explain that he would really prefer that she would keep
> her seat, and that he felt so full of energy that he'd rather stand
> anyway. If, on the other hand, he really was exhausted and would have
> rather sat down, and if he only wanted to stay standing in order to assert
> his independence as a blind person, then he was being an arrogant
> hypocrite, and willing to trample on the feelings of others in order to
> prove it.

I reread the little story to see if I'd missed anything. I had not. He
gave the woman a nod and a grin that should have told her all she needed
to know. Certainly, at the start, we should decline unwanted, even
condescending "charity" calmly, without belligerence. We have no
obligation, however, to drown every such decline in ten gallons of
metaphorical syrup.

Furthermore, any person, blind or not, has the right to be as independent
as she or he wants to and can be, even if it's only to prove the point.
(I believe we all have an obligation to be as independent as we can be, so
as not to drain the resources of other people.) If somebody wants to hurt
his or her own feelings because I'd rather do something myself than take
the unwanted "help," I wish that person luck in trying to become a mature
adult. When people decline my offers of help, misplaced or not, I respect
their right to do it and think I'd be rude to do otherwise. I expect that
in return, and will do my incremental part to help create the kind of
world in which all people give and receive that kind of respect. Remember
that the blind guy in this story, like many of us in real life, was simply
exercising the kind of independence that most people who are not blind
take for granted. For us, that independence is threatened to some degree
almost every day: people are real sure it's best for us to use the
revolving door or the swinging door, the stairs rather than the escalator
or vice versa, to go into this line or work and not that one--or, too
often, none at all. People usually mean well, but they're also wrong
very, very often about what blindness means we can and can't do. Only
when I or somebody coming after me can take independence as much for
granted as my sighted brothers now do will we blind folks finally have
arrived at our proper place in the world.

The same reply to the PROVOKER also includes the following:
Blind people should never put their need to assert
> their independence ahead of the feelings of others. Sometimes it is
> necessary and right to humbly accept an unneeded, and even unwanted, offer
> of assistance, even if that offer is counter-productive (like being led
> the wrong way across an intersection), simply because it is more wrong to
> offend the one offering the assistance. One must never put personal goals
> ahead of the feelings of other people. Those who do may well eventually
> get their just reward when, in an unexpected moment of true need, others
> assume that assistance wouldn't be appreciated and probably isn't actually
> needed anyway. Even if you never need assistance from anyone else
> throughout your entire life, how would such arrogant insensitivity on your
> part help other blind people who are less independent and do need to rely
> on the benevolence of others?"

I disagree profoundly with all of this.

In the first place, when there is a conflict between the two, my needs are
more important than another's feelings. Equally, of course, when there is
a conflict between the two, another's needs are more important than my
feelings. Frankly, I think we'll have far fewer hurt feelings if we ever
deal with each other that way as a matter of course. That's because we'll
try to pay attention to what others need, and be willing to put our often
half-baked stories about what they need to the side. If that day comes,
folks won't see that my eyes don't work and conclude that my legs don't
either (even as I stand or walk), and feel driven to offer me seats they'd
almost certainly rather keep. Then, nobody will single me out from all
the others waiting for a subway train, ask if I'm ok, and then chirp "I
was only trying to help," in a hurt little voice when I asked the logical
question, "Why wouldn't I be?". People won't trot up to a door I already
have my hand on to open it for me: they'll notice that I look like I'm
about to do it myself. It is not kind to assume I'm unable to do
something, even if it is in some way kindly meant. No, I don't snap at
these folks unless they keep at it (refusing to respect my wishes, as they
would want theirs respected), or, as humans seem designed to do, I have a
bad day and screw up. But I do try calmly and firmly--and with a smile
when I can--something that I hope will help them begin to abandon the old
notions about blindness that have blighted many, many thousands of lives.

It is fact, provable daily, that we need not humbly swallow the poison
crumbs of misguided charity in order for us or others to get the real help
we or they need. I have countless times asked and sometimes told people
not to do certain things, and also that they can be helpful by doing
certain other things. It won't work well if you're rude, of course, but
being rude does not mean failing to bury your every word in the day's
output of a sugar factory! If we speak in calm and straightforward tones,
if we tell the truth, and if the people in our lives see that we try to
pull our own weight as much as we can, things will work out far more often
than not. I have seen it time and time again. The people who are worth
anything won't abandon us to starve or get run over in the streets because
we want to live our lives as fully and freely as they want to live theirs.
As for those few who might abandon us, we should celebrate their

Finally, there is this. I can not offend anybody simply declining his or
her help. It logically can't be done! Those who feel offended are in
fact offending themselves: they have decided that what they want for me
is more important than what I want for myself. They've made themselves
disappointed because I didn't do what they expect, rather than considered
what it was they really should have expected in the first place. That,
by the way, is true arrogance. (We
really can't be hurt by the rude words of others, either, unless we choose
at some level to interpret them as hurtful. But beyond noting that, I
leave it aside: it makes no sense to be rude in any event.) When somebody
takes offense because I pulled my arm wordlessly from a grabbing hand,
that's just plain too bad: they'd never grab a sighted person that way,
and there's no logical reason to do it to me or any other blind person.
Sometimes the behavior of others can be seen as the primary cause of hurt
feelings. Often, though, all or most of the pain we feel comes from our
own mental noise, noise with little or no good evidence in the real world
to ground it. When we are at least willing to distinguish between notions
and feelings borne of prejudice and misconception from those arising in
whole or in part from the world we share, we are helping to create a world
of both kindness and respect--which is, after all, an expression of
kindness. Until most of us do that most of the time, though, we'll
continue to have a world full of troubles.

This is how it looks to me, anyway. It's time to close. Thanks to all
for enduring this.”

Al Sten-Clanton (Boston, Massachusetts USA)

**51 “BEEN THERE, DONE THAT I lived in an area where blind people could ride the
bus for free. I always insisted on paying full fare. One day I got in an
argument with the driver who said I was being foolish to pay when I could
ride for free. I explained that the price for riding free was much too
expensive for me, I would rather pay my way.

I also have been told I could use my blindness as an excuse for not doing
the work. I always compete in the real world not in a world of someone
else's excuse. That way you know you have really won.”

Jody Ianuzzi (Keene, New Hampshire USA)

FROM ME: “And many of the rest of us also have the T Shirt.”

**52. “After reading Al Sten-Clenton's response I had to say, "Yes!" It was the philosophy that I feel the Thought Provoker was trying to stress. When someone
grabs a door as a blind person is already opening it, that is saying in a way, "I can do this better than you." Some of my favorite Clentonisms are:
To decline unwanted help without "ten gallons of metaphorical syrup," and the expectation of "humbly swallowing the poisoned crumbs of misguided charity."
By being personally responsible to explain and soothe the feelings of the world would be so time consuming and exhausting! By pulling away an unwanted
hand is asserting control of your personal space and deflects an invasion of your free will. I have re-read this one several times because I feel that
it speaks from the heart and is written so well. The very important plea that is heard loud and clear: "They have decided what they want for me is more
important than what I want for myself." No lamb being led peacefully to slaughter here!”

Suzanne (California USA)

**53. “I think each of us will evaluate the 3 examples given based on what we
perceive to be the motivation of the person making the offer or comment.
The librarian could have many motivations -- some relating to blindness,
some not. Have you considered that the librarian may be saying that the
instructor will excuse some of the reading because you have a heavy
work schedule above and beyond your studies, because she knows
other people are getting out of the reading (who aren't blind) for a variety
of reasons, because she's bone lazy and doesn't want to help you any
more and is simply trying to get rid of you, or because the materials are
less accessible to someone who is blind -- perhaps because of the
school's failing to meet its responsibilities. The person at the bus stop:
You've just been to the library, are your arms full of books and/or do you
look tired because of all of the work plus studies you are doing? If I
leave a library with an armful of books or if I look dead on my feet under
any circumstances, I would certainly hope someone would offer me a
seat out of kindness. Wouldn't you do the same? With respect to the
bus-driver, have you thought that the driver might be referring to a
discount program for students, not a program for persons with
disabilities. If it is a program for persons with disabilities, have you
considered that the bus-driver might have been instructed to advise all
persons with disabilities about the availability of the discount program?
It might just be his job -- nothing to do with you personally. Have you
thought that the driver might be someone who is supporting a family on a
relatively small wage who would gladly take advantage of every
available financial break and can't understand why you or any other
person wouldn't do the same? Everyone experiences the world through
their own filters. I think those of us who are blind or have other
disabilities often assume that people are doing something for us or
saying something to us or about us because we of the disability, but that
is not always true. Sometimes the same offer or comment would be
made to someone in the same situation who is not blind or otherwise
disabled. For these reasons, I don't think the above examples
necessarily implicate issues of equal opportunity.”

Jeanine Worden (USA)

FROM ME: “Well, this could be: Asking for clarification may be a good first step to what action you may wish to take in response to a wrongly placed offer. What do you think?”

**54. “First, I see no logical connection between the particular expenses of
being blind and, for example, bus fare discounts, property tax abatements,
or an income tax exemption based solely on one's blindness. Though I have
no wish to pass judgment on people who use such "benefits" to make the
best of a low income, I do think it's long overdue to get rid of these
policies and deal more sensibly with poverty. Some may assert that this
is not realistic. Whatever else may be true, it certainly can't happen if
all of us decide that it's unrealistic and make no effort. Once upon a
time, if people had decided computers were impossible, would any of us
share in this useful exchange of views?

Once I decided to pay my own way, I did it regardless of my income. This
meant I had to do without, sometimes, but I knew that was part of being
equal. I believed then and believe now that helping to create my equality
is the only way to ensure in the long run that we blind folks share fully
in the fruits of society. We blind folks have some important, specialized
needs for assistance, and it makes a lot more sense to me to replace these
so-called benefits with truly useful benefits that deal with our
specialized costs.

There is a way to think of it as "equal" when we grab these bennies:
we're just taking what we can get, like a great many people do. There may
be a little something to that, but only a little, I think. Especially as
taxpayers, or as people who think we're getting the short end of the
benefits programs, we complain about what we regard as unwarranted
benefits. For example, I doubt the moral grounding for an "oil depletion
allowance," and I have no love for giving stockholders better tax breaks
than the people who do the work and make their stocks go up will get. I
think most if not farm subsidies should be wiped out gradually, most
especially those for a product like tobacco, which is generally regarded
as a killer. (People should have the right to smoke as much as they want,
but they shouldn't put the stuff in my lungs, and the folks who make and
sell the stuff shouldn't get my tax money.) Well, if I'm going to vote for
getting rid of what I regard as illogical largess, then I'd be the worst
sort of hypocrite to grab up the ones that happen to be for me. I think
treating people right requires me not to do that.

Cindy Handel said maybe the guy in the story didn't accomplish much
because he didn't explain himself. I do give explanations when I can in
such situations, but often I can't. At those times, it seems best simply
to behave in such a way that the people around me CAN get the message. I
think this does convey the message over time, at least in places I go

As for choice, I like lots of it. I think we'll have a much better world
when we cut back greatly on the pressure to conform. But I don't think we
with disabilities have a right to greater choice than others. I don't
think we have the right to say, "This is what I need," and expect to get
it automatically until every person, with or without a disability, has
that right. That, I think, can not happen. If everybody has the choice
to ride a bus free, than so should we; if not, then we shouldn't; if poor
people have the choice, then those of us who meet the applicable
definition of poor should have the choice but not the rest of us. If I
want extra time to do a task or some other accommodation, I have the job
of showing that it makes sense. And in order for this to work well,
the myths about our disabilities must die; otherwise, people may give us
what we don't need or refuse, out of uninformed stubbornness, to give us
what we do need. (On this last point, I'm reminded of the president of
Boston University who went so far as to invent a student for his stories
about people with learning disabilities, to help him justify eliminating
certain wavers or assistance to them.)

Thanks for reading.”

Al Sten-Clanton (Boston, Virginia USA)

**55. “The latest PROVOKER has churned some thoughts in my mind. As for half
price bus fare, I am in agreement with most of those who have responded.
If society allowed us to hold a job and earn a living, we should be
expected to pay full fare. Then again, we do not want to appear to the
public as beggars or like poor blind people!

Personally, I'd really like to hold a decent job and have enough salary
to support myself than to appear helpless to those on my travels. That
is why I am currently attending school and am seeking to earn a degree.
The three main colleges in this city have a contract with the bus company
which allows students to ride free on week days. I like this arrangement
as (in spite of my age) I'm not getting a special benefit just because I
have a cane in my hand. If more students would use the free bus service,
parking would not be near the problem it is on campus. One advantage to
being a cane user is not needing to pay a parking meter when attending

The faculty in the department with whom I am working, take their
responsibility very seriously! Each student within the department is
expected to do likewise. extended time or shortened assignments is not
heard of on the basis of blindness. They give assignments and are
willing to provide suggestions on how one might accomplish the goal. This
staff is willing to give the same services for any student who seeks

Last year I was told by the head of the department that "this is NOT an
easy program for blind and visually impaired students". To date, I have
not felt lead to argue with this comment. This same professor has gone
out of her way to provide material in an accessible format. She has been
known to describe videos and provides copies of the overheads used in
class. Then I was marked off for misunderstanding a word and writing it
wrong on a test. AS she said, "It was on the overhead". Fare? Isn't
everyone expected to spell words correctly?
Someone once said, "No one ever had to rise to meet low expectations".

Carol (Tallahassee Florida USA)

**56. “Well, I have to strongly agree that there's a fine line between
accommodations and pity. There are certainly times, we as blind people, need
accommodations. We can't deny that. But, I have known blind people who will
take advantage of their blindness. For instance, there’s a student who is
at my public high school here in Wisconsin, and she's also totally blind.
Well, whenever it's passing time between classes, she's often quite late
coming from one place to another. I guess the people on hall duty, if she
passes them, think that her cane is a pass. Of course, I strongly disagree
with that. The big exception, though, to this rule is if we're going to the
vision resource to take a test or something. But just to show up late
doesn't make sense.”

Stacy (Wisconsin USA)

**57. “Reading the latest update, I was suddenly minded of an incident that occurred
to us:

David and I were on our way home from a convention, and had to take the
train. Since he was carrying two suitcases, he asked me to take his cane.
This was a straight cane, which didn't fold or collapse. I took it, but felt
funny about carrying it since I'm not blind, so held it differently than he
does. Probably upside down. Some lady on the train kept glaring at me, and
spoke harshly, something to the affect that I ought not to be holding
something like that. I just ignored her. Later, she came over to me, and
apologized, saying that since the circus was in town, and a lot of people
were on the train going home from the circus, she thought I was holding "a
circus stick". I've no idea what that is, do you?

We also had a goodie some years back when a friend of ours invited us at the
last minute to a Halloween party. We came without unusual costumes because
we didn't have notice. But for some reason, one of the people in the group
(who was a stranger to us) saw David's cane, and congratulated him on his
imaginative costume. Imagine, coming as a blind person!

My daughter tells me now that her son, who is 2 and a half, has a bunch of
markers with long tops which can be fitted together. So he fit together six
or seven of them, and pretended they were a cane, like his grandfather's. My
daughters tell me they used to use anything to hand to pretend they had
canes, such as curtain rods, broomsticks, etc.”

Lori Stayer (Merrick, New York USA)

**58. “Equal opportunity requires equal responsibility. “ This is what I hear most of these people saying. I’m for that. But I’d admit, some times I use my blindness to get my way. Mostly I am a self-respecting individual who responsibly makes their own opportunities and I am not usually a little shit. (I hope you keep that word in. It tells how I can sometimes be and know I shouldn’t.)”

The Little me With The Big I

FROM ME: “I’ll allow most anything in, providing it lends to the understanding of the response.”

**59. “Pam, the librarian in Michigan, asked if the author had actually experienced the encounters described in the story. Coincidentally,
it was a course in economic history that I took as a freshman, many years ago, that I had my first offer of exemption from
a project. It was the professor and the project was a midterm examination that consisted of marking the location of places
in the Middle East that had had some economic significance. I declined and worked with a reader to mark the places on the
map that was provided. A reasonable accommodation. When I explained to the professor that I could do it this way, he had
no problem. He could have said, "I will treat you exactly like everyone else and distribute the blank maps in the classroom."
This would certainly have been "identical" treatment, but identical is not the same as equality. Whether we call it "reasonable
accommodation" or "equal opportunity", the need for it is created by your circumstances. Blindness, in some circumstances,
is a sufficient indication of the need for particular kinds of accommodation, but not others. Reduced fares for persons
who are economically disadvantaged would certainly appear to be reasonable, but blindness, as such, should not indicate the
need and the reduced fare would not then automatically be a reasonable accommodation. Calling out the stops, however, would
be. We assume reduced income for seniors and many private and public facilities offer discounts. It should be good for
business and that may be the rationale, but I don't see the world rushing for our business. If the blindness implies a reason
for a particular kind of accommodation, we should be in a position to discuss this reason on the basis of the principle involved
and not always accept the other person's stereotype of blindness as a "reason" in itself. I recall several years ago, my
wife and I and a blind friend went to Cambridge, England, and stopped at the kiosk to buy tour bus tickets. The young lady
hesitated for a moment and then said, "It wouldn't really make sense to charge blind men for a sigh-seeing tour, now, would
it." I was so struck by her logic that I didn't answer, even though my friend tried to explain that we took up seats and
benefited from the tour guide's description, but she was unmoved. Now, free riding may not have been a "reasonable accommodation",
but her logic made sense, given her perspective that this was, after all, "sight" seeing. Incidentally, the same logic didn't
affect a driver later in Oxford. But, when blindness as a physical fact is the only factor involved and others are making
the decisions on this basis, there doesn't seem to be any common ground for discussing the matter. While courtesy to the
kindly may be highly desirable in these situations, we should be able to count on their willingness to look at the reasoning:
why is this accommodation reasonable or unneeded?”

So says James Nyman (Lincoln Nebraska USA)

**60. “I am a parent of a blind child and a sighted child. We have learned that you must ask the same of each child or you make one different. Yes, ask for what they can give within their abilities. Have high expectations of them and they will of themselves. We see part of our parentally goal to make our children responsible, confident and respectful adults. We know they must be this way, in order to best take advantage of opportunities when they come.”

Pat (USA)

**61. FROM ME: “after seeing each update, this person wrote in several times. I’m detecting some learning as she goes along.”

(1) "I just visited your website and found it very interesting. I've never known
or talked to a blind person and recently have been wanting to. I am facing
eye surgery and the thought frightens me, but losing my sight terrifies me.
It's too scary, even though reading some opinions on your website makes it
sound as though the unsighted are just as happy as those who can see.
Personally, I'm sure I wouldn't like it at all. I live in Naples, Florida
and have been searching for a place where I can meet a person who cannot see.
I would like to ask questions and just talk. How do I locate someone who is
blind? Are there certain places that blind people like to hang out...I mean,
I would rule out tennis courts, but I really don't know what blind people do
and that scares me too. Well, thanks for listening.”

(2) "Equal is not always equal if it does not create balance. If you are given a benefit of some kind based solely on the fact that you fit into some
category, why would you not accept something that is meant for you and your
"kind". Are you not proud of who you are? Are you ashamed to admit that you
are receiving help, oh poor baby? Well, everyone needs help at some time, and
if you accept assistance not because you need it but because it is very
necessary to another person receiving similar benefits, then you can always
donate your portion back to the cause if you feel uneasy about it.
Sometimes, though, you have no choice. Help just comes to you. As a person
who can see, believe me, if I ever saw a blind person I would absolutely feel
compelled to go over and offer my help. In fact, I'm one of those who would
want to tell you how bad I feel that you need that cane to get around, but
don't worry, I'm here now and I'll help you. That's what I would want to
tell you, but of course I would not. I actually would probably not do
anything, since I am shy and not sure how to even offer my help to someone
who cannot see me. Now which would a blind person prefer........ the
overbearing sympathetic offer of help or the silent observer? You'll have to
tell me, because I don'[t know. I do, however, know how to feel sorry for
people and do not think that is such a bad thing. I feel sorry for the young
mother who has her hands full with groceries and a crying baby, so I'll offer
to help her open her car door. I feel sorry for anyone carrying a load in
their arms, so I'll offer my seat on the bus or train. I feel sorry for the
old lady who cannot manipulate her walker through the revolving door, so I'll
jump in to stop the door from knocking her over. So why can't I feel sorry
for the sightless person who needs to feel around for what I can easily see
with my eyes and help that person with their packages or offer my seat? When
I see a short person reaching for something that is easily within my grasp,
I'm more than pleased to help and usually receive a thank you. So if I see a
blind person groping, would I not want to place the item that I can see in
his/her hand. If I notice a blind person who is obviously reaching and
feeling with a cane but not finding their destination, groping and moving in
the wrong direction, should I just stand back and not offer to help? If my
help was rejected, I know I would not feel right about leaving the person on
their own. Just as I would not feel right leaving a person in a wheel chair
at the bottom of a hill without trying to help. So I guess what I'm saying
is, some people in this world are just compelled to help others, that's just
the way they are and it would be tough to educate everyone on how to deal
with each individuals definition of "needs". So just accept the help in the
spirit it is given.”

K (Florida USA)

FROM ME: “This person makes one observation in the above submission that I agree with. It is when she speaks of when seeing a blind person who is groping, going in the wrong direction is usually the person she can’t resist wanting to help. My point being, development of good skills is by the blind person is very important; important on several levels. What do you think?”

(3) “Regarding equal opportunity equals......too many people whose responses I've
read are so very concerned about why certain benefits are being offered to
them. I hate to tell you this, but some of the "accommodations" being offered
today originally started out years ago, and were offered to blind people out
of pity. Yes, I said pity. I get the impression from all that I've read,
that blind people should accept help as long as it is not based upon pity.
Get over it. Pity is a word we rarely use these days but it is what some
humans feel for other humans. They can't help it. It is also known as
compassion, or caring, but it all started out as a basic human emotion, pity
for some person or thing that cannot function as well as the pitier. It's
present in most humans, but especially in females. A maternal thing, present
in most women but especially among those who've born children. They want to
cure the world of every ailment, and upon seeing a "poor blind person" they
want to just go over and say it's okay now -- you've had to use that cane to
find your way but it's okay because I am here to take care of you now. As if
the same person would want to carry a man or woman in a wheel chair or
perform 24hour-a-day CPR on someone hooked up to a breathing machine. But
when people see a blind man or pregnant woman, statistics have shown that the
blind man will be offered a seat on a train or bus more times than the
pregnant woman. What does that say? We feel sorry for the pregnant woman
who has to stand rather than sit, but we feel pity for the blind man, even
though it's possible that the blind man could be the father of the woman's
baby. Still people feel empathy for a pregnant woman (it could happen to any
woman) and sympathy for the blind man (it should never happen to anyone).
Perhaps people's reactions are so more compassionate to blind people than
others because we can all think about what would happen if.....? but we
don't really know what to expect. We think that by covering our ears, we may
possibly get some idea of how it is to be deaf, or by staying seated and
trying to see how much we can accomplish that way, we may relate to the
wheelchair-bound. How many of us would want to be blindfolded for even a few
minutes to see how it is to be blind? Not many, because we already know
about darkness....it happens every night, and to some people it is so scary
that they cannot bear to think of actually living that way every day. So,
whenever they come upon a person who is blind, those feelings grip the
sighted in the pit of their stomachs and they cannot help but want to grab
that blind person and help them in any way that they can. After all, they
are face to face with the fate that they think would be the worse thing that
could happen, and of course they assume that the person behind the cane or
dog and dark glasses (how about a THOUGHT PROVOKER on why blind people wear
those? I have no idea) are in the throes of suffering darkness and confusion
and who of course need help. Well, I say that if you can benefit in any way
from what life has handed you, then go for it. If God gave you good legs, be
a runner (or a leg model). If God gave you a handicap and the government
provides benefits for that particular handicap, take them, and if you do not
need them, then either donate your portion to a worthy cause or let the
agency know of someone who needs help more than you. But don't reject help
based upon how it is given, or you may no longer have it available. People
for the most part are caring and don't usually think about how good it makes
them feel to be nice until much later after their good deed is done. and we
should all be grateful that there are still caring, loving individuals out
there. I know I do my best to care for those who I consider less fortunate
than me, but I also accept a helping hand from those who have had it better
than I have. That's just the way the world is.....equality is as equality
provides for.”


(4) “Well, I am definitely learning from what I am reading, and I hope I do not
offend anyone with any of my contributions or observations. It seems as
though a lot of folks who participate in the T.P.'s are not real fond of the
"sighted", and maybe we can build a bridge. I am actually a nice person, but
I've had no experience so far with blind people and as I said, I am learning
a lot. From what I've read, I've learned that I will never assist a blind
person across a busy street unless my help is asked for, and if I ever
encounter a blind person with a sighted person, I will address both
individuals equally. You see, there just aren't any blind people in this
town where I live, and there weren't any around when I was growing up and
learning manners. That is when these lessons should be learned, in childhood.
My daughter's school is having what they call "discovery day", which is sort
of like a career day in that children in K through 5th learn that there are
all types of people in Florida with all types of jobs. It would be nice if
they could be exposed to some of the "other" careers and people who live
those careers, instead of just hearing about the police man, the cake
decorator, veterinarian, nurse, alligator wrestler and news
weatherman.....those are what we have lined up so far, and the kids will
learn a lot. But wouldn't it begin to create a world of understanding if
these children could also see how a deaf person can actually own a clothing
store, or a blind person can really get him/herself to work every day (and
enjoy it), a person in a wheelchair behind the desk at the bank, or an
amputee creating something artistic? These are lessons children don't
forget. Too bad I don't know where to find people who would be willing to
give others a glimpse of what the "real world" is like for them. Maybe I can
look in the yellow pages under, what? "Heroes"?, "Geeks-R-Us", "People who
measure up better than you"? I don't know. But thank you for allowing me
to join T.P. = perhaps I'll get some ideas from the fine people in that

K (Naples, Florida USA)

**62. “Well, regarding getting out of doing a regular class assignment, under
most circumstances I would certainly agree that if one is going to
school, one need do the regular assignments. However, that doesn't mean
they can't be done differently, (unrelated to blindness) when one has a
creative and open-minded instructor.

I had one case in a non-lab biology class in which the assignment was to
do an in-depth paper about a certain issue around
science/religion/ethics, etc. using pictorial examples with as few words
as possible. He was operating from the idea that "a picture's worth 1000
words." At first, my instructor was going to "let me out of" that
assignment. I told him I could have someone help me find pictures that
fit the words I was trying to convey. Almost simultaneously we said:
"But then it wouldn't really be my (your) work." From that, we both
reasoned that it was okay for me to type my paper, using text rather than
pictures. A year or so later, I happened to meet up with this professor
again and asked about the final paper. He said that mine had been so far
superior that he decided that what he had really done was give the rest
of the class a "kindergarten" assignment and I had been the only one who
had really done college-level work. In addition, from then on, he had
been more careful not to just flash pictures up on the overhead
projector. This was in about 1971.

Now, given some of the difficulties we blind people are having with
technology, related to graphics, and a general problem in our schools
with illiteracy cropping up with too much dependence on "explaining with
pictures," I'm glad that the written or spoken word still has major
importance. In this one case, I'm glad I didn't have to do the
assignment exactly as the others did and I'm glad computer geeks haven't
forced us to "get the picture" altogether, dropping text as if it were
old-fashioned. We'd really have a hard time trying to decipher
graphics-only materials.

Also around that time, I was in an English class in which we were
studying ancient poetry. As he was giving the assignment, our instructor
mumbled something about not writing them too boringly since after all, he
had to read them all. The wheels spun quickly in my brain. At the end
of class, I explained to my instructor that I liked to write songs and
preferred to use other peoples' lyrics. I wondered if it would be okay
if I set some of these poems to music, taught them to my sister, and we
shared them with him and the class? His whole mood changed! He was
delighted! I set six poems of Catullus to music and the class really
liked them! My instructor was in the audience to hear further songs I
did in independent study classes later on. This was much more creative
and fun than the regular "stuff" and it had absolutely nothing to do with

Recently, in our chorus, we all had to stand through our performance
holding our books. As a blind person, I have done this for years.
However, I now have major difficulty standing for more than a few minutes
due to orthopedic conditions, and last fall, I injured my left hand,
which was not strong enough to hold my book up at concert time. I sat
for part of the Christmas program (so did some others) and the woman next
to me helped me hold up my book during our winter concert. It didn't
hurt any of us to do this and our music sounded just the same--very good!

Last year, my first year in the chorus, I insisted on standing for the
entirety of Mozart's Requiem. At dress rehearsal, my face was so pinched
up and I was so near tears that one woman whispered "just a minute," and
soon she came with a chair. I was so worried that everyone would think I
had to sit because I was blind that I refused the chair for our Saturday
performance. I was in so much pain I hardly remember the beautiful music
and felt no joy in singing it. I know there are saints around who have
learned to enjoy pain and be thankful for it. I'm not there yet.

On our Sunday performance, I took more than the usual amount of ibuprofen
so I could stand. I stood, enjoyed the music thoroughly, only to deal
with stomach ulcers and bleeding too easily later. What price to pay for
"proving I can do this because I'm blind," when probably no one in the
audience even noticed or cared about that.

In the late 1970's, I had a condition which caused me to make frequent
trips to the restroom. For one thing, I hadn't learned yet about lactose
intolerance. Some people in our organization whispered that I was
leaving because I didn't want to hear a certain report, or what a certain
person had to say. However, when I had to leave, sighted people usually
saw the look on my face and would run toward me to help me hurry. Even at
National Convention, when I was heading for the restroom, sighted persons
perceived that now was not a good time for me to take my time figuring
out how to get there. They helped me make a bee-line to the restroom, as
some blind people muttered, "Why isn't she going by herself?" I heard
it. To them, I was asking for extra help I didn't need and not being a
good example of a "well-rehabilitated" blind person.

I probably would take the offer of a seat nowadays if my feet were
hurting, but not because I'm blind. I would probably explain this to the
person, if I had the opportunity. But I've stood in lines at conventions
for meals, in exhibit halls with no extra chairs, etc, when the pain was
so great I almost passed out. A kind lady helped me just last year at
our National NFB convention. She was working with the Safari Club, saw
me sitting on the floor in pain and brought me a chair. She also took me
a shorter route to see the beautiful lion and tiger they had on display.
This was a blessing for a cat-person like me. If I had not had that
particular help when I got it, I might have been in big trouble and
missed seeing the "cats." I stood while I petted the cats, but sat down
to read the literature I'd collected from the exhibit hall, gathered my
strength, and went back to the hall again. Quality of life comes to mind
here among other things.

If stoics want to be so, fine; but they don't have to force their way of
life on all of us or look down on us. It doesn't seem reasonable to me
for the only-blind to measure our every word and act on whether or not
we are "walking the walk" of the perfectly rehabilitated blind person,
when some of us may be multidisabled-blind. Blindness doesn't cause
pain, but some other conditions do and we have the right to decide how
much of it we will bear for what reasons. And when we love someone, we
usually want to help, not hurt!!!!!!!!”

Laurie Merryfield (Washington USA)

**63. “I think this is a very good topic and one that I can relate to. I will admit that I do ride the bus at the reduced fare, not because I feel I’m owed it,
though. My reason is because what little bit of money I do save I can use to help pay household bills and other expenses. It is just my mom and me and
every little bit of money we can save helps us. Now once I have a job and I don’t have to live from hand to mouth so much I will be more than willing to
pay full fare. I know not many people will understand this probably, but for someone like me who has never had everything under the sun it’s the way life
is right now.

What I really find interesting in this topic is the part at the university. When I started going to university everyone wanted to tell me what they thought
would make things easier on me. In my mind this was a little strange since I had just completed primary and secondary school where in many cases I was
on my own. By the time I finished second grade I was told I was being mainstreamed because I really didn’t need as much intensive help. This was true,
I was a very hard worker and I didn’t need someone standing over me, but that didn’t mean I didn’t need some help. My fifth grade year the lady that was
supposed to come to my school once a week to work with me went on maternity leave. That whole school year I only saw someone maybe five times at most.
That just further reinforced in my mind I needed to learn how to handle everything on my own. So by the time I started university it was a little late
for all the suggestions. Now I won’t go through all that I was told, but I will say that I have done a very good job of keeping my grades up with only
a few aids. There have been times when I’ve wondered how on earth am I going to do this (like currently I’m dealing with how am I going to do this one
assignment that is due in last than two weeks that requires a lot of sight), but I step back and I think about it and if I really have to I will ask for
help. I will admit that I usually don’t ask for help, although I'm not saying that is right.

I think it is very important to be able to take responsibility and know your boundaries. Don’t shut everyone out, yet don’t just lie down and expect everything
to be handed to you. Help is not the same as pity. Pity is when someone feels sorry for you and to ease their conscience they want to do things for you.
Help is when you can work together with someone to get something that is just a little bit out of your reach done. How you handle things and other people
go according to the situation and what you feel comfortable in doing. There are some things that it is just safer or easier to have a little help. Getting
help doesn’t mean you’ve a failure or anything, it just means that you’re human. As for a job, it also goes on a per instance basis. Years ago there were
more restrictions but with things like the ADA act jobs can be accommodated and there isn’t a lot a blind person can’t do. Sure, you might have to open
yourself up to a little help, even if you’re like me and have conditioned yourself not to. But in the long run it’s worth it and it goes to show there
is equal opportunity.”

Wendalyn (university student, Nebraska USA)

FROM ME: “’Help is not the same as pity. Pity is when someone feels sorry for you and to ease their conscience they want to do things for you. Help is when you can work together with someone to get something that is just a little bit out of your reach done.’ I believe I can see equal opportunity springing from this definition. How about you?”

**64. "“After what I have experienced this week regarding a job interview. I guess
the only thing to add to this subject, is the equal opportunity to change
the opinion of the sighted regarding blind-visually impaired workers, and
not want to base their outright lack of faith in my abilities based on the
blind they have already hired, and are not doing a professional job and are
relying on the sighted to do most tasks and having a high absentee rate. I
strongly feel that equal opportunity needs to be an equal two way street.
The employers say it is a lot of work to do this, and I am familiar with it,
however, this is mostly what causes us, the blind, to feel that we can't get
a second chance.”

Renee Michele Zelickson (Huntsville, Alabama USA)

**65. "You know that, aside from a short bad merriage that I'm single and in my
40s. I've also made use of different modes of meeting people and I'm
really curious what would happen if I met #61. via one of those things.
Would #61. ever date or become involved with a blind man? I've got to
seriously doubt it based on her assumptions because the only way you could
have any kind of successful relationship with another person is that based
on mutual respect. I say that when you are feeling sorry for, or pittying
someone, you're certainly not respecting them. That's not to say that you
don't care, just that you don't respect that person. What she is failing
to understand is that it isn't her percieved notions of whether or not a
blind person is or isn't handling something but, it is her assumption that
a blind person is incapable of controling his own situation and using his
experiences as a blind person, with the skills of blindness, to solve a
particular problem...just as a sighted person would do when faced with a
problem...wwwwwhhhhmmmm!!!! That's kind of life isn't it. So, a person
looking for a door with a cane may not make contact with the door but, may
make contact with something else that inturn gives him a clew as to the
location of the door. Then, reading the information provided by the cane
(if he's allowed to get that infor without someone's kind but misguided
assistance) will then use that and continue on."

Bob Simonson (Omaha, Nebraska USA

**66. "No one can give you equal opportunity, it is a state of mind. How you view

yourself, is how most people will view you."

Sandra Oliveira (California USA)

**67. From a read of these responses, it is clear to me that there are no greater issues faced by blind people than what constitutes equality/equal opportunity,
and the twin issue of what is help, when is it too much, and when and how should we accept or reject it. So much of these issues are bound up in both our
own and others’ expectations about blindness that I don’t think there’s an easy or objective way to address or answer them. It also seems to me that blind
people, especially those of us who have been blind from a very young age or all our lives, have to deal with a lot of complex issues at a very young age,
a lot of them involving independence versus dependence, that our sighted counterparts probably don’t think about although they also have to deal with them.
The difference is that they tend not to realize this fact a lot of the time.

For instance, as a sighted kid grows and becomes more independent, he or she knows that they will maybe get a job in their teens, make their own money,
go to school, college, grad school, and maybe get married and raise a family. For the most part they probably won’t have trouble getting a job and earning
their keep, even if they don’t do anything as heroic as invent the next cancer vaccine, but instead just drive a truck.

But what about the blind kid? Well, I have three incidents I’d like to relate that may demonstrate my point.

When I was twelve, I was the only blind student in my junior/senior high school. I’d just started seventh grade a few days earlier, when I overheard a kid
in the cafeteria where we were having lunch asking people for a quarter. I don’t remember now why he wanted one, but I volunteered one of my own. He refused
to take it saying that it wasn’t right to take money from a blind person. Can you guess how I felt?

About sixteen years later, when I lived in New York City, I would go upstate to see my parents during the summer for a few weeks. I’d take the Amtrak train,
and had a routine in which I waited until the train got underway before asking the conductor where the food car was. Then I’d get up, money in pockets,
walk toward the car and buy myself a snack and something to drink. If I wanted to go to the casino upstate, I usually had quite a bit of money on me.

And this was precisely what happened one morning. After getting on the train, I did my usual routine. I asked where the food car was, walked toward where
the conductor told me to go, and waited in the line in which I found myself standing. A few feet away from the counter, a guy ahead of me asked me what
I was going to order.

"I think I’ll wait till I get to the counter," I said.

"Well I want to buy it for you," he said. Can you tell I started getting hot under the collar? But I politely declined.

"But I want to buy it for you!" he said, this time putting his hand on my shoulder. Points off.

"No thank you," I again said, this time more slowly and distinctly, as though I was talking to someone with the I.Q. of a retarded shrub.

Now this last one’s going to be out of chronological order, but I hope again that it demonstrates a point. When I was growing up in upstate New York, sixteen-year-olds
were expected to start paying for their own fishing licenses. Children under sixteen didn’t have to have a license, of course, and senior citizens got
to have their licenses for free. So, you guessed it, did blind people.

Notwithstanding, I decided at sixteen that I was going to pay for my own license, thank you. I got a lot of opposition from my brother over this, who believed
that I was wrong in thinking it was a charity. He pointed out that one of our friends, with whom we fished, and who just happened to be a senior citizen,
got his license for free, so what was I complaining about? I was complaining because I was neither a senior citizen who had been working all my life, nor
was I a child. Unfortunately he never got my point and I never won that argument. So I just took myself down to our municipal building where I bought my
damn license from one of my cousins who worked there. Seemed she respected my right to choose, oddly enough. Funny how some people are.

See, what really irks me about these three incidents is the underlying assumptions they raise. The kid in the cafeteria who wanted a quarter but who wouldn’t
take it from me had the same attitude toward me as the guy on the train. They both thought they were doing something nice, but they were telling me that
not much was expected of me, and that I was an object of pity. The kid in the cafeteria never realized that for two years before he met me, I’d been playing
in bands and earning the money, including the quarter, that he would have borrowed from other kids. The guy on the train didn’t realize that I’d been working
for several years, and was now earning a good salary, and that if I couldn’t afford to stand in line to buy my own bloody lunch, I wouldn’t have been there
at all. I don’t doubt that both of them thought I should have been grateful to them for what they were trying to do for me. Obviously I didn’t know my

And I related the story of the fishing license to illustrate another point. It seems to me that there are a lot of people in this society who think that
if you’re blind or otherwise disabled, you should take advantage of the freebies that are given to you. Usually this comes from sighted and non-disabled
people who think that it’s money in our pockets, and that if they were us, they’d accept the freebies without a problem. But they don’t seem to realize
that there is an underlying assumption, namely that we can’t be expected to participate as fully as, or even at all, in society the way "normal" people
do. So we have to be given allowances. And this attitude is so pervasive that it extends to governmental and business policy, such as allowing blind people
to have free fishing licenses or get discounts on trains and buses. If we refuse charity from total strangers, they get insulted. If we refuse a discount
on a train or bus, people want to argue with us, believing they know better than we how we should spend our money. Yet they would resent it if a total
stranger argued with them about these same issues. And I don’t think they’d even get how we feel until they became one of us.

Finally, Dave Mielke, one of your earliest respondents to this provoker says the following:

"Blind people should never put their need to assert their independence ahead of the feelings of others. Sometimes it is necessary and right to humbly accept
an unneeded, and even unwanted, offer of assistance, even if that offer is counter-productive (like being led the wrong way across an intersection), simply
because it is more wrong to offend the one offering the assistance."

First, I don’t like people telling me what, as a blind person, I "should" or "shouldn’t" do. Secondly, is refusing someone’s unwanted offer of assistance
such a bad thing when it is done politely? And whether done politely or not (and I think I try to be polite), how is hurting someone’s feelings worse than
getting led across the wrong intersection and getting taken so far out of my way that, for instance, I endanger my job by being a half hour late? My definition
of the word "assistance" is something that actually helps rather than hinders me. But then, that may not be other people’s definition, and it’s nice that
we can live in a part of the world that allows people to conduct themselves in a manner that reflects their beliefs.

He says further: "One must never put personal goals (like getting to work on time [insertion mine]) ahead of the feelings of other people. Those who do
may well eventually get their just reward when, in an unexpected moment of true need, others assume that assistance wouldn't be appreciated and probably
isn't actually needed anyway."

My observation is that there are a lot of people who don’t seem to know how to gauge when help is needed and when it isn’t. I wonder, for instance, if the
person who sees me walking confidently across a street with the light in my favor, but who feels compelled to grab my arm without asking first, and who
gets upset when I jerk away, might be the same person who might not stop his car and help a guy lying on the side of the road in a pool of blood. Just
a thought.

Finally, Mr. Mielke says: "Even if you never need assistance from anyone else throughout your entire life, how would such arrogant insensitivity on your
part help other blind people who are less independent and do need to rely on the benevolence of others?"

Well, I personally don’t know anyone, myself included, who has never needed help at some point in life. But the last time I needed help, I asked for it.
And the last time I needed help and someone offered me help before I could ask, I accepted it. And the last time someone politely offered help but I didn’t
need it, I think I politely refused it. Speaking only for me at the moment, I don’t think polite rejection of unwanted and unneeded help is akin to arrogance.
It just so happens that you simply don’t need help at the moment, and that maybe you will accept an offer the next time it’s needed. Similarly, if you
don’t need help and help is either forced on you or someone starts helping you anyway without asking, it is not necessarily arrogance (in my opinion) to
sometimes sharply refuse it, especially when the potential helper does not listen to your hopefully polite first refusal.

In short, I guess I would say that equal opportunity for me is opportunity which actually helps a person and which allows the offeree a form of dignity.
It is giving us employment for which we are qualified, not assuming that we are unqualified human beings and giving us charity in the form of discounts
that only perpetuate antiquated stereotypes. So too, I’d have to say that proper help is help that actually furthers the goals of both the helper and the
one in need.

For instance, the potential giver of help, I suppose, needs on some level to be needed and appreciated. If he sees a person he thinks is in need of assistance,
he wants to help because this will make him feel good about himself. Similarly, the person in actual need of help must solve some problem or other, even
if it’s as simple as getting proper directions to a Wal-Mart. If the one in need accepts an offer of help from the giver, both the goals of the giver and
the receiver of help are met: The giver has (hopefully) directed the receiver of help to the proper location, and the receiver now knows where the store
is and can complete his day. They both go away feeling mutually good about the situation. And so here we have a situation in which equality and equal opportunity have been assured, and appropriate help has been given. Sounds good to me.

John D. Coveleski