EMBRACING OUR WORLD

Daniel Kish, M.A. / M.A. / coms

Copyright 2003

WORLD ACCESS FOR THE BLIND




TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. EMBRACING OUR WORLD - we share this world together.
      A. Living life richly and productively is about learning to
embrace the world, and garner its embrace
      B. We share and compete for the same resources.
          1. Life doesn't give anyone a special break
          2. It is our responsibility to prepare our children ... to
open these opportunities for themselves.
      C. We embrace our world when we realize that we can dream freely
and grow to fulfill our dreams.
          1. It is the experience of unfolding into man or womanhood,
knowing that our lives are ours to lead.
          2. For the sighted all of these things come ... easily and
naturally.
          3. For the blind, these achievements are not necessarily
automatic or promoted.
          4. ... it's all okay.
      D. Some real examples
      E. I wrote this document with the hope of explaining how we can
help our blind children and students embrace our world.
II. SELF EVALUATION: ... become aware of our own attitudes about our
children
      A. In what areas do we hold different expectations
      B. In what ways do our blind children and students depend on
others
      C. In what respects do our children and students not have equal
access
      D. What is our children's' and students' level of performance
relative to their sighted peers?
      E. Do our children and students have conventional social
interactions with their sighted peers?
      F. How long does it take our children and students to execute ...
tasks?
      G. Do our children or students ... participate in community
functions
III. THE POWER OF EXPECTATION
      A. The Expectancy Effect: ... people ... tend to respond to what
is expected of them.
          1. Prejudice:
          2. Self Fulfilling Prophecy:
          3. Learned Helplessness:
          4. If a few simple studies can show the marked effects of a
little expectation ... imagine what a lifetime ... of negativity about
blindness can do to a blind child.
      B. Some questions to ask ourselves:
          1. What do we want our children ... to become?
          2. What are our greatest fears for our children
      C. ... the biggest impact on who we become does not arise from
chance or providence, but instead from how we are raised
      D. ... we want our children ... to achieve a quality of life
comparable to that of those around them.
      E. In order for someone to achieve a quality of life similar to
others, one must be able to do things similar to what others do
      F. Impossibility is in the eye of the narrow-minded.
          1. I have personally seen at least five children learn to walk
after their parents were informed that this might be impossible.
          2. ... blind individuals hold good jobs in just about every
... career
          3. Until 1996, Orientation and Mobility certification was
withheld from totally blind individuals
      G. How do we know what potentials can be reached, unless we strive
... to reach for them?
IV. THE VISUAL SUPREMACY FALLACY -
      A. This falsehood arises primarily from those sighted people who
use and need their sight for nearly everything.
      B. Such a philosophy is understandable but may be considered
"sightedist,"
      C. In humans the eyes occupy less than 0.001% of the body's
weight.
      D. The sighted cannot readily understand the blindness experience.
          1. A blindfolded sighted person does not ... experience ... a
blind person's experience.
          2. ... sighted people emerging from a blindfold experience too
often exhibit reinforcement of their own initial myths and fears about
blindness.
          3. The sighted tend to project their own helplessness,
neediness, and vulnerability in the dark erroneously on to the blind,
          4. It can be argued that the blind don't even hear or feel
things the same way sighted people do
      E. With additional disabilities, the same basic idea applies.
          1. Helen Keller ... has risen as one of the greatest
historical figures
          2. I had a totally blind student, with a prosthetic leg ...,
who swims competitively, bicycles, runs, hikes, ski's, repels,
          3. We have also seen autistic people rise to the public eye.
V. THE VALUE OF DEEP ATTENTION
      A. People can see it with their eyes and hear it with their ears
but never grasp it with their minds.
      B. It will be helpful for those who are sighted to put their
vision aside in order to understand the dark.
          1. I don't mean a few minutes under a blindfold.
          2. The sighted cannot develop an understanding of the blind
experience as long as all of their visual ways of thinking stand in the
way.
             a. A parent once asked me ... how a blind person can use
the sun for orientation.
             b. A commonly asked question is: "How does a blind person
know when a car is coming?"
          3. The sighted have often overwhelmed themselves by the bulk
of their own vision.
             a. ... an 8th grader ... found it very difficult to grasp
how a person could dream without visual images.
             b. One of my low vision students expressed surprise ...
when I mentioned that I used the creek to help me know where I was.
VI. FACTORS IN SHAPING A CHILD TO GROW-UP TO EMBRACE THE WORLD -
      A. The child travels most places without guidance
      B. The child keeps his cane with him most of the time and uses it
      C. The child keeps track of her own things
      D. The child participates equally in domestic management.
      E. The child participates in the community.
      F. The child engages comfortably in all activities of daily living
with little help
      G. The child is disciplined in the same manner ... as other
children
      H. The child gets hurt from time to time.
      I. The child is allowed to grow up.
      J. The child engages primarily in active or interactive rather
than passive activities.
      K. In general kids grow up to become normal by growing up
normally.
VII. WE MUST CONCENTRATE ON THE PRESENT AND FUTURE
      A. We're going to talk about what we ... have done right and wrong
      B. Some of you may not want to hear ... what we'll discuss.
      C. We may touch on some mutually painful chords.
      D. I cannot speak as a parent, but I can speak as a product of
this society and as one who has observed many products arise from many
different backgrounds
      E. I do not judge, because I have made my share of mistakes -
VIII. BROADENING PERSPECTIVES
      A. ... we're going to see that blindness really should not be
considered so much a disability but rather a condition or style of
living.
      B. Advantages of blindness.
          1. Mastering fear of the dark means mastering ourselves and
the world.
          2. ... you form your own self and your own path.
          3. ... social familiarity.
      C. It's easy to screw up a blind kid.
      D. ... blind people hold just about every imaginable job
      E. Is vision a necessary prerequisite for survival in modern human
society?
      F. There are many species of bats, birds, dolphins, and whales who
have poor vision ... and who carry out all the major functions of life
that sighted animals do.
      G. What is "disability?"
          1. Definitions and considerations:
             a. ... "impairment" refers to the malfunctioning or absence
of a part of the body.
             b. ... "disability" refers to a lack of ability to perform
certain functions,
             c. ... "handicapped" refers to difficulties in functional
performance resulting from barriers or impediments that are imposed by
forces external to the individual.
             d. A colleague ... asked, "If someone with impairments can
lead a fully productive and enriched life while someone with no
impairments can't, what does disability really mean?"
             e. ... disability could be defined as: "A lack of capacity
to function in life due to diminished access to physical, psychological,
and/or social resources."
          2. Few would argue that a blind person's lack of vision can
negatively affect his relationship to the world.
             a. Access to Internal Resources:
               (1) Psychological: "What doesn't kill us makes us
stronger."
               (2) Physiological: It is often said that when a sense is
missing, our other senses become stronger
             b. Access to external resources:
               (1) The physical world:
                (a) Personal Adaptation: ... use of tools or technology
to make use of the same information without altering the way that
information is presented.
                (b) Accommodation: ... design of the environment that
specifically allows functioning of the individual.
               (2) The social world:
                (a) ... neuro-physiology may develop to heighten
awareness of social cues that compensate for the lack of vision.
                (b) Psychological: A blind individual must develop
stronger powers of attention to maintain awareness of these subtler
social cues.
               (3) The symbolic world: ... A few examples:
                (a) Finding a hotel room:
                (b) Finding a street:
                (c) Paying the bills:
                (d) Shopping:
                (e) Money? Credit cards? ATM'S?
                (f) Greeting cards:
                (g) Forms and applications:
                (h) Operating gadgets and appliances:
                (i. Laundry:
                (j) Transportation:
                (k) ... home improvement, landscaping, gourmet cooking,
carpentry, electrical work, automotive repair, ...
          3. The biggest functional difficulties imposed on the blind
are rapid transportation, and access to printed or graphical material.
          4. ... If every piece of information available to vision was
also available to hearing or touch and rapid transportation were
expanded to be efficiently accessible to the blind ... about 75% of the
barriers faced by the blind would fall away.
          5. The fact that the blind face enormous functional
difficulties ... is ... a matter of deficiencies in the relationship
between the sighted world and blindness.
      H. Interdependence - independence vs. dependence.
          1. Take driving. ... It is an inclusive social network, an
exchange of goods and services, that makes driving possible. We all
depend on others to provide services and equipment that allow us the
privilege of driving.
          2. Take reading - who prints their own material and who
manufactures their own video screens? ... the sighted ... are reading
labels that someone else provided for them. This provides the illusion
that they are more independent.
          3. Take lighting - How wonderful that the sighted have
artificially made light available just about everywhere
          4. The three public documents that most denote our freedom are
denied to the blind - the driver's license, monetary notes, and the
voting ballet.
      I. Ways to thwart independence.
IX. COMMON MYTHS ABOUT BLINDNESS
      A. "Blind people have more acute senses."
          1. Blind people don't "have" anything. What they get, they
usually earn
          2. The sense organs of the blind are exactly the same as those
of the sighted. The brain and mind simply adapt themselves to maximize
and optimize the use of the input from those sense organs.
      B. "Blind people are child-like -
          1. I take exception to these guides ... about "What to do if
you meet a blind person."
          2. On average, blind people do ... demonstrate weaker
physiology, but this trend has little to do with blindness.
      C. "Blind kids take longer to learn to read, because Braille is
hard to learn.
          1. Braille is actually little more complicated than print.
          2. The difficulty in learning to read nonvisually ... is not
necessarily a matter of the supremacy of the visual system.
      D. "Blind people should stay away from sharp implements ... and
... power tools."
      E. "Blind people should move slowly, and never run.
          1. This myth is held to some degree even by Orientation and
Mobility Specialists
          2. Slow movement tends to give rise to anomalous gait patterns
             a. I had a totally blind student with a prosthetic leg from
the knee down who walked faster than I do.
             b. ... Alignment is particularly important to the blind.
             c. ... If you've ever tried walking on a boat, train, or
bus, you know that increased speed also increases balance.
      F. "Vision is the most important sense for learning."
          1. If this is true, then deaf people should "have it made"
          2. Much is available through nonvisual channels if we choose
to make it so.
      G. "Blind people shouldn't cook
          1. Cooking is among the easier of the tasks that can be
learned.
          2. I remember a rehab counselor saying to one of my students,
"When we do cooking, we'll use the electric stove, because open flames
are dangerous for blind people to cook over."
          3. Two of the best and most creative cooks that I know are
totally blind
      H. "The blind learn best through formal training by specialized
professionals,
          1. ... I never went through special programs to learn what I
know.
          2. I think this myth arose from parents who were too afraid of
doing something wrong and professionals who have gotten too caught up in
"the proper way to do things."
      I. "It is the responsibility of the sighted to care for the
blind."
      J. "The blind are defenseless in situations of combat
      K. "The blind cannot appreciate the world's beauty."
      L. "The blind need the sighted to lead them and tell them what to
do."
      M. "Those few blind people who really succeed in life are special.
We really shouldn't expect that of everyone.
      N. "Blind people are courageous."
      O. "Blind people aren't good at math or science
      P. "All blind people cannot see. Low vision is no vision."
          1. Legal blindness is defined by ... less than 10% of normal
vision.
          2. How well a person performs does not necessarily depend on
how well they see, but how well they use what vision they have.
          3. Are you half as capable as a person with twice your vision
(20/10)?
      Q. "Blind people are best off with dog guides so that the dogs can
take care of them."
          1. ... only about 5% of blind people use dogs.
          2. ... dogs don't take care of people; people take care of
dogs. Dogs have neither the intelligence nor experience to take care of
a person.
X. THE NORMALCY OF BLINDNESS.
      A. Blind people constitute only about 1% of the general population
      B. ... from the dawn of recorded history, the blind have been held
aloof as ... mysterious and enigmatic
      C. Though I am blind, ... I possess the same basic psychological,
social, and physical needs that all humans
      D. The distinctions drawn against the blind are man-made, but does
life itself care who's blind
          1. ... In a world where we must all strive with competition as
well as cooperation for the same resources, those who perform less well
or strive less ardently or competently typically obtain and hold fewer
things.
          2. ... "God helps those who help themselves."
          3. A study was conducted on sighted and blind high schoolers
performing a variety of physical tasks. ... it was determined that the
blind students expended 25% more energy to accomplish the same tasks.
          4. ... Life doesn't make allowances for what's fair or not; it
merely requires us all to do what we must to gain what we want
XI. SOME MORE BLINDNESS NORMALCIES
      A. Kids are kids first and blind second.
          1. ... the emphasis should focus on the things that benefit
normal kids and finding adaptive ways to provide those same things to
blind kids.
          2. Everything we do with our students and children must come
from knowing that they need to function similarly to all other kids.
          3. Though there are a few special needs, these needs ensure
normalcy, not detract from it.
      B. Blind kids must do what they cannot see.
          1. Blind kids can learn what they need to learn, but they have
to DO it.
          2. Sight isn't magic; it's just one way of doing things.
      C. Blind kids, like all kids, MUST experience freedom of movement.
... Common results of restricting movement include -
          1. Impaired movement skills.
          2. Low overall physical capacity
          3. Apathy and lack of ambition.
          4. Self-stimming
          5. Inappropriately strong reactions to mild circumstances
          6. Hands that remain baby smooth.
      D. Blind kids, like sighted kids, need to grow up and at roughly
the same rate.
      E. The phrase "I can't" eats success.
      F. Blind kids, like sighted kids, have difficulty interacting with
stimuli or targets that they cannot perceive.
      G. Blind kids benefit from good, conventional, parenting
      H. Blind people benefit more from doing for others than being done
to by others. ... We have a tendency to cast the blind in the role of
the recipient rather than the provider of care. ... Too much of others'
doing for one chips away from one's capacity to do for oneself and
diminishes one's sense of self worth.
      I. Being responsible teaches responsibility.
          1. Holding blind kids responsible for their actions and for
pulling their own weight in a household teaches the basics for learning
to pull one's weight in society.
          2. It helps blind kids to get out of their own heads and
become more aware of the need to interact constructively and
productively with the world
          3. It teaches them that they can make things happen for
themselves, and it teaches the value in helping to make things happen
for other people.
          4. What chores might a blind kid be assigned around the house
and yard?
XII. SIMPLE, KEY FACTORS THAT MAKE THE BLIND SUCCESSFUL
      A. No one important ever convinced them that they couldn't do any
given thing because they were blind.
      B. They were treated as normal kids.
      C. They were allowed to test their own limits by trial and error
rather than face limits imposed by presumption.
XIII. COMING OFF IT, GETTING WITH IT, AND MOVING ON -
      A. Get rid of the guilt.
      B. Keep our pride in perspective. We don't do our kids any favors
by being proud and fawning over simple accomplishments well beneath
their level of ability.
      C. Close collaboration and mutual follow-through among all members
of the educational service team is crucial.
      D. We need to seek and use the knowledge of others' experience -
      E. Lift the limits and free the children: ... If we want our
children to enjoy the full range of riches that this world has to offer,
we can't say can't, and we should never say never.
      F. Some of us may need to institute some changes in the way we
approach our students and children, but ... We get into habits that are
hard to break, and we come to accept unacceptable or maladaptive
behaviors out of custom.
      G. Responsibility and attention, not vision, are the keys to
competence.
      H. "Sticks and stones may break their bones, but names WILL REALLY
HURT THEM."
      I. The earlier the easier, but it's never too late to start.
XIV. IMPORTANT FACTORS IN HELPING VISUALLY IMPAIRED CHILDREN GROW -
      A. I don't intend for the following list of points to be
overwhelming or confusing.
          1. Kids are kids, blind or sighted; treat them the same.
          2. Remember that your child is every bit as important as any
other child.
      B. Parental Cause and Effect - action and reaction.
          1. What do you want your child to be when he/she grows up?
          2. What you do this minute will impact your child's course of
growth forever.
          3. Growth does not happen later, but now.
      C. Think Beyond Your Vision
          1. Vision is not our only sense.
          2. We ... tend to believe that our way of doing things is the
best
          3. Do not think of sight as the primary attribute that enables
a person to function?
          4. ... It is not how much we perceive, but how well we utilize
what we perceive.
      D. Unless there are additional impairments, a visually impaired
child is only that - visually impaired.
      E. The Brain Must Have Practice To Compensate for Disability.
          1. The sense organs stay the same ... but the brain modifies
itself so that information ... is processed more thoroughly ACCORDING TO
NEED.
          2. Because vision is often the easiest way to gain the most
information, the brain optimizes its receptivity to visual input.
          3. The process by which the brain can be taught to reorganize
itself to optimize its receptivity to sensory inputs other than vision
REQUIRES PRACTICE
      F. Make the Environment Accessible
      G. "Low vision" is not the same as "blindness" and should not be
thought of or treated as such.
      H. Facilitate Stimulation That Has Meaning
      I. Facilitate Intellectual Development, especially Language.
          1. The visually impaired can learn some things through words
... that most others may learn by visual observation.
          2. Research shows that, children who were read to when very
young perform better in school than children who were not.
          3. Books in Braille are excellent for stimulating intellectual
growth.
          4. Low vision children may learn by visual observation, but
care must be taken that they get a good look.
          5. Brain power is an excellent and necessary adaptation for
vision loss.
          6. ... one should not use words to replace actual experience.
          7. A visually impaired person must be really creative and
clever to figure out how to do things without vision in a sighted world.
      J. Encourage and Facilitate Physical Exploration
      K. We Must Not Punish Our Children for Being Visually Impaired.
          1. When we punish normal children, we often do it by the
restriction of movement
          2. We often limit the movements and freedoms of visually
impaired kids in the same ways
      L. Allow your children the freedom to get hurt.
          1. Getting hurt is ... part of growing up
          2. When the flesh is not strengthened by trial and experience,
the spirit weakens.
      M. Encourage lots of activities with the hands such as puzzles,
hand toys or games,
          1. ... blind children do not usually draw, print, or color.
          2. There's no need to clutter the environment with toys that
make noise.
      N. Facilitate Organizational Skills.
          1. The visually impaired do not know where things are by
looking, but by systematic strategies of exploration and by mental
recall.
          2. Make the child keep his or her own room clean and
organized.
      O. Discipline should be rendered no differently to a blind child
than to a sighted child.
      P. Encourage the Child to Grow-up.
          1. A child who is babied into adulthood learns to be a very
large baby.
          2. Allowing your child to walk unassisted is an important part
of this process.
          3. Pity is a visually impaired child's worst enemy.
          4. Developmental considerations.
             a. Tips for feeding:
               (1) It should not be necessary to feed your child past
the age of 3 or 4.
               (2) When using silverware, a blind child may use the
shape of the handle
             b. Tips for dressing:
               (1) A child should be dressing himself by the age of 6 or
7,
               (2) There is absolutely nothing to prevent a blind child
from being able to put on his or her own clothes.
               (3) Clothes should either be neutral colors, ...
prematched on hangers, or ... coded with tags or buttons that can be
matched by touch
               (4) Forcing the child to keep the closet organized will
facilitate a child's ability to learn to manage his/her own clothes.
      Q. Do not think of your child only as someone needing help from
others. Think of him or her as ... one who is empowered with a wealth of
abilities and gifts that are worth sharing. One of the most common traps
involves the recruitment of sighted siblings ... as caretakers.
      R. Ensure Normal Social Development -
      S. Honor the Child's Current Abilities While Holding the Highest
Expectations for Achievement -
      T. Do Not Relinquish Your Child's Development to Professionals -
          1. Professionals usually have good intentions, but their
efforts will be intensified with your ... involvement.
          2. School districts and other public agencies often prioritize
fiscal management ... over human growth.
XV. RESPONSIBILITY OF THE SCHOOL DISTRICT -
      A. Support and specialized personnel:
          1. Classroom teacher:
          2. Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI):
          3. Orientation and Mobility (O&M) Specialist:
          4. The Braille Transcriber:
          5. The Adaptive P.E. teacher (APE):
          6. Full Inclusion Facilitator:
          7. Resource Specialist (RSP):
          8. Assistive Technology (AT) Specialist:
          9. Temporary Support Assistant (TSA)
          10. The Rehabilitation Counselor or Teacher:
      B. The district must provide all materials and equipment necessary
to enable the blind student to participate fully and equally in all
aspects of the school curriculum
          1. Academics: all ... written or presented materials MUST be
provided in a format that your child can use comfortably on time
             a. Pull out and mainstreaming or inclusion:
             b. Curriculum programming:
          2. Physical Education,
             a. The P.E. program:
             b. Adaptive P.E. (APE)
             c. Recess and lunch:
          3. Special accommodations:
             a. Preferential seating:
             b. Time-and-a-half/double time:
             c. Reduced assignments:
      C. Special circumstances for multiply involved kids.
          1. Additional professionals ... and their special relationship
to blind kids
             a. Occupational therapist (OT):
             b. Physical Therapist (PT):
             c. Speech and Language Therapist:
             d. Deaf and Hard of Hearing Specialist (DHH):
             e. Psychologist:
             f. School nurse:
             g. Assistive and Augmentative Communication Specialist
(AAC):
          2. When dealing with students who have complex profiles, it is
paramount that all members of the service team maintain contact and
collaboration about student progress. This often requires a lead person
to coordinate the case - usually the Resource Specialist or Inclusion
Facilitator. This person should be designated at the I.E.P. You cannot
just do without this person and hope for the best. Everyone needs to be
on the same page. Progress is very slow when each person is off doing
their own thing without input. In particular, it is usually helpful for
the OT to be working with the TVI, the PT to be working with the O&M and
Adaptive P.E., Speech and Language working with the AAC and classroom
teacher, and the inclusion facilitator involved in it all.
      D. Individualized Plans and Programs (I.E.P.'s, I.F.S.P.'s,
I.T.P.'s, etc.):
          1. "Zero Reject":
             a. Nondiscriminatory Testing and Evaluation:
             b. Least Restrictive Environment (LRE):
          2. Notification and Procedural Rights for Parents (due process
and judicial hearing):
          3. Right to Public Participation:
          4. ... legislation:
             a. PL 94-142 - the education for all handicapped children
act of 1975:
             b. Handicapped Children's Protection Act of 1986:
             c. PL 99-457 - education of the handicapped act amendments
of 1986:
             d. PL 101-336 - Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
(ADA):
             e. PL 101-476 - Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
of 1990 (IDEA):
      E. Things to watch out for:
          1. Don't let your child be shoved into a special day class for
most of the day.
          2. The aid should not be assigned to watch over your child.
          3. ... Do not let your kids get stuck with lots of books or
materials on tape; they need them in Braille.
          4. Do not let them keep your kid's cane at school.
          5. Be careful that your child isn't socially promoted from
grade to grade without learning the skills to function properly at grade
level.
          6. Try providing ... an in-service to your child's class or
school about blindness.
          7. Services should not be provided strictly in a "consult"
model.
          8. The term "retardation" or "cognitive delay" should never be
applied to your child by anyone ... until all other avenues of
perception and learning have been addressed and exhausted.
          9. Do not allow your visually impaired child to be placed in a
class of orthopedically or language impaired students.
         10. Do not allow admission of any psychological assessment material
... unless the testing was done in conjunction with a blindness professional
... and properly adapted for use by the visually impaired.
XVI. SOME QUICK AND EASY HELPFUL HINTS
      A. Eliminate the word "guide" from your vocabulary
      B. Make your child responsible for ... chores
      C. Make sure you have plenty of Braille books around
      D. Enter the child into a community program
      E. Be sure the child has his cane at all times
      F. Eliminate the word "can't" from yours and your child's
vocabulary.
      G. Be sure your child has at least one friend close to her age in
her neighborhood.
      H. There are ways to foster productive friendships with blind kids
who have other involvements. Social interaction and communication are
often the two biggest hurdles for blind kids with additional
involvements.
          1. Pair the child with someone around 8 to 11 years old.
          2. Try hiring a high school kid to be a mentor or big brother,
          3. Try formalized Child Mentor or Big Brother programs.
      I. If your child is really reluctant to grow, or learn to stand on
his own two feet,
      J. Don't let your child rule you.
      K. Use chimes or some other marking to identify your house if your
child has trouble finding it.
      L. A quick and easy way to play ball with your child is to put it
into a spare plastic bag.
      M. Let your blind child have access to efficient transportation as
you would your sighted child.
      N. Some financial tips:
XVII. SOME RESOURCES:
      A. Parent/Family Groups and Materials
      B. Books for Blind Children
      C. Adaptive Equipment and Recreation:
      D. Organizations Made Up of Blind People -
      E. Organizations for the Blind -
      F. Hot-Lines
      G. Other Resource Guides


INTRODUCTION: For my professional background, see my bio available on
this web page. For some personal background, look in section 2 of "When
Darkness Lights the Way," also on this site. This document has evolved
over many years of delivering blindness presentations. Some sections
have some perspectives and philosophies that may help you to see
blindness in a different way. Others focus more on practical tips and
hints. Though this document is intended to be taken as a whole, you may
want to browse it and concentrate on those sections of most interest to
you.

I. EMBRACING OUR WORLD - we share this world together.

     A. Living life richly and productively is about learning to embrace
the world, and garner its embrace of us. We give and take; we develop a
kind of relationship if you will with it. When we act wrongly or
foolishly, we usually suffer consequences, because we fail to follow the
rules of give and take. Likewise, when we are passive and submissive to
what life might choose for us, then we place ourselves in the position
of merely having to make due.

     B. We share and compete for the same resources. The blind aren't to
live by the charity of others, being content with what's allowed them.
The blind must gain legitimate access to the resources they need to live
the lives they choose. It is a personal choice of self and mutual
respect and dignity which is the only way to participate productively in
the world community.

         1. Life doesn't give anyone a special break because of
blindness. Life is an equal opportunity experience, both kind and cruel
to all alike. It does not make special compensations for blindness.
Blind people are not blessed; they have to work like everyone else, as
hard or harder, to carve their rightful niches or fall quietly into
obscurity.

         2. It is our responsibility to prepare our children and
students with the ability to open these opportunities for themselves.
The best gift we can give them is not our charity, but the power to gain
freedom and purpose.

     C. How we embrace our world. We embrace our world when we realize
that we can dream freely and grow to fulfill our dreams. It is when we
take a stand on our own importance and self-worthiness, and behold the
world, more or less, as a bountiful place of opportunity. This may sound
idealistic, but it is also very practical. Let's break it down.

         1. It is the experience of unfolding into man or womanhood,
knowing that our lives are ours to lead. This unfolds from being able to
get our own glass of juice without having to ask someone to do it, or
ask if it's okay. It's when we learn to walk to school or to a friend's
house by ourselves when we wish. It's when we can pick up a book of our
choice and read it, without having to wait for someone else to find the
time. It's when we catch or kick or hit that ball just right for the
first time, and we hear our name in the crowd gone wild. It's when we
earn enough money to buy the bicycle we wanted, without having to wait
for someone to buy the one they felt we should have. It's going out and
ordering fast food with your friends, without having someone say, "not
now, you'll spoil your dinner." It's stepping behind the wheel for the
first time, car keys gleaming and ringing in hand, and seeing the open
road to everything and everywhere stretched invitingly before us.
         It's reaching out and taking your diploma and knowing we're
free at last to choose our own life. It is when we release the helping
hand that we have our own hands free. Each such achievement, whether we
remember its impact on us or not, constitutes an event of realization -
of taking one step closer to being a willing, active, significant, and
meaningful part of the world. With each realization, we see a larger and
larger world come into our grasp.

         2. For the sighted, all of these things come, more or less,
easily and naturally. That's because we know as a collective society
that these achievements are necessary to bring individuals to
productivity. Communities are designed to bring the child and the world
together into a mutual embrace of fulfillment. Schools teach kids to
read and write, parents teach kids to get their own juice, the neighbors
or local establishments allow older kids to work for pay, and the
government license's just about anyone to drive as a personal right to
freedom. Beyond reaching adulthood, we are welcomed amiably into
society's smooth exchange of goods, services, and companionship - except
for the blind.

         3. For the blind, these achievements are not necessarily
automatic or promoted. There's a hic-up, a monkey wrench in the works.
To put it bluntly, society has sort of left the blind out of this "group
hug" of personal fulfillment and social exchange. Not all schools teach
them to read and write. Those who do learn find that the world does not
share in their ability, and what they've learned (being Braille) does
not seem to open the doors to literacy as it does for others. The body
of cultural knowledge is often beyond arm's reach, and the flow of
information exchange is often stifled. When they look for jobs to earn
money, they are met with consternation rather than willingness, and the
money they earn isn't even in Braille. Car keys have no magic power; the
road stays closed. With every milestone mounted and every door opened
for those around them, the blind are threatened by locks and bars and
warning signs saying "keep out," and quagmires of "if only." Instead of
arms raised to the clear blue sky with cries of victory, the blind are
often left with hands still reaching for help crying "wait for me." They
are faced with a world the poses a series of problems, rather than a
series of solutions.

         4. However, believe it or not, it's all okay. We must ensure
that our blind children and students find growth through strength of
purpose and personal achievement. It is true that the world will not
step forward to take them into its embrace as it would seem to do for
others. But, this only means that the blind must actively embrace the
world and mount their own milestones to personal achievement. No, it
isn't fair, but it can be done, and done with grace.

     D. Some real examples -

         1. One of my former students, now a good friend, had developed
an interest in radio equipment as a child. He didn't really play much
with the other kids; he preferred listening to the news or to police
reports. I remember when he proudly announced that he'd received a
police scanner for his 11th birthday. By 13 he had earned his Ham
radio's license. By 14 he had joined the Civil Air Patrol, and
eventually achieved the status of Communications Officer. By 16, he was
working in a cell phone store. By 17 he had interned with the CIA and
was volunteering for the fire department. With all this stuff going on,
he had to be many different places for many different functions. His
parents were busy running their own business, so he hired drivers from
his high school. Now at 20, he thinks it might be fun to go into
international or political law or both.

         2. Me. Okay, let's just talk about me for a bit. I had my own
problems learning to embrace the world, believe me.

            a. I was fortunate to have mounted many milestones toward my
own fulfillment and world embrace. If anything, I was pretty cocky as a
kid. My hardest struggle lay in becoming aware that I could go wherever
I wished and do whatever I wanted. This struggle was partly mastered
when I learned to ride a bike and would ride around the neighborhood to
my friends' or to school. I remember one time I'd forgotten an important
meeting at school (7th grade), and I went home instead. My dad, who was
home at that time on a rare occasion, refused to bail me out by taking
me back, saying that it was my responsibility. I got on my bike and rode
as fast as I could back to school. It was only 3-quarters of a mile, but
there were several busy streets that had to be crossed and ridden along.
Upon looking back, I'm aware of that experience and others like it,
building a kind of stalwart strength of purpose and sense of personal
mastery within me.

            b. When I was about 27, I wanted to take a young, blind
friend (13) to Magic Mountain. Though he insisted that we find someone
sighted to take us, I wanted this to be just a day for the two of us. He
groaned, thinking that this was going to be way too much trouble. I
lived about 100 miles from Magic Mountain. I called Magic Mountain and
asked them to send me their brochure which contained a map of the park
(not in Braille). I had a friend describe the map (where all the rides
were), and I took notes using compass headings. I planned the bus to bus
to train to bus route (about 4 hours), and we went. We spent the whole
day there, and we went on almost every ride twice. We nearly missed our
last connection home, but we had a blast. It was probably this event
that really opened me to understanding that I could actively embrace the
world, to give and take freely as our relationship demanded.

            c. I've always loved the outdoors - the mountains, forests,
and streams - hiking and climbing, and exploring the wilds, and getting
away from it all. But somehow, I just never seemed to find the time to
do it. I made excuses about how little time I had, but really, I just
didn't know how to go about it. How does a blind man get to the
mountains, and then go sailing forth into the unknown wilderness? Well,
through a series of events that could comprise their own book, I have. I
had gone on a group camping trip in which one of the members had touched
a nerve about whether a blind person could do it alone. So, I did it. I
taught myself how to negotiate tricky, winding trails with sharp
switchbacks, how to cross rushing streams on slippery stones, how to
explore where one wishes, and find one's way back. I've gone for miles
and days without meeting another soul, spent the night in mountain
storms, weathered the icy wind rushing through tall pines, and faced
            dehydration. I sit now at my cabin in the solitudes of the
Angeles Forest miles from the city, putting the finishing touches on
this document. My only company is a small family of mice who seem to
enjoy my cabin as much as I. I hike to this cabin on my own, as there is
no vehicle access. My soul is refreshed and rejuvenated with the
assurance that I, indeed, enjoy the full embrace of the world and can
share it with other souls seeking personal realization - that I can lead
the life I choose and do exactly as I wish - except catch these damn
mice, it would seem.

     E. I wrote this document with the hope of explaining how we can
help our blind children and students embrace our world. I write this
from my perspective as a blind person who has found this embrace, of an
instructor who has helped others to find it, and as a psychologist who
understands how and why it all happened.

II. SELF EVALUATION: This is just a little test to help us become aware
of our own attitudes about our children and students.

     A. In what areas do we hold different expectations for our children
and students than we would the sighted? If there are sighted siblings,
how do we hold different expectations between the sighted and the blind
one's?

     B. In what ways do our blind children and students depend on others
to enable their performance? Do they depend more than the sighted? How
might their performance remain stable or improve without depending on
others?

     C. In what respects do our children and students not have equal
access to educational resources? Remember, touch is more equivalent to
seeing written material than hearing. In what ways could Braille be more
accessible in the classroom?

     D. What is our children's' and students' level of performance
relative to their sighted peers? If it is reduced, why? What would allow
their level of performance to increase?

     E. Do our children and students have conventional social
interactions with their sighted peers? If not, why not? What are the
primary barriers, and how might they be addressed?

     F. How long does it take our children and students to execute their
educational and household tasks? Is this length of time reasonable? What
steps might be taken to quicken this process if necessary?

     G. Do our children or students access the community and participate
in community functions as well as their sighted peers? Do they
participate in extra curricular activities - scouts, league sports,
after-school programming, clubs? Do they go to their friends houses or
to the store or travel to school on their own? Can they meet their
friends at a mutual location? Can they order their own food?

III. THE POWER OF EXPECTATION

     A. The Expectancy Effect: Psychologists have documented a
phenomenon called the "expectancy effect." It simply means that people,
especially children, tend to respond to what is expected of them. Before
you say "bosh," listen to some facts.

         1. Prejudice: You may have heard of the study done years ago by
a first grade teacher who set out to expose the damages of prejudice.
She told all the brown eyed kids in her class that important people had
found out that blue eyed people are smarter and that brown eyed people
just take longer to catch on. Within a single day, performance of brown
eyed kids fell, fights broke out on the playground, and friendships were
shattered. The next day, the teacher announced that these important
people had made a mistake, and new studies actually showed that brown
eyed people were smarter. Immediately, everything reversed - with the
brown eyed kids coming out ahead. Though this teacher was fired from her
position, her findings have been studied and replicated by "important
people" ever since.

         2. Self Fulfilling Prophecy: Another study presented a first
grade teacher with a class whom she was told comprised both gifted and
slow kids. In reality, these kids were selected at random without any
knowledge of mental ability. However, within a few months, their school
performance strongly reflected the artificial label they'd been given.
Those labeled "slow" demonstrated more trouble learning and showed lower
performance. Those labeled "gifted" were doing very well.

         3. Learned Helplessness: In a very famous study called the
"Stanford prison experiment," a make-shift prison was set-up in the
basement of one of the buildings. The study proposed to examine how
people take on social roles assigned to them. Ten male students were
randomly selected to be "guards," and ten randomly selected to be
"prisoners." It was made clear to all the students that they could leave
the experiment at any time. The experiment was slated to last one week,
but within 3 days those in the role of guard became gruff, controlling,
and even abusive, while those in the role of prisoner became passive and
submissive. Only a few prisoners attempted to leave the experiment
early. But, when the head researcher, himself unwittingly drawn into the
role of "warden," told them that they had to wait out the week, they
submitted to this demand, even though no physical force was used to hold
them. A colleague of the head researcher admonished him sharply to
terminate the experience immediately when she saw the strength of the
role force.

         4. If a few simple studies can show the marked effects of a
little expectation on a few school kids, imagine what a lifetime met
with a world full of negativity about blindness can do to a blind child.
It should be no surprise that nearly 90% of blind kids have become
dependent and unemployed. The role of "blind man or woman" is a very
powerful role imposing helplessness, dependency, and vulnerability upon
the blind by expectation of the sighted. But, that still leaves at least
10% who find successful, enriched, fulfilled lives despite these
pressures. They learn to fight. So, now imagine the power that positive
expectation from those nearest the child can likewise have. We, parents
and professionals, can and must successfully bolster the child's ability
to say "no" to this negativity, to help the child to rise above all
that.

     B. Some questions to ask ourselves:

         1. What do we want our children and students to become? What
does it take for a sighted person to get there? Now, what does it take
for a blind person to get there?

         2. What are our greatest fears for our children and students?
What will it take to get past these fears?

     C. Though we are all different at birth, the biggest impact on who
we become does not arise from chance or providence, but instead from how
we are raised by our families and by society. In large part, we become
who we are expected to become. Therefore, we must hold the highest and
broadest expectations for our children and act on their behalf according
to those expectations. This is most important for handicapped kids,
because the negative forces in society that will encourage them to fail
or stagnate are very strong.

     D. As good parents and professionals, we want our children and
students to achieve a quality of life comparable to that of those around
them. Whether or not we sincerely believe deep down that this is
possible, this is still what we want. For some children and students,
this goal is perhaps easier to achieve than for others, but the power of
belief in possibilities applies likewise to all, no matter how disabled
or challenged.

     E. In order for someone to achieve a quality of life similar to
others, one must be able to do things similar to what others do by
whatever means. When one's capacity to do things is diminished, then
quality of life may suffer.

     F. Impossibility is in the eye of the narrow-minded. In truth,
blind individuals have achieved and will yet achieve this quality of
life, and it's only as difficult as society makes it. All it takes is
for us to treat them as we treat everyone else - to provide them with
the same opportunities and tools for physical and mental growth as for
everyone else. We need to hold the same expectations for them as for
anyone and hold them to the same standards. When this is done, like
magic, we unleash all the power one needs to achieve the highest goals
of one's desire. It is the miracle of human endeavor that brings about
the capacity to achieve the highest goals in the face of the greatest
impositions. The key is knowing and utilizing all options and resources.

         1. I have personally seen at least five children learn to walk
after their parents were informed that this might be impossible.
Fortunately, these children didn't understand what the doctors had said
and did what children naturally do. They rose to the expectations set
for them.

         2. Currently, blind individuals hold good jobs in just about
every imaginable career including top executives and scientists,
doctors, lawyers, writers, world class performers and athletes, artists
of every genre, educators, computer programmers and technicians,
carpenters, clerks, secretaries, etc. In most cases, these individuals
went against the general consensus that they could not do what they set
out to do. The human race has evolved by proving the narrow-minded
wrong.

         3. Until 1996, Orientation and Mobility certification was
withheld from totally blind individuals because vision was believed
necessary to do the job. The trouble was simply that the mobility
profession had spent more time scrutinizing the problems than seeking
solutions. It's a common error, one which the profession now recognizes.

     G. How do we know what potentials can be reached, unless we strive
with every expectation and opportunity to reach for them? We need only
recognize that blind people need one simple thing to equalize their
opportunities for success - access to the same information and resources
that the sighted enjoy. This includes school and work materials such as
books, handouts, computer programs, and forms as well as community
resources such as recreational, leisure, and enrichment programs. Isn't
vision really nothing more than a tool for acquiring information? Few
would argue that the ability to acquire information and utilize
community resources is the foundation of power and success in this
world. If so, then lack of vision need not impair success IF other
supplementary tools and means are implemented to maintain access to
critical information and resources. It is without these other tools and
means that the visually impaired come to face a dreamless, desolate,
unfulfilling existence of isolation and dependence. This is, indeed, a
stark reality for most blind people who do not find proper integration
with their school, work, and community, but this need not happen to
anyone. The blind who learn to integrate generally lead fulfilling,
productive, and autonomous lives - each according to his or her unique
talents and skills. They hold good jobs in just about every type of
career. These are not just gifted, special individuals touched by
providence; they're everyday people who were encouraged by the same
expectations and allowed the same opportunities as everyone else.
Because of this, they lead lives like everyone else. It's very simple.
When the same chances to succeed are provided to all, than all can rise
to their greatest potential. But, for this to happen, the seeds of
success must be planted early and nurtured to personal accomplishment.

IV. THE VISUAL SUPREMACY FALLACY - (that sight is the only way or the
best way to do nearly everything.)

     A. This falsehood arises primarily from those sighted people who
use and need their sight for nearly everything. It happens because sight
has become the normal way of handling things, and the world has catered
to this approach - raising it to a dominant status. This isn't right or
wrong; it just simply is.

     B. Such a philosophy is understandable but may be considered
"sightedist," analogous to racist or sexist philosophies. Many blind
people call sighted people who hold this philosophy "sightlings." I
mention this just to point out some of the ways in which blind people
have been subtly and not so subtly de-valued. By the way, the term
"sightling" is not a term that I support any more than I would support
the term "blindling." (There are languages that refer to blind people in
a manner that may be translated as "blindling." In these languages, the
word "blind" can be used as a noun or adjective.)

     C. In humans the eyes occupy less than 0.001% of the body's weight.
The sense of sight accounts for only 1/5 of our sensory input, and the
visual cortex comprises less than 15% of the human brain. Whether one is
blind or sighted need only constitute a tiny part of who we are.

     D. The sighted cannot readily understand the blindness experience.
Blindness is not a matter of being in the dark; it's a matter of
adapting to the dark. Those are two very different things. Being in the
dark is scary, difficult, and dangerous for everyone. But, adapting to
it means becoming able to exist in it with satisfaction and
productivity. That is what being blind is about. The typical blindfold
experience fails at this, and thus may do more harm than good.

         1. A blindfolded sighted person does not experience anything
resembling a blind person's experience. With a blindfold, sighted people
are usually incapacitated and very vulnerable, and they generally want
and need help with just about everything. And, let's not forget, the
blindfolded sighted person engages in the activity with the convenient
assurance of being able to remove the blindfold whenever the experience
becomes too troublesome or traumatic.

         2. In my experience, sighted people emerging from a blindfold
experience too often exhibit reinforcement of their own initial myths
and fears about blindness. Comments such as "Oh, I never thought it
would be that hard," or "I understand now how scary it must be," or "Now
I understand my child's struggles to eat." To me, this phenomenon runs
very counter productive to what we should really be after when trying to
"enlighten" others about blindness. You rarely hear comments like "Oh,
that wasn't so bad," or "Well, you just have to approach life a little
differently," or "I see how blind people can do just fine." Yet, isn't
that what we should want people to understand? The only exception to
this in my experience was a sighted boy of 11 who insisted on executing
a steep, upward hike of about 3 miles entirely under blindfold. At
first, it was slow going and difficult, but he kept saying, "Oh, I can
use my cane like this," or "You just have to feel around more," or "I
can follow those cliffs 'cause I can hear them!" By the end of the hike,
his pace and poise had improved nearly to normal, and he raved about the
experience. His final comments were, "Being blind wouldn't be so hard,"
and "You just get used to it." The difference is that the blindfold
experience did not focus on the experience of blindness, but rather on
the process of adapting to it. Of course, he knew he could pull off the
blindfold any time, and we invited him to do so several times. But, he
maintained the strength of character and perseverance to stay in the
dark under very challenging conditions. I've seen adults rip off their
blindfolds after 3 minutes of not being unable to manage a simple plate
of food. Such "easy outs" just bastardize the whole attempt to
understanding the blindness experience. Later, I discuss an alternative
approach.

         3. The sighted tend to project their own helplessness,
neediness, and vulnerability in the dark erroneously on to the blind,
and the blind, like everyone else, tend to succumb to these negative
views. But the blind need not uphold these assumptions. Effective blind
functioning is the result of years of psychological and physiological
adaptation and optimization that does not happen to a sighted person
with just a few minutes under a blindfold. Consequently, the sighted
person undergoing such an experience is left with a negatively skewed
perception of blindness.

         4. It can be argued that the blind don't even hear or feel
things the same way sighted people do because although their ears and
skin are exactly the same as those of sighted people, their mind and
brain have rewired themselves to draw every nuance from the auditory and
tactile environment to furnish them with some of the information that
sighted people access visually.

     E. With additional disabilities, the same basic idea applies. This
world primarily values a specific combination of perceptual abilities
and specific styles of intelligence. Yet:

         1. Helen Keller, both blind and deaf, has risen as one of the
greatest historical figures IN THE WORLD.

         2. I had a totally blind student, with a prosthetic leg from
the knee down, who swims competitively, bicycles, runs, hikes, ski's,
repels, and walks faster than I do.

         3. We have also seen autistic people rise to the public eye.
Temple Gramdin is an autistic woman who suffers from all of the common
characteristics of autism, but she has learned to cope with us non-
autistics, and she has written and spoken publicly with great insight
about her situation.

V. THE VALUE OF DEEP ATTENTION

     A. People can see it with their eyes and hear it with their ears
but never grasp it with their minds. If the mind does not grasp, of what
use is what we see or hear? Darkness constitutes one of the greatest
fears and deepest mysteries of the sighted experience. Blindness is
darkness personified, and all of us must deal with that. When we fear
and lack understanding of something, can we deal with that something
effectively? If our perspective is stuck or frozen, we cannot learn. We
learn only when we allow our perspectives to shift. If we can
communicate deeply with each other so that our minds can grasp what we
are talking about, some of the fear and mystery will lift, and we can
approach darkness and blindness with effective, productive ability. I
learned something very wise from Dr. Ken Moses - a renowned psychologist
in the area of grieving. "When you don't understand what is going on, it
is not a time to act, it is a time to observe."

         1. A friend's Dad under-valued me for many years. He would make
comments out-of-hand that dismissed my viability as a whole person.
Once, when I told him that I and his son had successfully fixed his
stereo he responded: "Yeah, John's really good at that stuff." Once, he
walked into a discussion that I, my friend, and another were having
about Hitler, and he commented: "Danny; aren't you getting bored around
all this intellectual stuff about politics?" He then watched me ride his
bike around the neighborhood in preparation for a video segment being
produced about echolocation. A week later, he asked if I could find his
son's room okay despite the fact that I had visited the house regularly
for 15 years. Now that I have co-founded and run a company to spread an
understanding of blindness and have been invited to conduct many
workshops and trainings throughout the world about blindness, he still
insists that this company will not succeed. Isn't that silly? It's also
tragic when such a closed, fixed perspective is applied to growing
children or client rehab, because it poisons the growth process. If I
had been raised by this man under such a dismal, frozen perspective, I
would not be writing this "intellectual" piece of work. I would not have
presented all over the world on human potential, and I would not have
co-founded WORLD ACCESS FOR THE BLIND. I would probably be stuck in my
bedroom listening to the radio, waiting and hoping for something
interesting to happen.

         2. The producer of another video segment continued being overly
apprehensive and protective of my safety even though he'd watched me
ride for hours. After I had cut a bagel with my pocket knife and left it
open on his desk thinking that I might use it to spread the creamed
cheese, he reached over, closed the knife, and handed it to me saying:
"I just don't want you to cut yourself on this." Now, one could think of
this as being kind and considerate, but one could also think of it as a
blatant intrusion into one's personal space, let alone an insult to
one's self-respect.

         3. Once, a V.H. instructor stated a belief at an I.E.P. that
her student may have some light perception. She gave examples of moving
around objects, tracking stimuli, and being generally extremely mobile.
While I agreed that he may have some light perception, I also asserted
that he might be able to accomplish all of those tasks with the use of
good nonvisual perceptual skills. The aide insisted further that he
could follow her even when she made no noise. I explained that it is
almost impossible for a person to move without making noise - especially
in grass. I asked her to hold up her hand, and using human sonar only, I
reached out and touched it. I repeated this demonstration several times.
Even after this demonstration, the staff remained doubtful that the
student could exhibit such refined functioning without light perception.

     B. It will be helpful for those who are sighted to put their vision
aside in order to understand the dark.

         1. I don't mean a few minutes under a blindfold. That won't
help. Blindfolding sighted people often substantiates fears and
misunderstandings and deepens negative myths as I have already
explained.

         2. The sighted cannot develop an understanding of the blind
experience as long as all of their visual ways of thinking stand in the
way. A newspaper reporter once put it this way: "It's a handicap of the
sighted not to be able to think beyond their own vision." Blindness is
not just darkness or not seeing, it is a different way of thinking - of
perceiving the world.

            a. A parent once asked me after one of my presentations on
broadening perspectives how a blind person can use the sun for
orientation. I asked him, "When the sun was very strong today, what did
everyone complain about?" "It was too bright," he said. "Anything else,"
I asked. He was stumped. "When the sun is very strong," I continued,
"people usually complain about the heat." I explained that most of the
sun's energy doesn't even radiate as light. His concentration on the
sun's light disrupted his awareness of its warmth, and of how that
warmth can be used to track the sun's movement through the sky.

            b. A commonly asked question is: "How does a blind person
know when a car is coming?" Do sighted people not hear the noises that
cars make?

         3. The sighted have often overwhelmed themselves by the bulk of
their own vision. Though the information that light provides to the eye
is spectacular, the world is much broader and deeper than the eye alone
can perceive.

            a. I was once interviewed by an 8th grader for a class
project on dreaming. He found it very difficult to grasp how a person
could dream without visual images. The interview evolved into a
discussion about the variety and richness of sound in the world. When I
described the surf against the shore as a wonderful symphony of sound,
always changing, with every wave carrying its own unique timbre like the
instruments in an orchestra, he was surprised. He had never noticed; all
the waves sounded the same to him.

            b. One of my low vision students expressed surprise to me
when I mentioned that I used the creek to help me know where I was.
"How?" he asked. I explained that the creek is never the same in any two
places, and its sound shifts and changes as one walks along it. One can
learn to read the sounds of the creek, just as one reads the changing
landscape. He was very straightforward in stating that he'd never
noticed this, even though he was an avid hiker.

VI. FACTORS IN SHAPING A CHILD TO GROW-UP TO EMBRACE THE WORLD - The
following is not intended to be a parenting guide. I am not a parent,
and I will not tell others how to parent. But I am blind and a
developmental psychologist with a sound background in behavior. I
understand causes and consequences and how to motivate people to become
all they can. Please take the following with this understanding. If the
following ten things are true, then the child will grow strong enough to
earn his or her freedom in the world. Freedom is never granted to the
blind child by the world; it is always earned through skill, ingenuity,
and perseverance. Of course, the child's age is taken into account when
considering the following things.

     A. The child travels most places without guidance or being told
what to do or where to go. She feels comfortable traveling places by
herself, even in unfamiliar areas (smaller areas for younger children).
When guidance is used, it is only occasional. EVERY STEP TAKEN UNDER
GUIDANCE IS AN OPPORTUNITY LOST FOR LEARNING. The child is also not
confined to a stroller passed the typical age of 3 or 4. Children who
can direct themselves through their environment can direct themselves
through life.

         1. Developmental Considerations: It is common and appropriate
to walk with young children by the hand. It is a sign of affection and
an opportunity for casual bonding. We must remember, though, that a
sighted child can be held by the hand and still be an equal partner in
the paired walking. The sighted child can still learn actively from her
surroundings just by looking as she passes through them in her mother's
hand. The dynamic is different with a blind child. A blind child is not
simply "taken" by the hand, but is almost always lead by the hand. The
blind child passes through her environment out of contact with things
around her. A blind child who travels with someone by their own power is
an active process in the pare, and thus learns to develop a more active
power over her own life. It is, of course, very appropriate to walk with
young children, blind or sighted, by the hand around traffic situations
for reasons of safety. Even so, the blind child must develop her own
responsible behavior around traffic.

         2. Helpful Hints

            a. During the child's early years, spend a little time
orienting her to new places like school, relative's or friends' homes or
whatever. This gives the child a little head start. Then, they're on
their own to get from place to place. Prodding or handing the child from
place to place teaches nothing about self-sufficiency.

            b. When traveling in public, the child may have trouble
keeping track of the people she's with. It is very helpful for one or
more of the traveling companions to dangle a set of car keys or
something jingly or rattly out a hip pocket, purse, or belt loop. The
child may have difficulty with this at first, but will learn to focus in
on the sound of those she's traveling with. This processing of "focusing
in" is essential to good mobility and isn't learned at all from sighted
guide.

            c. As the child begins traveling on her own around her
neighborhood, it may help to hang some distinctive wind chimes in front
of your house or apartment. This gives the child an auditory cue to make
it a little easier to identify her house from others. An easily found
touch symbol or object is also helpful, such as a small, distinctive
wooden plaque affixed to the mail box.

     B. The child keeps his cane with him most of the time and uses it
almost everywhere. The child thinks of his cane as a life tool - almost
a part of himself. It isn't just a school thing or something his
mobility teacher makes him use. Some blind people have described their
cane as being "wings to freedom." Children may choose to put their cane
up for play activities when it gets in the way (a holster is recommended
for folding canes), but the child always returns to use it when play is
over.

         1. Developmental Considerations: Obviously, young children
generally demonstrate immature cane skills. But, a blind child who is
walking is old enough to start using his cane in functional ways and
should be held responsible for doing so.

         2. Helpful Hints

            a. The child wears a holster into which the cane can be
folded and placed during activities where the cane would just get in the
way. Then, the cane is always with the child and within easy reach.

            b. If the child fusses about using the cane or genuinely
doesn't seem to understand its purpose, then the child can be made to
travel without it or guidance if he chooses. How often will the child
trip, stumble, or run into things before he realizes the significance of
the cane in his life? The child should get the point.

     C. The child keeps track of her own things (shoes, clothes, toys,
school supplies). To a blind child, the world can be full of man- and
maid-servants who fetch and carry at the child's whim. Unless the child
will have access to such help throughout her life, this state of affairs
is unrealistic and should not be encouraged. besides children aren't
very good at rulership. They just haven't the experience or maturity to
manage it very well. Let's try to avoid the Pollyanna syndrome. The
child who can manage her things properly can develop the skills vital to
manage and organize her life.

         1. Developmental Considerations: These are really the same for
a blind child as for a sighted. A blind child who is old enough to leave
her toys lying around is old enough to start keeping track of them. This
process and expectation can be taught very young. Initially, you just
have them keep all their toys in a toy box, but eventually, the child
may have drawers, book shelves, etc. with which to organize them.

         2. Helpful Hints

            a. It is helpful to teach the child how to place her things
with a little strategy. For example, throwing or leaving her shoes in
the middle of the floor will make them hard for her to find later,
because she can't just "look around" for them. She should learn to put
her things near permanent objects that don't move. These permanent
objects serve as markers to help the blind child recall and find her
things.

            b. If the child continually loses track of her things,
making her go without them for a while is a very good way of motivating
the child to develop the necessary organizational skills. Fetching and
carrying for the child is not.

     D. The child participates equally in domestic management. The child
"pulls his own weight." He helps with chores, helps bring in and put
away the groceries, is considerate of others' personal space, maintains
social courtesies such as give and take and has family responsibilities.
Such a child learns to value himself as an equal contributor to the
family. It is by how we get along in our family that we learn how to get
along in the world at large. These involvements are especially important
for blind children, because blind children tend to remain focused on
themselves. Responsibilities to others draws the blind child out of
himself to engage others productively.

         1. Developmental Considerations: Again, these are the same for
a blind child as for a sighted. If 6-year-old sighted sister Susie is
expected to carry her dishes to the sink and rinse them off, then blind
brother Bobby should do the same when he's her age. The only difference
is that a blind child doesn't learn to do things by watching others do
them. He only learns by doing them himself. This is all the more reason
he must be required to do things for himself. It may take a little
longer to learn and demand more patience at first on the part of
caregivers, but this patience soon pays off.

         2. Helpful Hints: Remember that most aspects of house keeping
are responsive to touch and hearing, not just vision. For example, when
vacuuming, the vacuum makes a rasping noise as it sucks up dirt, and one
can feel dirt on carpet with bare feet. The same is true for mopping,
sweeping, or racking. One can also simply keep track of where one
vacuumed, mopped, swept, or racked, but this may yield inconsistent
results. Dirty dishes have a slightly slimy feel, whereas clean dishes
feel smooth and slick. The film that causes dishes to feel slimy can
result from residual grease or poor rinsing; it is often invisible, so
touch is required anyway to ensure a clean dishes. The results of
dusting or polishing furniture are gauged by the way the rag glides
across the surface. Mowing the lawn can be done by setting a stake at
its center and mowing around it on a rope in expanding circles. Then,
one can touch up the corners later. Even if these chores do not prove
suitable, just about anyone can help set the table, carry in the
groceries, weed the yard, take out the trash, etc.

     E. The child participates in the community. The child has friends
around her age who are sighted, and she participates more or less freely
in their activities. She is appreciated and respected in social circles,
even if she may not be very social by nature. She is thought of and
approached as a contributor, not just "the one who needs help all the
time."

         1. Developmental Considerations: Social skills and engagement
are one area often delayed somewhat by blindness by about a year or two.
It may, indeed, often be appropriate to hold blind children back a year
at kindergarten and preschool if for social reasons alone. It may at
times be appropriate for blind children to have friends a year or two
younger than they are. However, blind children do go through a course of
social development as sighted children do. They play along side each
other before playing with each other and join cub scouts before boy
scouts.

         2. Helpful Hints

            a. It helps if the child is pleasant to be around. If the
child is bossy or self-centered, others will avoid her for reasons of
personality, not blindness. It's not uncommon for blind children to be
rather self-centered much longer than sighted kids, because they don't
to the visual stimulation of others to pull them out of themselves. Over
indulgence just exacerbates the problem.

            b. Games can be adapted by causing targets to make sound or
brightened with high contrast tape. A simple plastic bag can enable a
blind child to hear where a ball is and engage in most ball sports
casually. Some have become quite good.

            c. Doing a brief in-service in the child's classroom during
the first couple days or an assembly at the school can help put other
kids and teachers at ease around the child. Though a brief mention of
courtesy isn't a bad idea, these in-services should not focus on "all
the things you should do to help the blind kid," nor should it focus on
safety issues. This just sets the child further apart from others as a
needy recipient. In-services should focus on the successes of the child
and the strategies she uses to be successful.

     F. The child engages comfortably in all activities of daily living
with little help beyond what would be age appropriate (dressing,
feeding, toileting, grooming). A child remains a baby for as long as he
is babied. The child who grows up can meet the world with the freedoms
usually afforded adults.

         1. Developmental Considerations: These really are the same as
for sighted kids. Again, blind children don't learn by watching; they
learn by doing.

         2. Helpful hints

            a. The more the child does it, the easier it gets. The child
will never get very good if he doesn't do it very often.

            b. Use flat-handled silverware. Round handles make it
difficult to tell whether the fork or spoon is facing up.

            c. The child should always use both hands when engaging in
any task. One hand is usually used as a reference while the other is
more active. When cutting food, for example, one hand should rest on the
edge of the plate while the other does the cutting.

            d. Clothing should be matched by something sewn into the
clothing like buttons or something. Color schemes should be simple. The
child shouldn't be made to depend on others to lay out his clothes.

            e. Shoe tying often takes quite long to learn. Just keep at
it. The child will get it eventually. Buckles and velcro can be
practical, but they just postpone the inevitable. Start by teaching and
requiring the child to just do the first step (the cross over). Then,
once that's mastered, the first and second (over/under). Then, finally,
the loops, and pull. It'll come with patience. Try not to put the child
in a position where his friends are tying his shoes for him, though.
Double knots can be good.

     G. The child is disciplined in the same manner and with the same
expectations as other children her age. The child is not burdened by
others with the idea that she should be given a break, because life is
so hard or unfair. In fact life is hard and unfair, and life will not
give the child a special break because of blindness. The world does not
make special allowances. Life does not favor the blind in any way.
Therefore, it is to the child's advantage to grow up knowing how to meet
the world face to face on its terms with grace and dignity, with or
without eyes.

         1. Developmental Considerations: Blind children may take a
little longer to learn appropriate behaviors, because so much modeling
is learned by watching others visually. Again, this is all the more
reason for discipline to be swift, decisive, and consistent. The blind
child may rely even more on good, strong discipline than her sighted
peers. Expectations should be made clear to the blind child just as to
the sighted, and consequences should be just as forth-coming.

         2. Helpful Hints

            a. Again, this isn't parenting, but just shaping behavior.
The quickest way to shape behavior is direct consequence. For example,
if the child can't keep her room clean, then she loses access to her
room. If she can't keep track of her things, then she can't use them. If
a child refuses to make or help make her lunch, then she doesn't get
lunch. If she wants to have a tantrum over it, then she can have it in a
place where she doesn't bother others until she's done.

            b. In general, discipline styles need be no different with a
blind kid, except perhaps a little more stringent. Again, they don't
have vision to learn from, so they may be more reliant on consequence.

     H. The child gets hurt from time to time. Children get hurt. That's
part of being a child, and it's part of growing up strong. Blind kids
need to grow up stronger than most. Bumps and bruises heal, but the
damage caused by never being permitted to receive bumps and bruises may
never heal. Life is the best teacher. Being burned by a flame is much
more effective in teaching us about fire than being repeatedly told,
"don't go near that; it's hot." Pain is part of the price for freedom.

         1. Developmental Considerations: It is generally appropriate to
shelter a child from hurts for about the first year or two of life. This
is a time of life when the child should develop a trust in the goodness
and rewards of life. After this, though, the child learns better through
direct encounters with life's real consequences within reason. We don't
let the child run into the street without warning. Neither do we forbid
him from playing ball 'cause he might get hit in the head. What kid
hasn't?

         2. Helpful Hints: Try to remember that all active kids get
hurt. Just because a kid is blind doesn't make his hurts any worse. He
isn't any more fragile or delicate. If anything, he needs to grow more
resistant to the many little pains that life can impose.

     I. The child is allowed to grow up. Children are cute and cuddly
for a long time. It's easy for us to imagine them as babies well into
their growing years. It's even possible for us to keep our children
babies for as long as we want. But in my professional experience,
parents find nothing worse than a teenaged baby. This world is designed
by adults, for adults. Babies can't operate in the adult world very
well. So, it is in the child's best interest to be allowed and
encouraged to grow up. Blind children are especially vulnerable to the
"prolonged baby syndrome," because their lack in vision puts them at
disadvantages when interacting with a society that favors vision, and
because they are perceived and treated as more needy and helpless. It
is, therefore, even more important that a sound growth process is
maintained for the child.

         1. Developmental Considerations: Children are babies until they
are about 2, toddlers until about 5, little boys and girls until they're
about 9, big boys and girls until about 13, and young men and women
until 18. The child needs to benefit from opportunities to grow into
each phase; it doesn't necessarily happen automatically. Blind kids may
need stronger opportunities, because society tends to exert negative
pressure against them, to thwart the growth process. Lack of vision can
also limit the ability to perceive behaviors in others that reflect
mature development. There's nothing about blindness that should stunt
this process if the child undergoes all the normal experiences of growth
and peer interaction.

         2. Helpful Hints

            a. While enjoying your child's child-likeness, get into the
habit of visualizing your child as a capable big person. If you can't
see your diapered baby as a distinguished professional in a suite and
tie, try at least seeing him as a strong, energetic young boy in shorts
and sneakers chasing a soccer ball. Take it one step at a time.

            b. While it is common and appropriate for parents to see
their kids as their baby, it is essential that we also rejoice in their
growth. The tall man striding proudly in cap and gown to receive his
degree easily becomes transformed in our minds as the little boy
scampering with careless abandon in shorts and tennies after a ball.
Still, do we not share in our son's adult accomplishments? We should
remember always to keep an eye on our child's next step, moving from
babyhood to childhood to adolescence (God help us), and finally to
adulthood. Skipping any of these steps (babyhood to adolescence, or
whatever), is almost impossible. Let's see if we can avoid that struggle
for our children.

     J. The child engages primarily in active or interactive rather than
passive activities. The idea that active engagement is so critical to
blind children may seem counter intuitive. As stated earlier, blind kids
can't learn much from passive observation the way sighted kids can.
Blind kids really need to be "in the thick of it" to learn and grow.
Think of the 3 blind men describing the elephant. One touching its trunk
thinks it's like a great serpent. Another touching its leg describes it
as a great tree. The one touching it's tail says something else. Its the
one who gets up on the thing and rides it, cares for it, feeds it, and
interacts with it who really knows what it is. It may be true that not
everyone has an active personality. There are lots of sighted people
around who are couch potatoes and blind people, too. The problem is, a
sighted couch potato may learn enough through passive observation of the
world to be able to get themselves to the store to buy potato chips so
they have something to munch on as they veg all day. A blind couch
potato will almost certainly not be able to do so.

         1. Developmental Considerations: As a child develops and
interacts more with the world, she learns to put more and more of the
pieces together. A young child must explore objects actively and
thoroughly, sometimes repetitively, before she understands them. This
should be encouraged all the time. As blind children get older, they
learn to understand objects more quickly with less contact. An
experienced blind person, one whose actively engaged in the world, may
touch an elephant's trunk for the first time and says: "Hmm. Very
powerful. It snuffles and is connected to something very large. I feel
the earth shudder as it moves. I sense its great bulk, like an edifice
looming near me. I hear the swish of what must be its great tail, high
up, and masked by its great size."

         2. Helpful Hints: Video games are becoming a serious scourge
for blind children. In general, blind children can only participate
passively by watching others play. While this may provide opportunities
for some positive social interaction, it reinforces dependence on others
and provides no active stimulation. If the blind child must have a
Gameboy or something, try placing time limits on the activity, such as
"no more than an hour a day."

     K. In general kids grow up to become normal by growing up normally.
Parents who have older sighted children may use those children as a
loose model to gage the blind child's development and how to treat and
raise him. Those for whom the blind child is the first may look to other
friends' children or your own up-bringing. This isn't to say there may
not be differences in how blind kids develop. There are, but the overall
expectations and standards need to be the same, or the child may not
grow prepared to meet the world face on.

VII. WE MUST CONCENTRATE ON THE PRESENT AND FUTURE, NOT THE PAST [I
wrote this section when I anticipated a particular family attending a
certain presentation. Their son was 7 and had no involvements other than
blindness, and these parents were still spoon feeding him, still
carrying him into the classroom, still babying him in every way and
lavishing him with praise for the simplest accomplishments. When I
showed them our video, his mom spoke out in front of him saying "oh,
he'll never be able to do that." When the boy turned 12, he was more of
a baby than his 3-year-old brother and wouldn't walk anywhere without an
aide, even onto the playground. His parents insisted to his instructors
that he wouldn't need bus lessons, because he'll never have to use the
bus. I was hoping to stir them to think differently by the following
discussion, but they didn't show up.]

     A. We're going to talk about what we as parents and professionals
have done right and wrong regarding our children and students. By
"right," I mean things that further our children's and students' ability
to function successfully as blind people. By "wrong," I'm talking about
the things we do that interfere with our blind children's and students'
ability to function successfully, and we all do both right and wrong
things.

     B. Some of you may not want to hear or take in what we'll discuss.
Maybe some have become comfortable and resigned to ideas and
presumptions about blindness - about what your kids can and can't, will
and will not be able to do. Or, perhaps some have come to enjoy their
children's dependence on them. Sometimes, our children seem to grow up
too fast. It is possible to slow that process, especially for blind kids
who are particularly vulnerable to society's prejudices. It may be
convenient and safe to hem them into a neat little box where we can keep
a close eye on them. I don't say these things to criticize or belittle;
I suggest them to stir us to look deep into ourselves to learn who we
are and know our motives and expectations. What we'll discuss about
blindness can, in no way, harm any of us. It may hurt, but pain is not
our enemy. Harm is our enemy, and if we open our minds and hearts to
other avenues and ways of thinking and feeling, we may avoid the harm
that has hitherto needlessly plagued the vast majority of the blind.

     C. We may touch on some mutually painful chords. We can all do
better than what we're doing. The important thing is to put behind us
what we've done, because that cannot be changed, and to look ahead to
what can be changed.

     D. I cannot speak as a parent, but I can speak as a product of this
society and as one who has observed many products arise from many
different backgrounds both empowering and debilitating.

     E. I do not judge, because I have made my share of mistakes - some
worse than any of you will probably ever make.

         1. My closest experience with parenting was my interaction with
Dog Guides, of which I had two. I ruined the first one. Her name was
Whiska, and I loved her with an intensity that completely distorted my
better judgment. I spoiled her rotten and did everything for her. I took
over her job - causing her to lose her skills and abilities which she,
like all of us, needed to practice if she was to retain and refine them.
Everyone tried to tell me what I was doing, but it wasn't for 4 years
into our relationship that I began to listen and try to change. I
couldn't turn it around in time. In another 2 years her lack of refined
abilities killed her. She forgot to watch for traffic, because I'd
always done that for her. You can't exactly say that I improved her
quality of life by doing all I did for her. I did her no favors.
Sometimes, we can "love" our loved ones to death or lifelong harm -
prison, institutions, dependency, isolation, or worse.

         2. Some time afterward, I took a dog from the street, named him
Zion, and raised him to be a very effective Dog Guide. I did this by
forcing him always to use his skills, rather than imposing my skills on
him. He is alive and well today, because I taught him to be responsible
for keeping track of his own surroundings.

         3. I couldn't undo what I'd done to Whiska, but I was able to
take that experience and give another dog a good and productive life.
That is the finest gift we can give, and I thankfully pass this lesson
on to all who can benefit from it.

VIII. BROADENING PERSPECTIVES

     A. In this section, we're going to see that blindness really should
not be considered so much a disability but rather a condition or style
of living. Blindness has its challenges and drawbacks, but it is only by
recognizing that they must still move forward to the same ends as
everyone else that we can make this happen. We must forget about the
"can'ts" and make the "cans" our focus.

     B. Advantages of blindness. Who'd have thought that there might
actually be advantages to being blind. Sure, the challenges,
inconveniences, and ignominies are many, but we can rest an advantage or
two from the experience.

         1. Mastering fear of the dark means mastering ourselves and the
world. Do we realize just how much of our time and energy is spent being
afraid of the unknown? The blind live their lives with the unknown
before them. They have to gasp and grapple the unknown at every step and
turn, and they have to do it with poise and grace. The lessons and
skills learned from doing so are incalculable.

         2. Being blind, you form your own self and your own path.
Blindness almost necessitates taking a non-conventional approach to
life, because the conventions don't recognize blindness. You learn to
live outside the conventions, while remaining respectful of them. They
may not be driven by the same forces to look and act like everyone else,
because these do not serve. The opportunity is wide open to be
themselves, without the same pressures of conformity.

         3. Advantage of social familiarity. We often talk about how
disadvantaged the blind are in social situations, but really, blind
people almost always have the advantage. The blind, living among the
sighted, come to understand the sighted very well. Yet the sighted,
having almost no experience with the blind, understand the blind hardly
at all. THEREFORE, when the blind encounter the sighted, the blind hold
an advantage of familiarity and can use that advantage as necessary. The
blind who understand this become powerful in just about any social
context.

     C. It's easy to screw up a blind kid. As of 1994-95, about 90% of
individuals blind from early childhood and about 75% blind later in life
were not gainfully employed. This includes the low vision population.

         1. I had a client who lived with his parents all his life. His
life was managed for him. Everything was done for him, and all decisions
were made for him. Evidently, his parents believed that taking care of
him was the way to give him the best quality of life. Then, they died.
He now lives on a budget of $800 a month from a trust fund that his
parents entrusted to family and friends as conservators. He exercises no
capacity to make decisions for himself. He has little control over his
life - where he lives, his money, nothing. He has no wife or children
and no immediate family to "care" for him. Is this the quality of life
that any of us would want for ourselves or our children? His parents and
others evidently cared for him and nurtured him straight into a life-
long prison of poverty and self-debasement. Is it because of blindness
that so many blind people don't lead rich and fulfilling lives?

         2. Some standardized career testing of visually impaired youth
at the Braille Institute is showing some very discouraging results. Most
of these kids are scoring years below the average in career and
vocational readiness. Why?

     D. The truth is that blind people hold just about every imaginable
job from clerical, to electrical and mechanical, to professional, to
political. The recent commissioner of Rehab Services for the entire
country is totally blind from age 17. As long as there are blind people
working in virtually every type of vocation, then blindness cannot be
implicated as the cause of such catastrophic levels of unemployment.
What is it then?

     E. Is vision a necessary prerequisite for survival in modern human
society? Would it be possible for a modern society to exist made up
entirely of blind humans? What would be the differences and
similarities?

     F. There are many species of bats, birds, dolphins, and whales who
have poor vision or who spend much time in the dark and who carry out
all the major functions of life that sighted animals do. They range,
hunt, and avoid capture in this "survival of the fittest" world. They
keep house and raise families, all without the benefit of vision in a
most unforgiving world.

     G. What is "disability?"

         1. Definitions and considerations:

            a. In educational terms the word "impairment" refers to the
malfunctioning or absence of a part of the body. The body or mind is
"impaired" by something that is physically gone or damaged. The
definition of "impairment" says nothing about how well or poorly the
body functions in relation to the impairment; it talks only about
something being gone or damaged.

            b. The word "disability" refers to a lack of ability to
perform certain functions, usually, but not necessarily, as the result
of an impairment. A person is seen as unable to do some things or
limited in how well they do certain things.

            c. The word "handicapped" refers to difficulties in
functional performance resulting from barriers or impediments that are
imposed by forces external to the individual. For example, a very short
person might find themselves "handicapped" in a country of very tall
people, because everything would be designed for tall people such as
closets and kitchen cupboards, automobiles, merchandise displays, pay
phones, etc. While traveling on the train with a friend who is 5 feet
tall, I had to lift his luggage to the luggage rack and take it down.

            d. A colleague, a nationally renowned Occupational
Therapist, had a teenaged relative who recently tried to kill herself.
She had no diagnosed physical impairments and was extremely intelligent.
Yet, she was somehow unable to cope with her life. This colleague argued
that this individual was more "disabled" than someone with a physical
impairment who was able to cope with life. She asked, "If someone with
impairments can lead a fully productive and enriched life while someone
with no impairments can't, what does disability really mean?"

            e. After long discussion, we decided that disability could
be defined as: "A lack of capacity to function in life due to diminished
access to physical, psychological, and/or social resources." This
defines disability, not strictly in terms of individual impairment, but
rather one's relationship to oneself and one's environment. If I, for
example, had access to the financial resources to pay for transportation
to anywhere and at any time that I desired, my inability to drive due to
my lack of access to visual references would hardly "disable" me. In
other words, disability results from a poor relationship between the
individual and the physical world, the individual and society, and/or
the individual and oneself. In the case of the young girl without
impairments who tried to kill herself, her physical relationship to the
world was probably okay, but her ability to manage her internal,
psychological resources and, perhaps, her social surroundings, was
lacking to the point of disabling her most severely.

         2. Few would argue that a blind person's lack of vision can
negatively affect his relationship to the world. Certainly, lack of
vision can limit access to information in the environment that can
affect the quality of a person's life. Any sighted person who puts on a
blindfold finds this out immediately. However, the functioning of a
blindfolded individual bares little relationship or resemblance to the
functioning of a blind individual who has fully adapted to their
situation. There are many aspects of life that can be enhanced to
compensate for the difficulties that might result from a lack of visual
access to information. These include improved access to internal and
external resources. Improved access to these resources draws the
critical distinction between a real blind person and someone
masquerading temporarily as a blind person. It should be noted, however,
that these enhancements do NOT happen automatically, but only through
practice, experience, and the will to thrive.

            a. Access to Internal Resources: There are two types of
internal resources to which access can be improved - psychological and
physiological. To some extent, these two are interrelated.

              (1) Psychological: "What doesn't kill us makes us
stronger." When the world tries to withhold things from our reach, we
must decide whether to go without, or reach out further for what we want
or need. Our psychological nature is partly responsible for how
effectively we can obtain or achieve what we want when confronted by
barriers. The tougher the goal, the more we must exercise creativity,
determination, adaptability, and self-discipline from a position of
greater strength and assurance to get what we want. These are all
malleable qualities over which we can have control. If you want
something (for instance, your own house), and obstacles stand between
you and that something (for instance, you can't drive, and there are no
houses for sale conveniently near work or stores), what do you do? There
are two primary reactions - either do not achieve that something (don't
buy a house), or achieve that something (buy a house and work out the
necessary logistics). In the face of a major barrier, one may re-
evaluate how important the objective is to them, and decide either that
it isn't worth the trouble or that a smaller, more manageable objective
might be more appropriate. For example, one might decide that a town
home or condo would suffice. Or, one might just give it up altogether
and rent indefinitely. If one decides that they will have the house of
their dreams no matter what, then one may choose to move heaven and
earth to get it and keep it. One might investigate ride shares or hire a
driver to make necessary commutes and trips. One may petition the city
for improved public transportation to that area. The more we realize
that each of us is every bit as important as everyone else and that our
needs and aspirations are every bit as viable as those of others, the
stronger is our ability to gain what we want no matter the obstacle.

              (2) Physiological: It is often said that when a sense is
missing, our other senses become stronger to compensate. There is
actually some truth to this. We must remember that the brain seeks and
craves information and will exercise all manner of ingenuity to gain
information. When we really wish to achieve or maintain a certain
quality of life, then anyone can rise to that challenge. When any part
of our mind or body becomes impaired, the challenge may become somewhat
greater. Yet, if our desire for achievement remains strong and is
encouraged by others, and we continue to make the effort, our remaining
capacities will strengthen to compensate for what is missing. Our neuro-
physiology enhances itself to enable us to become stronger, faster, more
perceptive and responsive to our surroundings and needs. Studies show
that the brain, given the opportunity, will actually adjust itself to
enable processing of more information at higher levels. For example, a
blind individual may be able to hear things that others miss, simply
because the auditory centers of the brain may become finely tuned
through experience and long term survival. A blind individual may be
able to walk across rough and broken terrain without a hitch, because
practice has refined the sense of balance through touch rather than
vision. One study showed that blind high schoolers exerted 25% more
energy to accomplish the same athletic tasks as their sighted peers.
Does this mean that the sighted can do 25% more than the blind? No. It
means that in the tasks evaluated in the study, the blind had to apply
25% more physiological capacity than the sighted to achieve the same
level of performance. This simply means that the blind had to compensate
physiologically to be able to apply the extra energy necessary. The
physiology in these blind participants must have been capable of
producing 25% more energy so that the tasks could be accomplished.

            b. Access to external resources: External resources include
the physical and the social world. When it comes to accessing these
resources, there are two factors that we must consider - perception, and
functioning. Perception simply refers to what we perceive. What we
perceive, we perceive because our senses and brain give us awareness of
natural phenomena in the physical world such as light, sound, vibration,
gravity, temperature, pressure, texture, scent, taste, etc. What we are
able to perceive occurs by virtue of how our senses and brain enable us
to relate to the physical world. Then comes our ability to function. How
our perceptions affect the way we function depends largely on how
society enables us to use our senses. For example, if society did not
provide artificial lighting or indoor access to daylight, how much use
would the eye be to sighted people at night or indoors? Society has
extended the use of eye sight by providing a comprehensive network of
artificial lighting upon which all sighted people now depend very
heavily. Similarly, the written word is made available by a system of
printed media which favors the eye above all other senses.

              (1) The physical world: As mentioned earlier, there are
many species of animals with poor vision studied by natural science.
These creatures exist in a competitive "survival of the fittest" world
right along with creatures who have full vision. Nonetheless, it can be
argued that lack of vision (i.e., lack of access to light) may decrease
one's ability to relate fully to the physical world. The optical
properties of light allow us to perceive very small details in many
objects at very great distances. Without access to light, certain
information about our surroundings may be unavailable. However, there
are many other ways to acquire some of this information through personal
adaptation, and there are ways to seek accommodation for the lack of
information.

               (a) Personal Adaptation: For lack of a better term, this
refers to the use of tools or technology to make use of the same
information without altering the way that information is presented. The
individual applies specific devices or skills to use the same media that
others use. For example, a blind person may use light to read a book
through the use of a computer. A blind person may know if light is
present and where it is by using a light probe that makes sound when it
detects light. A blind person may use a cane or strong glasses to
discern things about the environment that he may need to know to travel
safely and effectively. Or, a blind individual may use a driver or taxi
to make use of the same roadways that the sighted travel so freely.

               (b) Accommodation: Again, for lack of a better term, this
refers to the design of the environment that specifically allows
functioning of the individual. The environment accommodates sighted
people quite well, because it was designed by sighted people for sighted
people. When a sign is written in Braille as well as print, that sign
accommodates both that sighted and the blind instead of just the
sighted. When a ramp is cut into a curb, it accommodates those with
wheelchairs and other ambulatory difficulties. Traffic control signals
can be made to accommodate the blind by the use of audible signals. In
this way the blind would have the same access to the same information as
the sighted for crossing streets.

              (2) The social world: There are many ways in which
blindness may impact a person's access to the social world among the
sighted. Vision can afford access to many social cues such as body
language and expression, eye contact, dress and fashion, etc. Whole
communications can take place across a crowded room by recognizing a
familiar person, signaling with gestures, engaging with the eyes, and so
on. It has been said that upwards of 80% of communication occurs
nonverbally. (I don't actually hold to this idea. This may be true for
sighted people, but communication is actually very rich with many
nonvisual interactions. When I give presentations and I come to this
point, I go silent for a while, just moving my lips. It takes very
little time before people get fidgety and frustrated, and start to lose
interest. And, finally, there are the social prejudices and biases
against blindness which may pose the greatest barriers to social
interaction. Both physiological and psychological factors affect how
these barriers to social interaction may be addressed.

               (a) As discussed earlier, a person's neuro-physiology may
develop to heighten awareness of social cues that compensate for the
lack of vision. For example, a tense expression or aggressive body
stance will generally convey corresponding vocal tension or aggression
to the sensitive blind observer. Likewise, a blind observer may hear a
familiar voice across a crowded room and approach the individual for
engagement. Many bodily expressions may be sensed by audible movements -
however subtle. A gesture may be caught by the slight rustle of clothing
against the body; surprise may be heard as the slight in-take or catch
of the breath; etc. In fact, close attention to vocal expression can
sometimes yield more information to the sensitive auditory observer than
could otherwise be obtained, because people are generally more practiced
at controlling their appearance than their voice. Thus, the voice can
give a truer picture of a person's intentions or feelings.

               (b) Psychological: A blind individual must develop
stronger powers of attention to maintain awareness of these subtler
social cues. Also, one must develop extra assets of fortitude and social
desirability to withstand and negotiate the apprehensions and prejudices
that run rampant against the blind.

              (3) The symbolic world: The world of symbols is where our
inner world meets the external world. It is the world of the picture,
the sign, the written word, and the graphic user interface. It is where
we express ourselves and perceive the expressions of others through a
system of symbols. Symbols mark-up our environment with warnings,
information, advertisements, and helpful hints. They tell us of danger,
what things are, where we are and where to go for what we want, how to
do things and make things, and who to see. They share thoughts and
stories, heart-felt desires and matters of urgency and wonder. They help
us do math and science, and look up flight information, all with the
touch of a button. They show us how to use our microwave and VCR. They
tell us how much and who to pay. Collectively they embody the knowledge
of a culture, and allow the conveyance of the knowledge between people,
cities, and nations. But these symbols, with their power and deep
meaning, appeal to the eye - impinge upon the visual system. To the
blind, the pages are blank, the signs say nothing, the screens and
displays of wonder to the eye are but cold, featureless surfaces to the
hand. There are no warnings of danger, signs for this way and that, no
helpful hints or words of courtesy, no tips about how to do or where to
go, no idea how much. It is a vast world of "you know, but I don't." How
do the blind cope? They do it with dreams and endeavors for the world to
be more welcoming, more telling. They do it with external resources
finding ways to get things in Braille or large print, which is what they
read. They do it with computers that talk, very expensive displays of
Braille, and videos described - with scanners that read and talking
signs where they can find them. They do it by labeling, marking, and
guessing. They do it with internal resources of gritted teeth and
furrowed brow. They do it on faith and trust in themselves and sometimes
their fellow man not to lead them a-stray. It takes a strength of
purpose, a lightness and fortitude of heart, and a cleverness which we
owe to our children to instill in them. Without these things, the world
is a vast desert of unknown and unreached possibilities. Some examples: 
(Note: the following are not meant to imply that my way is the only or
best way, there're just my way, and they work pretty well for me.)

               (a) Finding a hotel room: When I stay in a hotel, I ask
if the rooms are numbered in Braille. If they aren't, I pretty much have
to have someone show me where it is or be guessing for a long time.
Then, I complain. For the key, I have them put a piece of tape by the
arrow that shows how the key is supposed to go in the door. When I
insert the key, I listen very carefully for the click of the relay which
tells me when the light signals for the door to be opened.

               (b) Finding a street: When I look for a street I've never
been to, I consult an on-line mapping service which gives me approximate
directions to where I want to go. When I know I'm close, I start asking
around to get closer. Amid peppers of "Are you lost," and "let me take
your hand," I find my way. Nowadays, one can use talking global
positioning technology which speaks the streets you're on and tells you
how to get where you want to go, but this technology is currently beyond
my price range.

               (c) Paying the bills: When the bills come in the mail, I
throw them away. I call each service to get the amount owed by phone.
Then, I fill out my checks by hand or on a computer, print out the
addresses on the envelopes, and mail them in without their self-address
label. A blind person with more experience writing could do it without a
computer as long as the checks had raised lines.

               (d) Shopping: When I go into a grocery store, I'm faced
with a barrage of unnamed boxes, cans, jars, bottles, and packages of
every sort. I ask a clerk to read them all and get me what I need. After
a few times, I may get the hang of the store's layout so that I can grab
simple items without this kind of help. Navigating the store is no
problem at all for me; it's the lack of signs and labels that hampers
me. This works fine until the layout or the inventory changes.

               (e) Money? Credit cards? ATM'S? I organize my money. I
have a scanner that reads me bills I've lost track of, but I have to
bring them home for that. I keep denominations that allow me to give
near exact change. I've only been cheated once. I can barely make out by
touch the numbers on my credit cards, so I can pretty much keep those
straight. ATM'S are getting harder, now that they're all being replaced
by touch screens. I'm rather reluctant to give my pin number to a
perfect stranger so they can type it in for me. I haven't found a good
way around that one, except to have cash or use the credit card feature.

               (f) Greeting cards: I open them to check if there's
money, and toss anything that isn't Brailed. I figure anyone who really
wants me to read it would see that it was Brailed or convey the message
to me some other way. I used to try to scan them to figure out who they
came from, but they're almost always hand written, and the scanner can't
usually make heads or tails.

               (g) Forms and applications: These are the most fun. I
scan these, import them to my Braille Lite as a text file, and fill them
out on my Braille display. This usually changes the look and format of
the application very much, and if the scanner does a poor job, I have to
do some guessing about what I'm filling out. It can take me ten times
longer, but it usually works. Then, I sent back the application or form
with a letter explaining that this form should serve as a reasonable
facsimile of the original for reasons of equal accommodation. This has
worked with everyone except the state department of rehabilitation for
whom I did work, and had to bill using their form. Their form was so
bad, I created my own with the same fields, filled it out with all the
relevant information, and sent it in. I had to convince rehab to except
it. The truth is, any government agency must provide all documentation
in accessible formats, so there's legal precedent on my side. If the
above doesn't work, I just call the agency in question, explain my
circumstances and have them fill the form out for me over the phone or
make an appointment to go in and do it. Usually, people are quite
amenable. One person even took the trouble to measure how far the
signature line was from the bottom of the page so I got sign it when it
came to me. I use laser faxes and printers whenever possible, because
laser printing can be felt.

               (h) Operating gadgets and appliances: Nowadays, many
gadgets and appliances such as microwaves, VCR'S, cell phones, answering
machines, fax machines, printers, even entertainment centers are
operated by digital menus and touch screens. Gone are the simpler days
of dials, knobs, and buttons that went "click" when you pushed 'em. I
must try each appliance to see if I can operate before I buy it. Often,
even if the thing is menu or touch screen driven, I can figure out a
way. There's usually a work-around which I will often set up with the
salesman. For example, one VCR that I bought was programmed entirely
through a menu interface from the remote control. I simply had the
salesman tell me all the command sequences that I would likely use, and
I wrote them down. I would always start from powering up which put me at
the defaults, so I never had to guess where I was, then I just followed
my own instructions which I eventually committed to memory. I got to
program the thing better than many sighted people. The salesman was so
impressed, he offered to drop the thing off at my place on his way home
that evening to save me from having to carry it around. I took him up on
his offer. Sometimes, when I come across someone's microwave, I have to
spend some time to figure it out. Though the touch buttons can be
tricky, there's usually some very slight depression that one can feel if
one is careful. Then, I just use systematic trial and error to figure
out how to get the thing to go on long enough to cook something. There's
usually a logic to these things. On many appliances the on button is
usually the biggest one, or the one with the biggest light indicator.
With VCR'S, the operating buttons usually have little universal arrows
and symbols that one can feel with care. With microwaves, the on and
clear buttons are usually at the bottom of the panel, mode settings are
along the top, and timing is somewhere in the middle. Some blind people
are instinctively better at figuring these things out on their own than
others. I had a student once who was awesome - better than I. He came
from a Hispanic household where the others could scarcely read English.
He was the one more often than not who figured out how to use the new
thing and would show the others once he'd figured it out. There are, of
course, many exceptions to all these rules, but there's a good place to
start. And, it happens with increasing regularity that gadgets and
appliances are just unusable. I either have to have them adapted such as
by having someone put labels or tactile markers all over the thing
(which is okay and recommended for children), or I move on to some other
appliance that I can use with less effort. This often precludes me from
getting the latest and greatest, but such is not my taste, anyway.

               (i. Laundry: (Should I really include this?) I used to
have my wardrobe designed along two major color schemes so that
everything within each color scheme matched everything else in that
scheme. I had one type of button sewn into those garments that fell into
one category, and another type demarking the other category, and I never
crossed categories. All my socks and under garments were white, so it
was easy to separate the whites for washing and bleaching; I never wore
white garments to avoid showing stains and to eliminate confusion with
what is or isn't white. I could have marked my whites with a especial
tag. These tags are sold, but if I had a mind, I'd have just used a
safety pin or staple. I only wore white socks except on formal occasions
when I would only wear black, and those were a distinctly different
material composition from my whites, so I never got them confused. I
still fell into trouble when dressing for formal or special occasions
when color coordination is more essential. For example, on many of my TV
appearances, I was asked to avoid certain colors for photo reasons. This
required a level of organization upon my skill; I actually needed
neighbors to come and match some of my clothing. How silly! So, I bought
a color detector, and everything changed. This little device tells me
the color, hue, and brightness of things. With it, I can come close to
matching just about anything. (It just has trouble with navy blue vs.
black.) I'm told my color coordination is quite good - (not that I spend
more than 30 seconds on any given day). I still have my clothes spot
checked from time to time for stains and color fading, but I'm clean and
well matched. A friend of mine took a simpler approach. He just wore
nothing but jeans and T-shirts, and just never cared much for matching.
This would be my natural bent, but I succumbed to the pressures of
family and professionalism.

               (j) Transportation: In general, I'm able to go wherever I
wish, whenever I like, sort-of. It really isn't that simple. I'm an
itinerant mobility specialist with clients spread out over two very
large, highly populated counties, and I travel throughout the world
besides My transportation schedule between buses, trains, cabs, private
drivers, and a lot of walking is insane but doable. I can even get up to
the mountain to hike when I wish, and all my transportation expenses are
tax deductible. In fact, I've determined that, mile per mile, I save
about $200 a month by not owning and operating my own vehicle, and I get
all my paperwork and writing done while traveling. At least half this
document was completed while traveling. Now, that offers little comfort
on those occasions when I'm stranded or dreadfully inconvenienced, which
happens regularly. (Try looking on the bright side while standing for an
hour in the pouring rain and icy wind late for an appointment waiting
for a late bus as hundreds of people drive merely by in their warm
cars.) But, I don't need to worry much about the rigors of rush hour
traffic, either. Now, to give one example of how I use transportation
this is how I get from my house to my cabin which is about 3 kilometers
from an off-road trail head. I take access paratransit (which is like a
cheap cab service for the disabled) from my house to the foot of the
mountain and a cab local to that area the rest of the way to the trail
head where access will not go. Then, I walk from there to the cabin. I
book my return cab and access ahead of time in case I can't get a cell
phone call out from the canyon, and I hike down to meet them at the
appointed time. I give myself plenty of time so I don't have the fret
about being on time; there's plenty for me to do in the canyon. The
round trip costs me about $25, whereas the cost would be about $40 to
drive it and pay for the parking permit for a night. Now, connections
don't always go smoothly; sometimes I'm running to get down on time;
sometimes the cab is late picking me up which can compromise my access
trip home. I once stood over half-an-hour in sub-freezing temperatures
after a 3-day camp-out in the rain (long story) waiting for a cab that
never came. That is sometimes the price blind people pay for freedom. It
must be worth it, because I keep doing it, and it usually works out for
the best. (The topic of efficient transportation for the blind and other
access issues is covered in much greater detail in Section 6 and
APPENDIX A of another document called "When Darkness Lights the Way,"
also on this web site.)

               (k) Other blind people in my experience do things on a
regular basis that I am less qualified to comment on - home improvement,
landscaping, gourmet cooking, carpentry, electrical work, automotive
repair, ...

         3. The biggest functional difficulties imposed on the blind are
rapid transportation, and access to printed or graphical material. If
you were to visit a country that spoke little or no English would you be
disabled? Would you be handicapped? Recall the definitions.

            a. Upon returning from a visit to New Zealand, I was
accompanied by a very kind, well-meaning professional in the blindness
field who was absolutely convinced that the problems experienced by
blind people were primarily a result of blindness, and had little to do
with society's approach. "If people weren't blind, they wouldn't have
problems," he said. When I asked him what would happen to sighted people
if all the signage disappeared from the face of the earth or suddenly
became written in an indecipherable language, he dismissed my point as
"immaterial." When we got to the airport, he insisted on "helping" me
in. I didn't object, since this seemed common courtesy, and he should
certainly be more familiar with this airport than I. But, they were
renovating the departures areas, and he couldn't find the signage he was
looking for to tell him where to go. He eventually had to get directions
from an airport official. I politely informed him that I'd have done no
worse than he under that circumstance.

            b. Just recently, I was returning from Canada, and the
gentleman I was with offered to assist me in filling out my custom's
claims form - it not being available in Braille. Upon reviewing the
form, he saw that the clerk had given him the French version instead of
the English. Until he obtained the English version, he was little better
off than I in filling out the form - even with his vision.

         4. Blindness may be considered a disability, but how much of a
disability is it? If every piece of information available to vision was
also available to hearing or touch and rapid transportation were
expanded to be efficiently accessible to the blind, how would that
affect the way the blind would function? My best estimate is that about
75% of the barriers faced by the blind would fall away. All the world
would suddenly come within easy reach, even in blindness. If we think of
vision as simply a tool to access information, we can easily see that
the principal downfalls of blindness can be removed simply by ensuring
that the blind can access the same information as the sighted.

         5. The fact that the blind face enormous functional
difficulties in the world of the sighted is not strictly a matter of
deficiencies related to blindness, but a matter of deficiencies in the
relationship between the sighted world and blindness. We are the world
for our young blind children. Therefore, the way we relate to our blind
children WILL MAKE THE CRITICAL DIFFERENCE in their level of freedom and
success.

     H. Interdependence - independence vs. dependence. It is commonly
held that the blind must depend more than the sighted on others. There
is certainly some truth to this, but let's look at this for a moment.
Are the sighted really so much more independent than the blind, or have
they simply developed tight networks of interdependence? The sighted
enjoy a rich network of mutual exchange in which they make goods and
services readily available to each other. The blind, however, are
largely excluded from this network. For example, only about 3% of
printed material is made available in alternate formats to the blind.
How often do TV commercials now invite the viewer to: "call the number
on your screen." So, the blind must learn to function as, so to speak,
free agents - apart from this network of sighted interdependence.

         1. Take driving. The blind cannot drive, so the blind are
vulnerable to depending on others who can drive to cart them around. I
am an itinerant instructor and travel all over the world delivering
trainings and services. I hire drivers, or use public and para-
transportation, or catch rides wherever appropriate. Not being able to
drive has its inconveniences to be sure, but does this make me more
dependent? Vision is only part of what makes driving possible; one of
many prerequisites. It is services provided by society that makes it
possible. How many among the sighted have manufactured their own car, or
their own gas or oil, or serviced their own car? More importantly, who
constructs their own roadways, signs, and traffic lights and lanes?
Without these accommodations provided by others, driving would come to a
screeching halt for everyone. It is an inclusive social network, an
exchange of goods and services, that makes driving possible. We all
depend on others to provide services and equipment that allow us the
privilege of driving. Likewise, the blind may depend on others for the
privilege of rapid transportation. The only real difference is that the
sighted are provided with a network of goods and services that generally
give them greater freedom and face them with less hassle. It's all a
matter of interdependence; everyone is interdependent on everyone else.
Owning and driving one's own car is much less of an advantage in other
parts of the country or world; it's all a matter of how the environment
is designed. In some places, public transportation is the norm. And,
while someone else is driving me, I'm writing this document and many
others besides.

         2. Take reading - who prints their own material and who
manufactures their own video screens? When I go to the store, I usually
grab a clerk to help me select items. Am I more dependent? All the
sighted shoppers are reading labels that someone else provided for them.
This provides the illusion that they are more independent. When I go to
a restaurant, I have the server read the menu. If I'm with a sighted
person, they usually read it. Does this make me more dependent? If the
menu's available in Braille, I read it myself and make my own choices,
but this is often not the case. Sighted people generally don't think
about what would happen if they went to a restaurant, and they had no
menu to read.

         3. Take lighting - How wonderful that the sighted have
artificially made light available just about everywhere to just about
everyone. How many have manufactured and carry their own lighting
wherever they go?

         4. The three public documents that most denote our freedom are
denied to the blind - the driver's license, monetary notes, and the
voting ballet. Denial of these rights threatens the blind with a most
convincing illusion of dependence. Yet, each of these things is
manageable. Transportation could be made rapid and efficient by means
other than the private coach. Many countries already Braille their
money. The voting ballet - well, given that it's available in just about
every language under the sun, Braille shouldn't be impossible.

     I. Ways to thwart independence. There are countless subtle ways to
impede the development of independence. Examples:

         1. I have a nearly blind student with moderate mobility
problems and some developmental delay. He'd been using a walker for many
years, and we decided to wean him off. For a long time I worked on
balance issues and cane technique. I usually integrate echolocation
training, which is the process of using reflected sound to know where
things are at a distance. Proper use of this can greatly enhance
nonvisual mobility. His instructional aide kept asking me when I was
going to teach him how to travel as I do by using this technique. Though
he and I did a little training, I put off intensive training, because I
anticipated that he would have difficulty grasping the subtleties of it.
I wasn't looking forward to the arduous process of instructing him in
this area. Finally, I decided "the Hell with it," and gave him a
clicker. (The clicker provides a sharp sonar pulse that can enable the
blind to "view" their environment from the reflections of the clicks off
objects and surfaces.) It improved nearly every aspect of his
orientation and mobility by at least 100% instantly. I have never seen
such significant improvement in so little time. All the while I fretted
over my presumptions about this boy's capacity, when this technique
turned out to be the key to his mobility functioning. Go figure.

         2. I had to orient a new student to Union Station. I knew that
the student had 20/70 vision and some cognitive processing problems.
During casual discussion with a colleague many years more experienced
than I, she said: "Yeah. I'd want someone around to eye ball the area
ahead of time for me."  This comment concerned me for two reasons. The
first is that, the more we must depend on others to "eye ball" things
for us, the more we are governed by other people's agendas rather than
our own. Who has someone around on a continuing, intermittent, or even
as needed basis to "look over our shoulder" for us and make sure
everything's okay? My second concern is that, an instructor's
anticipated desire for surrogate visual comfort should play little or no
role in the facilitation of the autonomy of our students. Few sighted
people ever have the notion that they could function autonomously
without vision, so I think that sighted instructors need to guard
against holding their students to the standards to which they'd hold
themselves. Rather, sighted instructors should concentrate on
facilitating a standard of functioning that goes well beyond what they
would expect of themselves.

         3. When I worked at the Blind Children's Learning Center, I
developed a technology grant program that made huge amounts of assistive
technology available to a selected number of junior high and high school
visually impaired students on an application/interview basis. We sent
application packets in both large print and Braille to all V.I.
instructors throughout Orange County to pass out to their students. When
I followed up the mailing by phone, one instructor said: "I'll be sure
and read it to them." When I reminded the instructor that Braille copies
had been provided, the instructor said: "Well, I guess I could just give
that to them." The automatic response of this instructor to lend his
sight so graciously to his sightless students when they already had
independent access to the material is just one of countless, subtle
examples of how we condition our students to be dependent, rather than
facilitate their independence.

         4. I recently assisted at a mainstream camp for teenagers where
four visually impaired teenagers were permitted to attend. The camp
involved a week's participation in very vigorous and highly demanding
physical activities ranging from law enforcement, fire fighting, search
and rescue, and wilderness survival. At first, the camp staff was antsy
and apprehensive about the safety and competence of these blind kids,
and me. I had to keep them from putting all the blind kids in one cabin
so they could "keep an eye on them." After a couple days, though, all
had become impressed, inspired, and admiring with great exaggeration. I
failed to prevent the bestowal of lavish honors and plaudits upon the
blind students and myself to an extent beyond appropriate. Though this
may perhaps not have interfered with the physical functioning of the
blind students, it did impact the quality and naturalness of their
integration into the camp community. It also allowed a skewed
perspective on blind performance and integrity to be engendered in the
blind students, and it extended to the other students and the staff. The
blind students should have been able to fit in and perform as regular
kids - "just one of the guys" - without the extra baggage of erroneous
distinctions.

         5. At the same camp an associate aided one of the students
throughout most of each day and during most activities. This, too,
marked that student who was extremely capable, as one without his own
autonomy. It also interfered with natural social integration. As another
student, who went blind just recently, put it: "No one would come up and
talk to me. No one would say anything to me with my aide around. As soon
as I started walking by myself to class, it happened. People started
talking and saying `hi"' to me."  When free and natural community
integration is impeded or modified, autonomy is often sacrificed.

         6. At another camp of sighted and blind kids, some of the blind
kids had difficulty managing basic skills like packing their belongings,
rolling up a sleeping bag, keeping track of their clothes and
toiletries, and serving their own food. They'd obviously rarely been
called upon to do these things for themselves. This left them in a
somewhat awkward circumstance in the face of so many around them who
were more experienced and capable. The camp staff dealt with the matter
by insisting that "the sighted kids help out the blind kids" -
admonishing them to "take some responsibility for those who need your
help." Responsibility and helping others is not such a bad lesson in
itself, but we all, including the blind, must learn to take
responsibility for ourselves. When we don't, we end-up restricting
ourselves by decreasing our own capacity.

         7. During a presentation on facilitating movement in blind
preschoolers, an esteemed professional gave an example of rolling a ball
to a student. "But be careful to roll it to them," she cautioned. "If
you roll it out of their reach, the game's over." Why condition a child
to depend on the sensitivity and clemency of the sighted for enjoyment,
when an audible ball could be used independently instead? This would
enable the child to interact comparably with the sighted, without need
for the sighted person to hand them anything.

IX. COMMON MYTHS ABOUT BLINDNESS

     A. "Blind people have more acute senses."

         1. Blind people don't "have" anything. What they get, they
usually earn through practice, experience, and deliberate development.
It doesn't happen by magic.

         2. The sense organs of the blind are exactly the same as those
of the sighted. The brain and mind simply adapt themselves to maximize
and optimize the use of the input from those sense organs.

     B. "Blind people are child-like - physically weaker and more
fragile, and less emotionally and intellectually mature than the
sighted. It is important that they be treated with special care. Their
feelings may be easily hurt. They should be approached with special care
and sensitivity, and not be expected to perform strenuous physical
tasks."

         1. I take exception to these guides we see now and then about
"What to do if you meet a blind person." They generally started out with
admonitions about being yourself and treating the blind person like
anyone else, but then go into a list of helpful hints to ease
interaction. How can one have easy and comfortable interaction if you
have to follow protocol? They often have to do with how to guide
properly, how to explain things so the blind person understands, and how
to describe what's on a blind person's plate in terms of a clock face.
One even advised that the blind person "may need help cutting meat." In
my humble view, these "helpful guides" only serve to further the gap of
comfortable interaction. It is up to each individual blind person to
monitor and affect how interaction takes place, not for some third party
to advise how this should be done. If someone needs help cutting their
meat or with descriptions about where their food is, it's up to them to
elicit that assistance. Awkward tensions rise when someone goes to offer
assistance that isn't required or desired. It is the responsibility of
the sighted person to take special considerations of the blind they may
happen to meet, but only to treat them with mutual respect and dignity.
That's all that's needed.

         2. On average, blind people do, indeed, demonstrate weaker
physiology, but this trend has little to do with blindness. It has to do
with lack of physical exercise. Blind kids are typically kept quiet and
still, shielded from participation in standard child activities that
build strong bodies and character. Any sighted person thus kept
sedentary would develop as poorly or oddly. Blind children encouraged to
participate in normal activities generally develop normally. Those who
are restricted do not.

         3. To the best of brain science, we believe that the emotions
are centered in the limbic system and cognition is controlled by the
cerebral cortex. The eyes are connected to the visual cortex. When
something goes wrong with the eyes, the visual cortex may be affected,
but the rest of the brain is left unharmed. When my eyes were removed
from my head, the doctor's didn't run their scalpel all the way through
my brain.

            a. I have often been patted on the back and called "partner"
and "buddy," mostly by construction workers whom I meet on the street.
By women, I am often called "honey" and "sweetie."  Phrases and tones of
voice are often used with me that are typically reserved for children.

            b. While helping a friend diagnose and fix a problem with
his Dad's stereo, I found the problem, and my friend went to get the
tools from his garage. When I told his father that "we found what was
wrong," my friend's Dad remarked that his son was very good at that sort
of thing. Later, when I sat with that friend and another talking about
the political landscape of World War II, my friend's Dad remarked while
walking through the room "Dan, you must be bored stiff with all this
intellectual talk about politics." My examples could be attributed to
over sensitivity on my part, but they are two of hundred's, and they
attest importantly to the subtle ways in which we can slight our blind
kids.

         4. Just because the eyes are affected doesn't mean that any of
the rest of the body is affected. The rest of the body should work just
fine; there's nothing magical about the eyes that somehow makes the rest
of the body work.

            a. I have had little elderly women jump ahead of me saying,
"Oh here. Let me get that door; it's awfully heavy."

            b. Note how impressed everyone gets with the blind guy who
tandem bikes cross country, or who runs the marathon with a sighted
guide. The sighted guy had to do just as much work. Where's his
applause? Maybe sighted people don't need as much applause, 'cause they
got their eyes.

     C. "Blind kids take longer to learn to read, because Braille is
hard to learn. The tactile system just doesn't process information as
efficiently as the visual system."

         1. Braille is actually little more complicated than print.
Standard Braille only contains 63 symbols; there are more than that in
printed English. The iconic languages such as the Oriental languages may
contain hundreds or thousands of symbols, yet they're learned by many on
a regular basis.

         2. The difficulty in learning to read nonvisually or with
reduced vision is not necessarily a matter of the supremacy of the
visual system. I suspect it has more to do with the fact that written
language is readily available to the sighted but hardly available to the
blind. Again, it comes back to experience. Lavishing Braille or large
print on visually impaired kids even before they learn to read will
facilitate the development of a level of reading performance comparable
to the sighted.

     D. "Blind people should stay away from sharp implements such as
knives and scissors, and they should definitely stay away from power
tools."

         1. How early these myths become implanted. I remember a
struggle that I had with a 6-year-old over a knife, because he somehow
picked up the idea that a blind man would hurt himself with a blade.

         2. One time, I and some blind friends were using a chain saw to
cut up a large tree that had fallen across the trail. Forestry did not
appear to be taking responsibility for it, so I took it upon myself to
get it done. A forestry official came and stopped us. I could see the
wheels turning in the man's head as he tried to figure out how to handle
this. He said that we were not qualified, but he wouldn't give specifics
about what would qualify a person. I gave him the benefit of the doubt
that he hadn't stopped us because we were blind. I've since discovered
that there is, indeed, special schooling and certification for operating
a chain saw, which seems sensible. Later, a mutual friend of mine and
the forestry official told me that the man was truly shocked at seeing
me standing there with a chain saw.

         3. The ounce of truth that may exist here comes from the fact
that the blind may have their hands and fingers on or near the blades
for obvious reasons. This may result in more frequent cuts or scrapes,
usually minor, but not as a result of diminished capacity.

     E. "Blind people should move slowly, and never run. They should
always use the railings when traversing stairs and should avoid uneven
terrain lest they fall and hurt themselves. They should not travel alone
in unfamiliar areas. They should be familiarized to new areas by a
sighted person before attempting to travel them."

         1. This myth is held to some degree even by Orientation and
Mobility Specialists of the modern age.

         2. Slow movement tends to give rise to anomalous gait patterns
such as out- and in-toed walking, foot shuffling, stiff gait, and
rocking gait. A quicker pace with longer stride reduces anomalous gait
patterns, improves balance, and improves both body alignment and
alignment to the environment. It also allows a person to get to
destinations more quickly and efficiently.

            a. I had a totally blind student with a prosthetic leg from
the knee down who walked faster than I do.

            b. Alignment:  Alignment is particularly important to the
blind. The sighted have easy access to enough information to guide their
path of travel. The blind sometimes just have to sense their path of
travel. A sense of alignment is thus important, and this is increased
with greater walking speeds.

            c. Balance:  If you've ever tried walking on a boat, train,
or bus, you know that increased speed also increases balance. The same
is true with skating; we can't pull stunts as easily in slow motion.

         3. Familiarity with an area certainly does facilitate comfort
and efficiency in traveling. However, the blind can learn to travel
effectively in unfamiliar areas with the application of acute
perceptions, experience, and strategic problem solving skills.

     F. "Vision is the most important sense for learning." It is true,
vision is great for accessing lots of information very quickly.
Psychologists estimate that approximately 75 to 90% of communication
occurs visually. Educators suggest that about 90% of learning occurs
through the visual channel.

         1. If this is true, then deaf people should "have it made"
compared to blind people. Yet, the unemployment rate among the deaf is
nearly that of the blind. How much would you all have gotten out of this
meeting by lip reading if I hadn't provided you with a written outline?
How much would you get out of the outline if it were provided in
Braille?

         2. Much is available through nonvisual channels if we choose to
make it so. Body language and facial expression have analogous
components through the voice.

     G. "Blind people shouldn't cook because they might burn themselves,
make a big mess, or catch something on fire. If they do cook, they
should definitely avoid open flame."
     H. "The blind learn best through formal training by specialized
professionals, and they need lots of adaptations and modifications to
function."

         1. Though I did receive some specialized training in select
areas, I never went through special programs to learn what I know. I
received relatively little mobility training, no occupational or
physical therapy, and very little in the way of special classes or
programs of daily living skills. Further, aside from a wealth of
adaptive computer equipment, my living quarters is largely unmodified
for use by the blind. I have not a single raised symbol on any of my
kitchen appliances.

         2. I think this myth arose from parents who were too afraid of
doing something wrong and professionals who have gotten too caught up in
"the proper way to do things." The important thing is simply that the
blind just do it. The blind learn by doing; there needn't be a perfect
or special way. The logistics iron themselves out with the process of
doing.

         3. I remember once a couple of students I had on an outing
refused to do the dishes. I, consequently, refused to make them
breakfast. One of them simply whined and moaned and would have starved
(and I'd have let him). The other, also disgruntled, rummaged through
the cupboards and found some pop-tarts. Drawing on a little past
experience, he put them into the toaster oven, guessed when they might
be done, and deftly removed them with some make-shift implements - all
with no help from me. There's the difference - one took control, the
other remained controlled.

     I. "It is the responsibility of the sighted to care for the blind."

         1. Society carries the responsibility to support each of its
members in facilitating their ability to care for themselves and fulfill
their potential. This means making basic resources and opportunities
equally available to all including the blind. The blind are not special
here, they're just part of the whole. I'm not talking about special
rights or privileges, just the same ones. The blind are perfectly
capable of caring for themselves the same as the sighted, as long as the
same rights and privileges to society's resources are available to them.

         2. I once held a door for a gentleman. He said, "Wow!  I never
expected you'd be holding the door for me. I guess maybe you guys can
work as hard as the rest of us."  I once held a gate for another
gentleman who flatly refused to go through it while I was holding it and
insisted that I go through while he held it.

         3. On my way to my job interview at the Blind Children's
Learning Center, I walked into an establishment near an unfamiliar bus
stop looking for a Bank of America and something to eat. To my dismay
everyone in the place spoke an Oriental tongue and none of them with
very good English. Gathering that I would get little help here, I was on
my way out when someone approached me speaking slightly better English
than the rest. He asked me what I was looking for. He indicated that the
nearest B of A was several blocks down. I shook my head with the
realization that I would not make it before my next bus. When I thanked
him and turned to walk away, he said that this was on his way to school,
and that he would like to take me. Upon starting out he said, "We are
responsible to feed and take care of disabled people." I responded
immediately, "We are responsible for ensuring that disabled people can
feed and take care of themselves." He told me sadly about his blind room
mate, and how, "all he can do now is feel bumps with his fingers." I
informed him about Braille and about what I do for a pretty healthy and
comfortable living. Needless to say, he had not the foggiest notion of
such possibilities.

         4. At a 2-day camp where blind and sighted kids were mixed, it
became clear that many of the blind kids had been pampered. They
struggled with things like rolling up a sleeping bag, packing and
unpacking, keeping track of their stuff, and generally taking care of
themselves. The counselors kept encouraging the sighted kids to "help
'em out" saying things like, "you know what this is about," and
"remember, consideration for others." Of course it's nice to have
consideration for others, but we go wrong when we imply that one
individual or group must fall under the responsibility of another by
virtue of a perceived incapacity. Evidently, many of these blind kids
had been treated in just this way most of their lives, and they became
helpless when the time came to show their medal.

     J. "The blind are defenseless in situations of combat and are
especially vulnerable to assault and robbery as in the expression
'robbed blind'."

         1. Like the sighted, some are, some aren't.

         2. The statistics are mixed on this point. L.A. Times released
an article which stated that 75% of the blind population in L.A. had
been assaulted. I was assured in New York, however, by members of one of
the blindness organizations that the statistics there indicate that no
more blind people suffer assault than the sighted.

         3. When I was a kid, I was the school menace. I used to go
around protecting other kids who couldn't or wouldn't defend themselves.
I rarely lost a fight. My strategy consisted of immobilizing opponents
before they could hit me too often. One of my former totally blind
students joined high school wrestling two months late. He participated
on equal terms against sighted kids at the Junior Varsity level, and
took second place in the league. The match he lost occurred when he was
ill, and he later defeated that opponent. The next year, he took first
place in C.I.F. He says, "sighted kids are wimps." He even took on kids
well outside his weight class with encouraging results.

         4. I know of one recently blinded man whom someone tried to rob
in L.A. They tried to sneak his wallet from his pocket. This ploy is
less likely to work with a blind person than a sighted, because the
blind are likely to be more attuned to their tactile sense; he felt
someone try to lift his wallet. He grabbed the wrist of the thief in an
arm-lock and quickly got the better of him.

     K. "The blind cannot appreciate the world's beauty."

         1. Who says that any great part of the world's beauty is only
available to the eye?

         2. To a blind person deeply attuned to their senses, every
ocean wave, every bird and insect, every gust of wind, every rain drop
and thunder clap, every tree and hill, every vehicle and airplane, every
human voice, every cave and tunnel, every bell and whistle, every foot-
fall, and every major man-made or natural phenomena casts its own
acoustic personality. It is rare that any two things sound alike.
Further, the body can thrill at every breeze or ray of sun, endless and
countless textures, aromas, tastes, and thrills of motion. Like the
sighted, the blind can perceive a world full of dimension. I am not
locked in a prison of constricted sensation.

     L. "The blind need the sighted to lead them and tell them what to
do."

         1. Let us consider for a moment the household expression "the
blind leading the blind."  Is this a positive, pro-functional reflection
on blindness?

         2. Of all of the mobility "skills" taught to the blind,
probably the most proliferated is "sighted guide."

            a. This is a strategic way for a sighted and blind person to
work as a team when traveling together. While there is a time and place
for this technique, and while this technique does have utility for some
people under some circumstances, I believe that it was developed more
for the peace of mind of the sighted than as a tool toward blind
autonomy. It keeps the blind within the sighted sphere of influence. It
arose from an outmoded belief that a blind person's navigation is
enhanced by the use of someone else's eyes. While eyes work very well
for sighted people, please understand that the eyes of a sighted person
have very limited use for the blind.

            b. I was so functionally oriented when I was a kid that I
thought the term "sighted guide" was really "sided guide."  I'd never
seen it spelled out on paper. I just thought it referred to two people
walking together "side by side."  I didn't even think of it as referring
to the use of a sighted person as a guide.

            c. Sighted guide is the black hole of mobility. Every step
taken under guidance may be an opportunity lost for learning. Who learns
more about driving, the one who's driven all their lives, or the one who
remained a passenger? Isn't it more difficult to remember the way
somewhere when you've been a passenger?

            d. I think I would rather we required our blind kids to cue
off of an auditory stimulus such as car keys, bells, footsteps, or
voice. Don't our sighted kids cue off what they see rather than needing
always to hold on? Why can't our blind kids learn to cue off of what
they hear in the same way? Learning to walk with a companion based on
hearing is a skill that will be more useful to them later than just
holding on to someone. Auditory skills are key to many activities such
as crossing the street. I once heard a mobility instructor, in the same
conversation, praise a kid for his high level of functioning, and
condemn the parents for making him walk unguided on a trip to Disney
Land. I asked her why she thought his skills were so good. They weren't
an accident; they were developed through natural experiences an growth
opportunities orchestrated by his parents.

         3. Some of the crustier blind people have a saying, "Sighted
people know what's best for the blind."  This expression is usually
accompanied by a most poignantly sarcastic sneer.

         4. How many commands do we give our blind students? .. "Go to
your right."  "Bend down."  "Go forward."  "No, stop."  "Turn around." 
"Wait here."  "Step up."  "Step down."  And, how often do we physically
grab, push, pull, and otherwise man-handle our students? How many
sighted people would care to have a perfect stranger come up to them off
the street and start grabbing and yanking?

         5. I was walking to campus from my apartment, when I found
myself showered with commands from a troop of guys sitting on a balcony
.. "Right. Left. Lookout for the tree. Now, go right."  I have ways of
handling such situations, but I find them intensely unpleasant. I've
become less polite.

         6. Our blind kids are human beings; they are not automatons to
be remote controlled. Think of it this way. Most sighted people drive.
How many sighted people like to be told what to do while they're behind
the wheel. The term "back seat driver," is a pejorative term, because no
one likes it. Who are the sighted to think that "back seat driving" the
blind is any more acceptable?

         7. Sighted society tends to consider itself greater and more
powerful than the blind. The blind are thus conditioned by an
overwhelming majority of thought to believe themselves to be lesser than
others. Those who believe themselves greater have always felt the right
to tell those perceived as lesser what to do.

         8. I have found that asking strategic questions that help blind
kids to process their environment for themselves is more constructive in
the long term than spoon-feeding them information or pulling their
strings as though they were puppets. This takes quite a knack, but it's
worth developing if we really value the independent functioning of our
kids. They won't have a sighted person hover over their shoulder for the
rest of their lives to make sure they do it right.

     M. "Those few blind people who really succeed in life are special.
We really shouldn't expect that of everyone."

         1. A term commonly applied to the blind who perform
successfully is "super blind."  Let's think about this. What is it that
a blind person would have to be able to do to earn this title? Why might
a blind person find this term offensive?

         2. Everything that I and other blind individuals can do that
would be considered functionally successful is not the result of prodigy
or chance, but of good, solid development, and hard work. Certain
talents always help, but where does talent get you without hard work and
constructive direction?

     N. "Blind people are courageous."

         1. A man once followed me for quite some while as I walked from
a student's apartment. We walked over broken sidewalk and crossed some
streets. When it came time for our paths to part, he said, "Sir, I just
have to say that I marvel at your courage." I was feeling a bit feisty
at the moment, because my student hadn't been home for an appointment
which was going to mess up my transportation schedule. I responded, "It
is not courage, it is skill and need." He responded in turn, "No, I
think it must be courage." I shook my head and turned to go on my way
wondering why this man was arguing with me about my awareness of what it
takes for me to do what I do. He imposed his assumptions upon me and
would not let them be challenged. For him, perhaps it would be courage,
but for me, it's need and skill.

         2. A similar comment was made by a woman whom I'd caught up to
as I hiked to my cabin one day, "It must take such courage to come out
here on your own like that." I replied politely that it wasn't courage,
but necessity that enabled me to do this.

         3. I think that courage may play a part in a blind person's
success, just as it plays a part for us all. But I think the larger
roles are played by knowledge, the use of knowledge, and the confidence
in one's knowledge and its use.

     O. "Blind people aren't good at math or science - especially
abstract math such as algebra and calculus, and spatial math such as
geometry and trigonometry."

         1. I once believed this myself. I remember saying to someone
that vision seemed conducive to grasping mathematical layouts and
concepts. When I said this, a blind friend was near by. He told me that
I was "full of it," and that when he learned his math, he learned it
very well from a blind teacher. I conceded the point.

         2. Some of the most thorough and comprehensive research in
blindness and intelligence indicate that people blind from very early in
life exhibit a higher aptitude for arithmetic than the general
population.

            a. I knew a man in college blind from birth who majored in
math. He aced all the advanced math courses. Now, he teaches math to
sighted elementary school children.

            b. In order to get around and function without vision,
people may develop more advanced problem solving abilities and perhaps,
other mental abilities. Certain mental processes may take over where
vision leaves off.

         3. It is true that blind people seem to exhibit difficulty
doing math. I firmly believe, however, that this has to do more with the
mechanisms and processes used to teach it.

            a. It can be difficult to perform mathematical functions
using a Perkins Braille writer - not necessarily because Braille is bad
for math, but because the Braille writer is a highly structured device
that makes it difficult to write complex mathematical formats. It's like
doing math on a typewriter. A sighted person would find that to be a
drag.

            b. I think that we need to evolve our teaching strategies
and processes to facilitate the learning and performance of math by the
blind.

     P. "All blind people cannot see. Low vision is no vision."

         1. Legal blindness is defined by a visual acuity of 20/200 or
less, or by a visual field of 20 degrees or less. This amounts to less
than 10% of normal vision.

            a. Visual acuity is a measure of how far a person has to be
away from something and still see it clearly. Most people can see
standard print at about 20 feet away. As the print gets larger, most
people can back away further and further, and still see the print.
People with normal vision can see some print over a thousand feet away.
Visually impaired people may have to be 20 feet away to read print that
a person with normal vision can read from 200, 400, 800, 1000, or even
2000 feet away. The first number in a visual acuity rating (usually 20)
represents how far away the person being tested was from the eye chart,
while the second number represents how far a person with normal vision
could be to read the same print.  Vision of 20/200 is roughly one tenth
of normal vision. An acuity of 20/10 indicates that the person tested
could see print from 20 feet away that a person with normal vision would
have to be 10 feet away to see.

            b. The visual field is how much a person can see from side
to side and up and down while looking straight ahead. A person with
normal vision can see 180 degrees - roughly from ear to ear and knees to
forehead - while looking straight ahead. A person with a 20 degree field
may not be able to see beyond the boundaries of their own smile while
looking straight ahead.

         2. How well a person performs does not necessarily depend on
how well they see, but how well they use what vision they have. Some
people with 20/1000 vision can out perform those with 20/200 because
they use their vision more strategically. As with totally blind kids,
the higher the expectation, the better the performance.

            a. People with about one tenth normal vision (20/200) can
often drive and read normal print with special training and equipment.

            b. One student with vision worse than 20/2000 could spot a
soccer ball near him on a field by paying attention to the difference
between the color of the ball and the color of the grass. This is called
contrast perception, and it can go a long way.
       
        3. Are you half as capable as a person with twice your vision
(20/10)? About the only thing that a person with twice normal vision can
do that others can't is pilot a fighter jet where (20/10)? is required.
       
        4. It's bad enough that we treat blind people the way we do. Why
treat someone who can see that way?
          
           a. One preschooler with 20/200 vision had everything done for
him by the preschool staff while the others were expected to do for
themselves. Yet, this boy could see well enough to perform all these
tasks visually as well as anyone else.
          
           b. One parent of a girl with 20/400 vision spoiled her to the
point where she wouldn't do anything she didn't want to at school.
   
    Q. "Blind people are best off with dog guides so that the dogs can
take care of them."
       
        1. In reality, only about 5% of blind people use dogs. Dog use
is a personal choice and a good one for many people. It does not improve
independence or safety for everyone and may even hinder these things for
people who's mobility is extremely good or extremely poor. Also, dogs
are a lot of work.
       
        2. While dogs may perform services for people, dogs don't take
care of people; people take care of dogs. Dogs have neither the
intelligence nor experience to take care of a person.

X. THE NORMALCY OF BLINDNESS.

     A. Blind people constitute only about 1% of the general population
and only about 10 to 25% of those are totally blind.

     B. In the minds of the sighted from the dawn of recorded history,
the blind have been held aloof as one of the most mysterious and
enigmatic segments of our population - sometimes revered, more often
condemned or shunned, but never embraced into the general fold.

         1. The Tibetan wheel of life, one of the most ancient spiritual
symbols depicts eight levels of spiritual development. The lowest
levels, the stage of complete ignorance, is represented by a blind man
feeling his way with a stick.

         2. More ancient than this is a Hindu legend which forms the
foundations of Hindu spirituality "The Mahabarata."  It tells of a war
between good and evil - between truth and deceit, between knowledge and
ignorance, between five brothers descended from the gods and a blind
king with his 100 sons. Guess who represents the less savory side of the
story, and guess who loses the war.

     C. Though I am blind, I am fully human, and as a human, I possess
the same basic psychological, social, and physical needs that all humans
possess - to be free from undue restriction, to be capable and
competent, to know a sense of belonging to and comradery with the world,
and to respect myself and hold the respect of others. I have the same
ambitions and dreams as others, and I am nourished by the same hope and
assurance that I will realize these things. Despite the colossal
historical precedent to segregate the blind from the rest; the fact that
I fully share these basic needs and qualities makes me quite a normal
human being. Examples of freedom -

         1. One of my former students wanted to play street soccer with
his friends. He didn't really want to play competitively; he just wanted
to kick a ball around with his friends. He had a brilliant idea of tying
the ball loosely into a plastic bag. The ball rustled and crackled
noisily everywhere it went, allowing him, indeed, to play quite
competitively with his sighted high school friends.

         2. Dr. Kent Colours, a blind, world renown physicist, tells a
story of when  he was 5-years-old. He was playing with his neighborhood
friends on the front lawn. When he came in at dark, he had not cleaned
up the lawn and brought in his toys. His mom made him go back out, alone
after dark, to pick up his toys and bring them in. Dr. Colours says that
it took him an hour, but it was an hour well spent in terms of its
impact on the rest of his life.

         3. When I visited New York with some classmates, there were
several occasions when I wanted to visit places in which no one else was
interested. I went alone. I was not stuck on someone's arm because of
fear or lack of ability, and I traveled with assurance that I would keep
myself safe, maintain reasonable grace and get back to the hotel on
time. Now, if I had chosen to go with someone with hand on arm, it would
have been my choice, not my need.

     D. The distinctions drawn against the blind are man-made, but does
life itself care who's blind and who's not? I don't think so, and here's
why.

         1. Ultimately, this world is comprised of a pool of things that
we all want. We may be willing to share, but we must also have and keep
for ourselves, too. In a world where we must all strive with competition
as well as cooperation for the same resources, those who perform less
well or strive less ardently or competently typically obtain and hold
fewer things. I assure you that life does not say "oh, you're blind, so
you get a bonus or break to help you out." NOT  AT  ALL. Life simply
requires the blind to perform at the same level as everyone else to earn
the same amount as everyone else with NO consideration given to
blindness AT ALL. Life doesn't give special favors no matter how much we
may wish that it did.

         2. For those who are religious and believe that the Powers That
Be show extra mercy to the blind and disabled, I say that, while mercy
may be shown us all according to our need or deserving, it is stated
clearly, at least in Judeo-Christian doctrine, that "God helps those who
help themselves." History shows that what the blind have, they've
achieved more by force of determination than by charity. The blind who
are conditioned by society not to help themselves simply reap less
reward. My own experience prompts me to infer that, while society may
assume and even encourage the helplessness of the blind, the Powers That
Be do not, and they judge the blind by the very same criteria applied to
all. Life has granted the blind few favors; it has yielded to hard work.

         3. A study was conducted on sighted and blind high schoolers
performing a variety of physical tasks. By measures of cardio-
respiratory functions, galvanic skin responses, etc., it was determined
that the blind students expended 25% more energy to accomplish the same
tasks.

         4. Is all this fair? Does that matter? Life doesn't make
allowances for what's fair or not; it merely requires us all to do what
we must to gain what we want and need for ourselves and others.

XI. SOME MORE BLINDNESS NORMALCIES

     A. Kids are kids first and blind second.

         1. There is an enormous emphasis on all the special services
and adaptations that blind kids are perceived to need. Perhaps the
emphasis should focus on the things that benefit normal kids and finding
adaptive ways to provide those same things to blind kids. Is it that
blind kids need special things or just that they need to access the same
things in special ways?

         2. Everything we do with our students and children must come
from knowing that they need to function similarly to all other kids.
That does not necessarily mean doing every single thing that everyone
else does or even wanting to. It means being able to live life as fully
and richly as everyone else. It means being able to participate
enjoyably and fruitfully with others. If they're not, it may not be due
to the blindness; there may be something else. Either there are other
issues or involvements with the kids, or there's something we're not
doing that we should, or are doing that we shouldn't.

         3. Though there are a few special needs, these needs ensure
normalcy, not detract from it. In truth, there's much more normal about
these kids than not. It is primarily society's warped and eccentric
approach to blindness that can ruin their normalcy. If we took any
sighted child and raised them the way we raise blind kids - restricting
movement, babying and coddling, expecting low achievement, protecting
and sheltering, etc., - they'd come out pretty screwed up too.

     B. Blind kids must do what they cannot see. In order to be expected
to participate in the world along with the sighted, the blind need
access to the same information, experiences, and resources as the
sighted. This includes information by which we understand how the world
works - that objects always fall when thrown or dropped, that flames
rise and burn what they touch, that streets are laid out in patterns
that are fairly predictable, that traffic travels according to specific
rules, that sighted people look at what engages them, that every action
elicits a corresponding consequence. Blind kids need all the same input
that sighted kids get, because, just like sighted kids, that's how they
learn about the world. The only difference is in the medium of input.
Where sighted kids can learn enormous volumes of critical information
about the world just by looking around, blind kids CANNOT learn by
watching. They MUST learn by doing - by direct, physical interaction and
exposure.

         1. Blind kids can learn what they need to learn, but they have
to DO it. If we step in to help too quickly or too often, we interfere
with their capacity to learn just as if we were constantly to get in the
way of a sighted child's view. We do this because it pains us to see
poor little blind kids struggle with tasks that sighted kids seem to
pick up so easily. By doing it for them, we can put out of our minds the
difficulty that they have and in essence, pretend that there is no
difficulty. But, for the blind, struggling is the primary way to learn,
since they can't learn by watching. When a sighted child is first
exposed to a task, they can learn much about how to do it by watching it
performed. They can even do this without thinking about it by osmosis
such as passively observing someone change a light bulb or scramble an
egg a hundred times. When it comes to their turn to perform the task,
sighted kids may still have a lot to learn, but they may still be able
to perform the task tolerably well. Blind kids may do a really lame job
at first, because they may be attempting the task for the first time
with little previous exposure. The same is true for sighted kids asked
to perform tasks that they've never seen done. Instead of learning the
initial stages by watching, blind kids must figure it out by hands on
experience and trial and error. They may still learn it, but the
learning process may take the form of a struggle.

            a. I remember the first time I bowled. I had never bowled
before, but I'd heard bowling on "Bowling for Dollars." I guessed what
bowling was like based on what I'd heard on TV. I liked the sound of the
ball hitting the alley as it was thrown. Having received no instruction
or direct exposure, I lobbed the ball overhand, thinking that the
anticipated crash would match what I'd heard on TV. The instant the ball
struck the alley, I knew I'd done something wrong. We were all very
surprised.

            b. One of my former students loves to repair broken
equipment around his V.I. classroom - Braille Writers, computer
monitors, etc. He is very adept because of his practice; he's never
watched a soul or received any instruction, but at home, he's always the
first to figure out how the new answering machine, cordless phone, or
stereo works.

         2. Sight isn't magic; it's just one way of doing things. We
need to remember that sighted kids don't pick up instantly on everything
either. Few sighted kids ever caught or threw a ball very well the first
time. It takes many years of practice for most to get very good at it.
No one ever learned to handle a ball just by watching someone else do
it.

     C. Blind kids, like all kids, MUST experience freedom of movement.
Any kid, blind or sighted, whose movements are constricted will develop
strange physical and psychological characteristics. There is no reason
for blindness to limit movement substantially; society limits movement.
Why? We punish sighted kids by limiting movement: "you're grounded," "Go
to your room." So effective is limiting movement that kids modify their
behavior to prevent the experience. We also limit the movement of blind
kids: "Stay inside," "you shouldn't be doing that." But, they haven't
done anything wrong. Common results of restricting movement include -

         1. Impaired movement skills. Blind kids who have limited
experiences with the world in motion develop an impaired sense of space.
They lack understanding of how the world fits together and how they
relate to it. Such kids become easily lost, they move slowly and with
exaggerated caution, and they dislike or are fearful of self motivated
movement and new situations or stimuli.

         2. Low overall physical capacity (low muscle tone, physical
weakness, lack of aerobic stamina, poor coordination). It's lack of
practice and experience. We simply don't develop ourselves by remaining
idol. I know that none of these things need be associated with
blindness, because I know many blind individuals who suffered from none
of them as kids. I was actually one of the strongest and most
coordinated kids my age.

         3. Apathy and lack of ambition. When movement is restricted,
children fail to learn that they can act to obtain what they desire.
First goes the will to act, then, the desire to act. Kids become passive
and reactive, rather than active. They may wait or wine for things to
come to them or be done for them, rather than taking the initiative to
obtain what they want or need. They may also sit unproductively unless
someone is present to prompt and guide their behavior.

         4. Self-stimming (hand flapping, rocking, head banging, finger
flipping, eye poking, etc). So necessary is movement to physical
development that when it is restricted, the body seeks other avenues.
Self-stimming is reduced by freedom of movement. The body has neither
the time nor the inclination to self-stimm when it is productively
active.

         5. Inappropriately strong reactions to mild circumstances
(tantrums, loud voice, wild mood swings, etc). Much of children's play
teaches the appropriate channeling of emotions. For example, consider
what boys do to a ball - kicking, hitting, bouncing, catching, throwing,
striking, retrieving ... What could be more playfully aggressive, yet,
at the same time, perfectly safe and appropriate? Also, the nature of
many cooperative and competitive games forces the learning of patience,
forbearance, and other forms of self management. When children are
restricted from such avenues of self expansion, they develop expressive
patterns that are inappropriate.

         6. Hands that remain baby smooth. Though characteristics of
skin surface vary somewhat from person to person, baby smooth hands
indicate hands that haven't done much. When I find baby smooth hands in
children even as young as 8 or 9, let alone teenagers, I become very
aware and concerned about the nature and degree of this child's
activity.

     D. Blind kids, like sighted kids, need to grow up and at roughly
the same rate. I say roughly, because no two children develop the same,
and there are often circumstances connected with blindness that
legitimately slows development. Also, the fact that so many things are
presented visually in this world can slow the process of understanding
the world nonvisually. And, let's face it, vision does provide a very
quick and efficient way of gathering information that other senses are
hard pressed to match. Still, the kids have to grow up. We don't do any
favors by treating them as half their age.

     E. The phrase "I can't" eats success. We need to eliminate "can't"
from the blindness vocabulary, and make "I don't know" extremely
conditional. What we lack in eyesight, we need to make up for in the
mind and heart. If the blind kid "doesn't know" then he needs to figure
it out, because that's what life will be all about. The answers will NOT
be readily forth-coming. On the contrary, they will be withheld. A blind
individual does NOT have equal access to all the range of resources that
the sighted do. They must fight ruthlessly and exercise extreme
cleverness about obtaining what they need.

     F. Blind kids, like sighted kids, have difficulty interacting with
stimuli or targets that they cannot perceive. For example, a common
sport for the blind in adaptive P.E. is archery. The "adaptation"
usually involves having a sighted person aim the arrow, while the blind
kid lets it go. If it hits the target, the blind kid is applauded, but
whose skill sent the arrow to its target? The applause is hollow and
false. We don't force sighted kids to aim at targets or interact with
stimuli that they cannot see. Why do it to blind kids? How can this
activity be made more meaningful and functional for these kids?

     G. Blind kids benefit from good, conventional, parenting skills -
always do what we say we'll do, provide clear positive and negative
consequences to actions, and don't be manipulated.

     H. Blind people benefit more from doing for others than being done
to by others.

         1. I once encountered a woman on a train who was fearful about
reaching her destination. She believed that she was on the right train,
but she didn't know at which station to detrain or how to get to her
final destination from there. She had a bus schedule with her, but I
could see that it wasn't helping her. She wasn't sure how to read it,
and it didn't seem to cover all of her options. I used my cell phone to
call the transit authority where she needed to go and explored some
possibilities with the agent. After about 5 minutes, I determined a very
straightforward route for her to take. She was extremely relieved and
grateful.

         2. A blind mother was walking with her young children. They
were scampering along ahead of her as children often do. At a corner,
she heard an elderly man whisper into her daughter's ear: "you be sure
and take good care of your mother."  Since when were young children
supposed to "take care" of their adult parents?

         3. We have a tendency to cast the blind in the role of the
recipient rather than the provider of care. The blind, like the sighted,
are perfectly capable of providing care and service to others and, like
the sighted, need to do so to round out and fulfill their lives. All of
the wonderful programs and specialties available to "help" the blind are
nice, but the best way to help the blind is to encourage, motivate, and
allow them to help, not only themselves, but others as well.

         4. Too much of others' doing for one chips away from one's
capacity to do for oneself and diminishes one's sense of self worth. How
can one consider themselves a worthy contributor to one's surroundings
when one stands alone as the pitied recipient of others' contributions?
The way to one's own power is through one's own action.

         5. When I was in school, I participated in news paper drives,
selling raffle tickets, group leading, helping out and protecting the
new kids, tutoring, etc.

     I. Being responsible teaches responsibility.

         1. Holding blind kids responsible for their actions and for
pulling their own weight in a household teaches the basics for learning
to pull one's weight in society.

         2. It helps blind kids to get out of their own heads and become
more aware of the need to interact constructively and productively with
the world around them.

         3. It teaches them that they can make things happen for
themselves, and it teaches the value in helping to make things happen
for other people.

         4. What chores might a blind kid be assigned around the house
and yard?

XII. SIMPLE, KEY FACTORS THAT MAKE THE BLIND SUCCESSFUL

     A. No one important ever convinced them that they couldn't do any
given thing because they were blind. I went through the normal stages of
career interests when I was a boy - police man, fire man, pilot, doctor,
etc. These are healthy phases of interest, and they should not be
discouraged. There is no telling what life will bring. Due to modern
technology some legally blind people can drive, totally blind people can
read, and artificial vision is just around the corner.

     B. They were treated as normal kids. I was disciplined very
normally and encouraged and allowed to participate in all normal
activities of boyhood including bicycling, ball sports, climbing,
swimming, skating, roughhousing, traveling around the neighborhood and
city (when old enough) including walking or bicycling to and from
school, etc. I was fully integrated with all the normal kids in school
and the neighborhood. This helped me to understand that I was a normal
human being.

     C. They were allowed to test their own limits by trial and error
rather than face limits imposed by presumption. My parents and teachers
did not stifle me with assumptions and presumptions about what a blind
kid could and couldn't do. I was allowed and encouraged to find it all
out for myself by trial and error, by success and failure. How can one
learn about success if one is never allowed to orchestrate one's own
successes and failures?

XIII. COMING OFF IT, GETTING WITH IT, AND MOVING ON - We're all
creatures of habit, and we tend to remain comfortable doing what we've
been doing. We also resign ourselves easily to beliefs we've come to
hold. We need to examine those, decide what works and what doesn't, and
simply change what needs to be changed.  "If we do what we've always
done, we'll get what we've always gotten."

     A. Get rid of the guilt. None of us caused the blindness. If in
those rare occasions we did do something that might have contributed to
the blindness, too bad. It's done. Now, it's time to fix it, and we can
fix it by helping our children and students to gain power and mastery
over themselves. Can we do this by protecting them from every harm, and
doing everything for them? No. To do this is to drain them out of their
power.

     B. Keep our pride in perspective. We don't do our kids any favors
by being proud and fawning over simple accomplishments well beneath
their level of ability.

         1. While I was walking through the parking lot to get my mail,
a woman once came up to me and congratulated me on what a wonderful
thing it was that I could get my own mail.  "You should be proud of
yourself."  I told her that I should hope to be proud of much greater
accomplishments than being able to get my own mail.

         2. Once while talking to parents of a blind child, they
expressed great praise for their 7-year-old being able to find his way
around his own home - a home in which he'd been living for several
years.  "It's just amazing how well he finds were way around the house." 
In actuality, this boy demonstrated fairly severe mobility deficits and
emotional immaturity.

         3. Such minor feats seem artificially major to the sighted,
because the sighted need their vision to do them. Once you become blind,
vision is irrelevant. You simply do these things anyway, just without
the vision. By expressing such lavish praise of such minor feats, we
diminish the blind. When we hold such wondrous appreciation for the
simpler tasks, we fail to respect the blind for their wholeness, and we
fail to nurture the strengthening of greater abilities in the young.

     C. Close collaboration and mutual follow-through among all members
of the educational service team is crucial. How else can all members
remain informed about what each is doing and how each might act to
enhance what each is doing? How can parents facilitate the child's
reading, mobility, and recreational skills if they don't know what the
V.H. instructor, mobility instructor, recreational instructor, and other
specialists are doing? Further, how can the specialists enhance the
strengths and teach to the needs of the children if they don't know the
expectations and desires of parents? The family is the most critical
aspect of the team. If professionals have no contact with the family,
then everything they do is diminished.

         1. One set of parents expressed that they had no idea that
their 13 year old boy would ever be able to hold a career until he met
me.

         2. A fellow mobility specialist and a social worker visited a
young boy's family to achieve a better understanding of why this child
wouldn't move or participate in any functional activity at his
preschool. They found that the entire family, except the mother, did
everything for the child at all times. The mother found herself at odds
with the family in trying to motivate her son to do things for himself.
The visit helped the rest of the family understand and align
productively with her perspective. Also, during the visit, the child on
an occasion walked across the room to his father. Neither the mobility
specialist nor the social worker had ever seen him walk anywhere and
didn't know that he was currently able to do so.

     D. We need to seek and use the knowledge of others' experience -
other parents, professionals, and blind individuals. None of us knows it
all. I can say what I say pretty confidently. But, you have know idea
how often I consult with others to verify and expand upon what I think I
know. It is an integral part of my job.

         1. Remember, most parents and professionals are sighted and,
therefore, may hold limited understanding of visual impairment -
particularly low vision needs. Low vision needs may actually pose a
greater mystery than total blindness, because we can never know exactly
what the low vision child is and isn't seeing.

         2. Consulting with other parents is helpful, because other
parents have already dealt with a lot of stuff.

         3. Developing contacts with positive, pro-functional blind
individuals is real important when possible. It's easy for sighted kids
to find people to look up to, because the world is full of sighted
people worth looking up to. It's fine and necessary for blind kids to
have sighted role models, too; that's the world we live in. But,
remember that the world was ready made for sighted people, so sighted
people usually have it relatively easy. Everyone expects sighted people
to prosper. So, by-and-large, they do. There are no logistical questions
about how sighted people are going to manage to do things. There are
always logistical questions about how blind people will do everything
and the process of creative and ingenious thinking necessary to figure
it all out can best be fostered by someone who does it.

     E. Lift the limits and free the children: Although everyone faces
limits, limits should not be imposed or presumed upon anyone. Each of
us, blind or not, should have the freedom and strength of character to
seek and discover our own limits and strengths, not have them imposed on
us by others.

         1. Once when I was showing a video to some parents about what
blind people can do, the Mom said, in front of her son, "Oh!  My son
will never walk as fast as you."  I responded immediately, "He most
certainly will, unless there's something wrong with his legs."  In this
exchange, Mom blew it by slighting her son's potential. Now, how did I
blow it in my response?

            a. I've spoken of my student with a prosthetic leg who shows
no ambulatory deficiencies.

            b. I've also had students with orthopedic and/or
neurological impediments who do just fine and who have every chance to
further refine their abilities.

         2. Imposing limits is easy; it's just a matter of setting a
bond or boundary. Lifting limits is the hard part, because with freedom
comes responsibility and facing the unknown. When we confine our
children or students to a specific set of activities under specific
circumstances, we don't have to worry much about what might happen, and
it alleviates our responsibility to manage our children in the broader
and more unpredictable world. We needn't worry much about teaching our
children how to engage the world constructively if they're not engaging
the world. However, when the time comes for them to live their own
lives, we'll need to ask ourselves, "who's going to help them?" because
they won't be able to help themselves.

         3. If we want our children to enjoy the full range of riches
that this world has to offer, we can't say can't, and we should never
say never. These are the two most destructive concepts to any child,
especially one who is disabled. If we walk away from here with no other
awareness, I would bet my hearing that this understanding alone will see
a many-fold improvement in the quality of the future lives of our kids.

     F. Some of us may need to institute some changes in the way we
approach our students and children, but we're not sure how to do it. We
get into habits that are hard to break, and we come to accept
unacceptable or maladaptive behaviors out of custom. It may be hard to
see past these to a new and more productive way of doing things. Also,
our students and children may resist any change that seeks to foster
their growth. I had two students who would throw unholy fits whenever
they were asked to do anything that faced them with a challenge. Who
wouldn't want to be waited on hand and foot or have every distress
comforted with a gentle hug and kiss? But, who wants to live in
captivity? If we treat our students and children like sponge-mallows,
then life will treat them like sponge-shallows by ringing them out. I
remember how difficult it was to implement change when it came to my
dog. But, we have a really good opportunity right now. Sometimes, it's
easier to change if you get a fresh new start. Use an important
transition as a spring-board to change, such as the new school year, or
a birthday, or the New Year, or the new semester. We can warn our
students that when the next year or period begins, certain things will
change, because "big kids do, or don't do, (whatever)." It could be
anything and everything from keeping the room clean, to taking more
responsibility around the house, to doing the homework, to feeding
oneself, to standing on one's own two feet, to using the cane or other
aids, whatever. The remainder of the present time can be preparation,
but the beginning of the new year will see a new emergence of growth and
self-empowerment. What is more important than that?

     G. Responsibility and attention, not vision, are the keys to
competence. I've got totally blind students who are safer crossing
streets than the average sighted kid their age, because they are
responsible and attentive to what's going on around them. It is not the
amount of perception that is important, but how we use what we have.

     H. "Sticks and stones may break their bones, but names WILL REALLY
HURT THEM." Physical injury goes away quickly, but psychological injury
may never heal. Sticks and stones may damage, but words and ideas can
destroy. I was allowed to get hurt. I broke my first two teeth on a pole
at the age of six. I was allowed to crash, to smash, to fall, to get
bludgeoned by flying objects, to lose fights that I started, and to cry.
How much more typical could my childhood have been? How else can someone
learn to get up again and eventually to keep from falling, if they're
never allowed to fall? Running into a pole is a drag, but never being
allowed to run into a pole is a disaster.

     I. The earlier the easier, but it's never too late to start.

         1. I've known parents and professionals to put off emphasizing
critical skills and delay interacting with their young charges in fully
constructive ways. Why?

         2. A common misconception seems to be that these skills can
just be picked up later, as though there was some magic time during the
last few years of high school when everything would just come together.
When it doesn't, everyone's suddenly up-in-arms as to why.

         3. Sometimes it can "come together" in the end after a long
struggle, but the phenomenon of coming together generally happens after
a great deal of constructive experiences and input over the course of
many years - starting with early childhood. Things don't just magically
come together when we think they should; we have to make sure they come
together.

         4. More commonly, the development of active, productive,
functional abilities is gradual and exciting, just as with sighted kids
- IF the NECESSARY INPUT IS GIVEN. The time to start is NOW!
         5. If the child is older, is there hope? Always.

            a. "Where there's Life, there's Hope."
            b. "Where there's a Will, there's a Way."
            c. I am not being trite or flippant. I recently heard of a
deaf-blind, teen-aged girl from Mexico. She came to this country a
couple years ago with no schooling or formal training. She'd
participated in many of the major household chores, but her mobility was
strictly limited to the length of someone else's arm. After only a year
of mobility, she can run across a crowded high school quad without
mishap - a feat commonly considered impossible for a blind person, let
alone a deaf-blind person. It is never too late to start.

XIV. IMPORTANT FACTORS IN HELPING VISUALLY IMPAIRED CHILDREN GROW - Much
the Same as for Sighted Children.

     A. I don't intend for the following list of points to be
overwhelming or confusing. If you can just live by the following two
points, everything else will fall neatly into place.

         1. Kids are kids, blind or sighted; treat them the same. This
idea flies in the face of things you may have heard about differences
between blind and sighted kids - differences in development, the
achievement of developmental milestones, different learning modalities,
accommodation needs, and so on. Heck! Parents of blind kids are told all
the time "do this," "don't do that," ... There's even research to
support some of these ideas - some of it pretty good. You could even
construe this whole discussion as a list of do's and don'ts. But, all
that is, for all practical purposes, immaterial when we simply bare in
mind that people tend to rise to what is expected of them. If we think
of our blind students and children the same way as we think of sighted
kids, holding them to the same standards of performance and beholding
them with the same honor and respect, then blind kids will tend to
achieve as expected. Perhaps the biggest handicap of sight is that it
tends to cloud the mind on this issue - causing the perception of more
schisms and distinctions between the sighted and blind than there really
are.

         2. Remember that your child is every bit as important as any
other child. Her place in the world, his needs and aspirations, are
every bit as important as any other. His significance is in no way
diminished by his blindness. If you know this, your child will know it
also, and he or she will be the stronger for it.

     B. Parental Cause and Effect - action and reaction.

         1. What do you want your child to be when he/she grows up?

         2. What you do this minute will impact your child's course of
growth forever.

         3. Growth does not happen later, but now. What you do or fail
to do WILL affect long term development. "Life is not a rehearsal." It
does NOT all magically come together for children at 18, but very
gradually by each step we take or fail to take along the way. Often have
I seen parents and students come to this realization when the child hits
junior high or high school and can't read because school work was not
emphasized, or she can't leave the house on his own because of over
protection, or can't tie her shoes or organize her own backpack because
it was always done for her. The time to take care of these things is
now, not later. Later has a way of coming too late.

     C. Think Beyond Your Vision

         1. Vision is not our only sense.

         2. We as humans tend to believe that our way of doing things is
the best or only way. Consequently, sighted people think that using
sight is the only way to function most effectively. Since they use sight
for everything, they naturally can't imagine how anything could be done
without sight.

         3. Do not think of sight as the primary attribute that enables
a person to function? It is not.

         4. The primary attribute that enables functioning is not sight,
but responsibility. It is not how much we perceive, but how well we
utilize what we perceive.

     D. Unless there are additional impairments, a visually impaired
child is only that - visually impaired. The rest of the body works just
fine - hands, arms, legs, and especially the brain. The eyes constitute
only a very small portion of the body. Do not think that if a child is
blind or visually impaired, he can't perform other functions. All the
eyes do is see. They don't do anything magical to enable the rest of the
body to function.

     E. The Brain Must Have Practice To Compensate for Disability.

         1. The sense organs stay the same (ears, nose, skin), but the
brain modifies itself so that information that it receives from the
sense organs is processed more thoroughly ACCORDING TO NEED. This
process of brain development occurs through practice, NOT AUTOMATICALLY.

         2. Because vision is often the easiest way to gain the most
information, the brain optimizes its receptivity to visual input. In a
sense, neurologically, it comes to "prefer" visual input. That's why
everyone likes vision so much. But, when vision is reduced or absent,
the brain can be taught to reorganize itself to maximize its receptivity
to alternative sensory inputs.

         3. The process by which the brain can be taught to reorganize
itself to optimize its receptivity to sensory inputs other than vision
REQUIRES PRACTICE AND EXPERIENCE. The brain really wants to do it
because it craves input, but it MUST be shown how.

     F. Make the Environment Accessible - Modifications are sometimes
necessary so that blind children may know the same things about their
environment that sighted children know. Mostly, these involve putting
everything in Braille, which is what blind people read. Blind children
should also be exposed to pictures and illustrations through tactile
drawings.

     G. "Low vision" is not the same as "blindness" and should not be
thought of or treated as such.

         1. A child with low vision IS NOT BLIND.

         2. There is a huge difference between a blind child and one
with, for example, 20stbledjj vision.

     H. Facilitate Stimulation That Has Meaning - Young blind children
must touch what they hear, or if this is impossible, they must have it
explained. For example, show blind children how you cook dinner or make
repairs on the car or house by letting them touch the tools and
implements and examine what you are doing. Likewise, low vision kids
must be allowed and encouraged to see and otherwise experience their
environment. It may be critical for them to observe closely with good
lighting.

     I. Facilitate Intellectual Development, especially Language.

         1. The visually impaired can learn some things through words
(reading or listening) that most others may learn by visual observation.

         2. Research shows that, children who were read to when very
young perform better in school than children who were not. Thus, reading
to children will facilitate intellectual growth.

         3. Books in Braille are excellent for stimulating intellectual
growth.

         4. Low vision children may learn by visual observation, but
care must be taken that they get a good look.

         5. Brain power is an excellent and necessary adaptation for
vision loss.

         6. As important as language is, one should not use words to
replace actual experience. The blind child must interact very physically
with his environment. It is much better to climb a tree than to have it
explained through words.

         7. A visually impaired person must be really creative and
clever to figure out how to do things without vision in a sighted world.
Good problem solving ability can compensate for the lack of visual
information.

     J. Encourage and Facilitate Physical Exploration - Those who cannot
see how the world is structured MUST learn its structure by direct,
physical experience. This means a lot of exploration - far more than you
might expect or wish of a sighted child. This is absolutely vital. I was
once saddened and surprised to find, for example, that one of my
students did not know what a tree looked like. His only experience with
a tree was touching its trunk. He had never been encouraged to climb
one, so he had no idea what a tree was like beyond the 4 or 5 feet that
he could reach. (And yes, there is nothing about vision that magically
enables or disables a person from being able to climb a tree.) There is
no reason why this or any other blind child should be set further apart
from other children by lack of knowledge about the world. The primary
barrier, though, is not blindness, but lack of experience.

     K. We Must Not Punish Our Children for Being Visually Impaired.

         1. When we punish normal children, we often do it by the
restriction of movement - "go to your room," or "go sit in the corner,"
or "you're grounded."

         2. We often limit the movements and freedoms of visually
impaired kids in the same ways often used to punish sighted kids, but we
call it "protection" instead - "you can't go outside now; there's no one
to watch you," or "you can't play with the other kids; you might get
hurt." We say they can't climb, run, play ball, roughhouse, or whatever
out of a feeling that we are "protecting" them. What are we protecting
them from? Really, we're just protecting ourselves from our own
inability to cope. Keep in mind that what we call "protection" may
really be punishment for a wrong never committed. It is a punishment in
that it denies, without good reason, freedoms of movement that "all the
other kids" are allowed to have.

     L. Allow your children the freedom to get hurt.

         1. Getting hurt is simply a critical part of growing up for any
child. It is even more so for visually impaired kids, because they tend
to learn best from direct experience.

         2. When the flesh is not strengthened by trial and experience,
the spirit weakens. Wounds of the flesh heal more easily and completely
than ailments of the spirit.

     M. Encourage lots of activities with the hands such as puzzles,
hand toys or games, or other activities that require fine hand
movements.

         1. Remember, blind children do not usually draw, print, or
color. Much dexterity is developed through these activities, so they
should be replaced. If you don't believe me, then just wait until your
blind child tries to learn to tie his shoes, and you'll wish he had more
dexterity. He'll have difficulty, not because he's blind, but because he
did not have a lot of the same experiences using his hands as most other
children.

         2. There's no need to clutter the environment with toys that
make noise. Toys that make use of the mind and body are best.

     N. Facilitate Organizational Skills.

         1. The visually impaired do not know where things are by
looking, but by systematic strategies of exploration and by mental
recall. How often do you misplace your car keys and spend 5 or 10
minutes looking around for them? A visually impaired person might spend
hours looking for a misplaced item if it isn't where they usually put
it. I once misplaced a stapler and was never able to find it. It was
sitting in plain view, but I'd forgotten where I'd put it. It took a
sighted friend 2 minutes to locate. (Incidentally, over the course of
our friendship, I've located dozens of lost items for him that he could
not find, simply by knowing how and where to search most effectively.)
It is very rare that I need someone else to search for my lost items.

         2. Make the child keep his or her own room clean and organized.
Don't do it for them; you'll be doing them no favors. Also, if they want
a toy, don't pander to their every need, but make them go get it. They
must learn to put things where they belong and to remember where that
is. Learning this will make life so much easier for them. It'll make
life easier for you, too, because your kids will learn to put things
away. Wouldn't that be nice?

     O. Discipline should be rendered no differently to a blind child
than to a sighted child. If "sparing the rod" spoils a sighted child, it
will spoil a blind child just as quickly, but with even worse
repercussions.

     P. Encourage the Child to Grow-up.

         1. A child who is babied into adulthood learns to be a very
large baby.

         2. Allowing your child to walk unassisted is an important part
of this process. It teaches them to take responsibility for their own
functioning, rather than trying to delegate that responsibility to
others. Life will ultimately hold your child and only your child
responsible for his or her functioning.

         3. Pity is a visually impaired child's worst enemy. It will
only hamper and can never facilitate growth.

         4. Developmental considerations.

            a. Tips for feeding:

              (1) It should not be necessary to feed your child past the
age of 3 or 4. Even if he makes a dreadful mess, this is normal and
should be expected. Initially, this should be tolerated, but in time,
should not be allowed.

              (2) When using silverware, a blind child may use the shape
of the handle primarily to know which way the bowl of the spoon, the
tines of a fork, and the sharp edge of a knife are facing. If the handle
is round or beveled in such a way that any way the silverware is held
seems to be the same, it may be difficult for a young blind child to
learn to use them. You can't pick-up a spoonful of food if the bowl of
the spoon is up-side-down. Similarly, you can't cut with the dull edge
of a knife, and food will keep sliding off the fork if the tines are
pointing down instead of up. When teaching a blind child to feed
herself, use silverware with handles that make clear how the silverware
is oriented. If you can close your eyes and use the silverware to pick
up food, then that silverware is probably okay for the child.

            b. Tips for dressing:

              (1) A child should be dressing himself by the age of 6 or
7, though shoe tying may take a few years longer.

              (2) There is absolutely nothing to prevent a blind child
from being able to put on his or her own clothes. Practice is the key
here, and that can't happen if it's done for them all the time.

              (3) Clothes should either be neutral colors, should be
prematched on hangers, or should be coded with tags or buttons that can
be matched by touch for colors. This enables the blind child to dress
independently, as she will have to when she grows up.

              (4) Forcing the child to keep the closet organized will
facilitate a child's ability to learn to manage his/her own clothes.

     Q. Do not think of your child only as someone needing help from
others. Think of him or her as one who can and should give help - one
who is empowered with a wealth of abilities and gifts that are worth
sharing. It's easy to get caught in the trap thinking of all ways our
child may need the help of others. Again, it is not a matter of what
people have, but how they use what they have. One of the most common
traps involves the recruitment of sighted siblings (younger or older) as
caretakers. We sometimes expect that the sibling should somehow be
responsible for their blind sibling to drive, to read, to look after.
This trap neatly kills two birds with one stone. Not only does it
generally cause animosity among the siblings, but it is a great way to
make the blind sibling become less capable than others.

     R. Ensure Normal Social Development - From the beginning, blind
children must learn to function in a world of the sighted. They should
have sighted friends and participate broadly in sighted activities. If
you fear that this will not be "fair" to your child, you may be right at
times, but dwelling on this introduces negativity into your child's
growth. Work it out; get rid of it. Your child must learn how to
function in a world that often isn't fair to them or to any of us. It is
unfair to me that all of my classmates can drive around, and read, and
do all that stuff. But, it isn't fair to them that my intelligence
enables me to grasp concepts much faster and remember material much
easier and longer than they often can, or that I can get most of my
paperwork done while traveling to and from work. Who is really at a
disadvantage?

     S. Honor the Child's Current Abilities While Holding the Highest
Expectations for Achievement - It is not enough to love what our
children are; we must also love and promote what they can become. This
is for their sake.

     T. Do Not Relinquish Your Child's Development to Professionals -
Children benefit when parents and professionals work closely together,
not separately.

         1. Professionals usually have good intentions, but their
efforts will be intensified with your active interest and involvement.

         2. School districts and other public agencies often prioritize
fiscal management (money) over human growth.

XV. RESPONSIBILITY OF THE SCHOOL DISTRICT - The law says rather
explicitly that your child has a right to fully access all areas of the
school curriculum without restriction. This is called Free and
Appropriate Education (FAPE), and officials will often call it "an offer
of FAPE". Support specialists must be in place to ensure that this
happens. However, this doesn't usually happen automatically. It takes
knowledgeable advocates for the child to ensure that this happens. This
is a quick guide to help you design an effective school program to give
the best to your child, upholding his right to become everything he can,
and fully promoting his development. It will also help you to determine
any short-comings that might exist in the program. Don't just assume
this is happening. District officials often have good intentions, but
often have their hands full with money management issues, and issues
concerning normal education. They are not necessarily experts in human
growth or blindness. Please, consider the following guide to be general.
Exceptions are always made for every case, but be sure you understand
the exceptions being made in your child's case. Have these stated to you
very up-front. These points generally assume that there are no
additional involvements other than blindness. Additional involvements
are covered in C and E of this section.

     A. Support and specialized personnel: The following are support
specialists, instructors, and aides, and services, that your child
should have access to. I would normally put this section last, but I
will make mention of some of these personnel throughout remaining
discussion.

         1. Classroom teacher: Amusingly and tragically, this is the
most important professional in your child's schooling and the one most
often overlooked. Your blind child should have full access to a regular
education classroom teacher just like everyone else. He should spend the
majority of his time there. Your child is a child first who needs to
learn like everyone else, and classroom teachers are trained to teach.
They do not need a Special Ed background to teach a blind kid. They just
need a little common sense and some support to make sure that all
materials are available to the blind kid in Braille or large print. If
the materials are available, then more than half the battle is won.

         2. Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI): The TVI is
responsible for ensuring that the blind child can participate fully in
all areas of the regular curriculum. This means ensure a complete
program of Braille instruction which can't be done properly in less than
one hour per day of direct service, 3 per week for low vision kids
depending on severity. This also means seeing that materials are
transcribed into Braille, enlarged, or otherwise appropriately adapted.
The TVI should also provide and/or supervise specialized instruction in
Braille or magnified print. Though the regular ed teacher is still
responsible for teaching the child how to read and write, the TVI
ensures that the child knows the Braille code and Braille formatting so
that instruction from the regular ed teacher makes sense. The TVI also
addresses any instruction needed to help low vision kids read and write
using magnified print. This usually requires some extra instruction.

         3. Orientation and Mobility (O&M) Specialist: Orientation and
Mobility is that profession intended to help blind people get around
safely and competently without reliance on others. The O&M Specialist is
an instructor responsible for ensuring that the blind child can access
all aspects of school functioning that are movement related or related
to spatial concepts. They are traditionally known for teaching cane
travel, but their responsibilities range far beyond this. These include
being able to get to and from school, being able to get around the
school, participating productively in play activities including recess
and extracurricular, helping the child to manage school related skills
of daily living such as acquiring and dealing with lunch, and ensuring
that the child can travel competently in all school related community
activities including field trips and other community outings. Amount of
time can vary widely among students. O&M Specialists might also address
activities of daily living such as keeping track of things, shoe tying,
and dressing. In general, no less than 1.5 hours of direct service would
be suitable for totally blind kids through elementary school, no less
than 2 per week for older kids doing community travel.

         4. The Braille Transcriber: This professional is essential to a
sound V.I. program, but is too often overlooked. This is the person who
transcribes materials into Braille or large print. She will do graphs,
math and science, or whatever is needed. This should not fall to any
other person, as Braille transcription is a specialty unto itself. It
should not be presumed that "just anyone who knows Braille can do it."
It takes specialized skill and training to render materials effectively
for use by the blind. There are many issues related to Braille
formatting, tactile graphics, and print enlargement that even TVI'S
don't know.

         5. The Adaptive P.E. teacher (APE): APE is a P.E. program
tailored to address specific needs of disabled kids who either can't
participate in a regular P.E. program or who need some form of
adaptation or modification to do so. Usually these activities are geared
for orthopedic, health, or cognitive impairments. Since blindness falls
these categories, APE teachers often have not received training in
activities "suitable" for the blind. Consequently, in my experience as
both blind child and educator, they have little more idea how to include
a blind child than anyone else. Nonetheless, blind kids are often
erroneously placed in APE classes, because they are "safe" and "more
appropriate." An astute educational programmer will at least consider a
regular ed placement for P.E. with consultation and support as needed
from the O&M and APE specialists.

         6. Full Inclusion Facilitator: The inclusion facilitator helps
to identify and address gaps in the educational program. He will assist
in advising or supervising adaptations or modifications to help the
child participate. Usually, their training focuses on severely or
multiply involved kids but can be useful in blindness programming. For
example, the inclusion facilitator may help to in-service staff or
prepare kids for a blind kid coming into a class or school. This
facilitator might also help to address issues such as making friends on
the playground, participation in group activities, and such.

         7. Resource Specialist (RSP): This teacher provides a little
extra help to kids who need a more focused setting, or one on one
instruction. Again, they often work with more severely involved kids,
but a blind child may need a little extra help in specific areas such as
math or science. A low vision student may need some extra attention with
reading or writing tasks.

         8. Assistive Technology (AT) Specialist: This is a person who
addresses whether technology is necessary to help the child access the
curriculum. Once again, their training does not usually emphasize
blindness, but AT needs are usually present for the blind. Beeping balls
and targets may be needed for P.E., refreshable Braille note takers may
be necessary for class participation, screen access software will be
necessary for any computer access, CCTV'S are often needed by low vision
kids at home and school, and so forth. An AT evaluation must be a part
of every triennial I.E.P.

         9. Temporary Support Assistant (TSA) sometimes erroneously
referred to as the "fulltime aide": This paraprofessional is intended to
support the teachers in adapting materials, sometimes reinforcing
Braille, and to act as a stop-gap measure in case materials aren't
readily available by reading materials on-the-spot, or assisting the
student in the beginning of learning a new campus. The TSA is NOT
intended to hover over the student like a watch dog or flit around the
student like a mother hen. The TSA is NEVER supposed to be instituted to
"ensure safety on the playground," or to "keep an eye on the student,"
or to help the teacher teach. The teacher teaches, the TSA supports. An
effective TSA program will find the TSA keeping a fair distance from the
student and acting primarily as a support to the teacher. A TSA whose
support is too heavy or who coddles the student, will impede student
progress at all levels.

         10. The Rehabilitation Counselor or Teacher: This professional
handles transitioning the student from high school to college, trade
school, or the work place. It is the responsibility of this counselor to
help the student develop toward a vocation or career. Literally, there
duty is to "get 'em in a job." To this end, they will fund equipment,
services, and even transportation to facilitate the student's success in
college or job placement. A transition plan involving the rehab
counselor should be discussed by the age of 14, and must be in place by
the age of 16.

     B. The district must provide all materials and equipment necessary
to enable the blind student to participate fully and equally in all
aspects of the school curriculum and school functions. Your child's
needs are NO LESS IMPORTANT than those of other children.

         1. Academics: all books, handouts, and other written or
presented materials MUST be provided in a format that your child can use
comfortably on time (Braille or color enlargements).

            a. Pull out and mainstreaming or inclusion: The blind child
is entitled to be educated in the "least restrictive environment." Blind
children without additional involvements should spend at least half
their time in regular classes. Neighborhood or home schools are
preferable, and your child does have a right to this. They should not
spend most or all the day in special day classes (SDC'S) or resource
rooms (RSP'S) or even V.I. classrooms. They should not receive less than
1 hour per day of direct Braille instruction during elementary school, 3
hours per week for low vision kids. It is sensible for K-3rd grade to
have more specialized instruction and pull out from regular class, but
they should still consider their regular class to be their "home room"
or "primary class." Pull out should not occur more than half of each day
for younger kids. By 6th grade, pull out should be reduced to no more
than an hour a day. By high school, pull out should only occur as
needed. A child may need to give up an elective to receive additional
instruction in things like computers and assistive technology, special
help with certain subjects that can incur troublesome access issues such
as math, science, or athletics and P.E., or mobility services.

            b. Curriculum programming: The blind child is entitled to
equal educational opportunities and equal access to the curriculum.
Blind students should be doing most of the same materials as the other
kids in an adapted form where necessary. Expectations and standards
should not be lowered to accommodate blind students. Special Braille
curricula may be used in conjunction with (but not instead of) materials
from the regular curriculum. ALL materials MUST be available AT ALL
TIMES in Braille or large print, or audio if all other avenues are
totally exhausted. All pictures and illustrations must be RAISED or
enlarged IN COLOR. Delays in providing this material should be minimal
and not occur regularly. For low vision kids, suitable magnification
equipment such as a CCTV must be available in the classroom, and proper
instruction on how to use it must be provided.

         2. Physical Education, Athletics, and Recreation:

            a. The P.E. program: The blind child has a right to
participate fully in a regular P.E. program with adaptations and
modifications as needed. Audible balls and targets, rules modifications,
and other supports can be put in place to enable the blind child to
participate. There should be no restriction on participation. A blind
child cannot be denied access to any school related recreational program
including extracurricular programs. Supports must be in place to
facilitate productive participation.

            b. Adaptive P.E. (APE) programs are available. Blind kids
often end up in these. These are programs that emphasize a special
curriculum that is supposed to be accessed more easily by students with
disabilities. They are usually slow paced and less competitive, with a
greater emphasis on safety. It should not be assumed, however, that the
APE instructor has any special knowledge about working with blind kids.
They may be just as unaware of how to include blind kids as anyone else.
They do not necessarily know anything special about facilitating
athletic development in blind kids.

            c. Recess and lunch: The blind child should fully
participate in play. Many schools encourage (directly or indirectly)
blind children to sit on the sidelines so they don't get hurt. Blind
children should be on the playground playing actively with the other
kids. If they're just sitting on the planter or standing against the
fence, someone's not doing their job.

         3. Special accommodations: There are specific accommodations
that your child is entitled to which may facilitate her functioning.

            a. Preferential seating: Blind children may gain better
access to the curriculum from the front of the classroom, and this
placement can be determined by the I.E.P. or 504 plan. A child with low
vision may need front row seating in order to see the board or other
visual presented material. A blind child may benefit from front row
seating by being able to touch manipulatives that the teacher may be
showing to the class.

            b. Time-and-a-half/double time: Children with reading
difficulties are allowed to take extra time with assignments and tests
without penalty. Large print users are allowed time-and-a-half, while
Braille users are allowed double time. While this is a legal mandate, I
encourage you to push for your kids to be able to complete material on
time, or near time. While educational institutions can be flexible to
the time issues of its students, the world of employment will not be. An
employer will not pay and may not be accepting for someone to take twice
as long to complete tasks. Blind students should be able to complete
their assignments and tests within a conventional time framework by
their junior year in high school. If not, then they should take it upon
themselves to practice this skill in college. Delayed performance will
not fly in the work world.

            c. Reduced assignments: Reduced or modified assignments may
be appropriate depending on the visual nature and utility of the
assignment. Highly graphical material such as chemistry lab or optical
physics may be adjusted. For example, the student could be assigned a
research project instead or some other alternative assignment. There are
also assignments that are just not conducive to Braille such as long
division, matricies, geometric renderings, and diagramming sentences.
These can really be quite a drag and very tedious to do on a Brailler,
leading a young student to a demoralized state. Assignments that are
highly repetitive (do problems 1-30 of the same thing), may be reduced
in good conscience, as long as the student can clearly demonstrate that
they know the material.

     C. Special circumstances for multiply involved kids. In general,
multiply involved kids need more services to enable them to access the
curriculum.

         1. Additional professionals and their special relationships to
blind kids

            a. Occupational therapist (OT): This person works to develop
fine motor skills related to educational functioning such as writing,
handling lunch materials, cane use, and reading and writing of Braille.
A simple way of thinking about it is to say that they assist in issues
regarding the use of the hands, though they extend into other areas. If
a child has a hard time with Braille because of issues with the hands,
understand that the Teacher of the Visually Impaired may not be trained
to address these anomalies. The OT should be called upon to provide
guidance to the TVI for the fine motor development necessary for
Braille. OT'S will often feel unqualified for this, but if the TVI can
properly explain and demonstrate proper Braille writing and reading, the
OT can see how to provide assistance.

            b. Physical Therapist (PT): This person works with gross
motor abilities like play, walking, and manipulating large objects such
as a chair or door. This person monitors the long term function of
assistive equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers, support canes, and
crushes. Where balance issues are involved, they may help the
Orientation and Mobility instructor with gait issues, stairs, and
handling of the cane.

            c. Speech and Language Therapist: They handle issues related
to speaking, language development, sentence formation, and general use
of language called "pragmatics." They do not just handle articulation
problems (your child can't talk clearly), but may actually handle
language formation. This area is often the most underrated. With the
child has a communication problem, half-an-hour to an hour a week won't
usually produce a discernable long term difference. Communication issues
are often best handled with very intense service given on a daily basis,
then reduced over a few years with regular follow-ups.

            d. Deaf and Hard of Hearing Specialist (DHH): Handles issues
related to hearing impairments. These may include signing, checking
hearing aids, and classroom issues of curriculum access. In the case of
a blind child, this specialist should be closely connected to the
Teacher of the Visually Impaired.

            e. School Psychologist: The psychologist generally follows
the psychological development of students where there may be concern. They
usually show up about every 3 years to provide input and test results. The
psychologist may be useful in helping to design a program of specialists
addressing different areas of need. The psychologist MUST provide testing
that is adapted and appropriate for the visually impaired student. Testing
must be done with consultation from a blindness professional such as a TVI
or testing is invalid.

            f. School nurse: This person can assist with any issues
related to health impairments or medical fragility. It is often the
nurse who first screens for visual impairment and makes the first
referral.

            g. Assistive and Augmentative Communication Specialist
(AAC): Oversees use of equipment necessary to assist student's in
communicating with others. These may be simple devices such as an object
calendar, or more complex devices involving switches or computers that
talk. They don't usually provide direct service; they focus on training
others to facilitate the every day use of the equipment.

         2. When dealing with students who have complex profiles, it is
paramount that all members of the service team maintain contact and
collaboration about student progress. This often requires a lead person
to coordinate the case - usually the Resource Specialist or Inclusion
Facilitator. This person should be designated at the I.E.P. You cannot
just do without this person and hope for the best. Everyone needs to be
on the same page. Progress is very slow when each person is off doing
their own thing without input. In particular, it is usually helpful for
the OT to be working with the TVI, the PT to be working with the O&M and
Adaptive P.E., Speech and Language working with the AAC and classroom
teacher, and the inclusion facilitator involved in it all.

     D. Individualized Plans and Programs (I.E.P.'s, I.F.S.P.'s,
I.T.P.'s, etc.): An educational plan must be individualized for your
child no less than once or twice a year depending on the child's age.
Such a program must outline all goals and objectives related to your
child's educational development. It also spells out which specialists
are to be providing service and how much time is to be spent providing
service. A minimum of three people MUST be officially invited (parent or
guardian, teacher, administrator) to discuss and agree upon the plan.
Additional people may be invited at the parent's discretion. A parent
has the right to require or refuse any goal or objective but should
consider the professional reasoning behind proposed objectives. Parents
also have the right to change any portion of any plan at any time or to
call a meeting at any time. A parent SHOULD attend the plan meeting and
should also invite the child to attend when old enough. Although the
school district is not responsible for ensuring optimal progress (only
measurable progress), they are unequivocally responsible for providing
ACCESS TO EVERY ASPECT OF THE CURRICULUM without restriction. Lack of
personnel cannot be used as a reason for denial of services. School
districts must demonstrate a "good faith effort" to provide appropriate,
least restrictive services or be found "out of compliance."

         1. "Zero Reject": Public schools must seek out and provide
necessary educational services to all handicapped children from birth to
22 years. No educational service can be denied because of expense, and
parents cannot be held responsible for educational expenses (Free and
Appropriate Public Education - FAPE). All services must be rendered in
an equal opportunity manner - one which optimizes educational
achievement. For example, all printed materials must be provided in
whatever medium is found most useful by the child including Braille,
large print, readers, taped materials, etc.

            a. Nondiscriminatory Testing and Evaluation: All tests
(E.G., psychological, intelligence, achievement) must be provided in a
readable format as preferred by parents and children (e.g., orally,
braille, large print or other magnification).

            b. Least Restrictive Environment (LRE): Wherever possible,
handicapped children must be placed with kids who are not considered
handicapped. They must be allowed the maximum possible freedom similar
to other children of the same chronological or mental age. The placement
must be well integrated with nonhandicapped children and respectful of
their personal needs and abilities. The placement must not be physically
or psychologically harmful or confining and must be agreed upon to
facilitate the child's overall development.

         2. Notification and Procedural Rights for Parents (due process
and judicial hearing): Parents must be informed of all decisions made
regarding the child and of all services being delivered to the child.
Parents have the right to a fair hearing by an objective party. This
means that parents can be represented by an attorney to ensure that
proper service is being provided in the child's best interest. Parents
must be reimbursed legal fees for cases found in their favor. Parents
also have the right to have an advocate present at any time.

         3. Right to Public Participation: Your child has the right to
participate in any activity that is open to the general public.

         4. You may contact the State Board of Special Education or
parent groups (section XVII-A) for help in managing or resolving
conflicts with school districts. You may contact the attorney general's
office for advise and written material concerning the following
legislation:

            a. PL 94-142 - the education for all handicapped children
act of 1975: guarantees the rights of handicapped children to education;
zero reject, nondiscriminatory evaluation, I.E.P. (individualized
education program), LRE (least restrictive environment), due process.

            b. Handicapped Children's Protection Act of 1986: amendment
to PL 94-142, guarantees legal fees to parents who win cases.

            c. PL 99-457 - education of the handicapped act amendments
of 1986: Free and appropriate public education for 3-5 year olds;
support for 0-2 year olds; I.F.S.P. (individual family services plan);
and I.T.P.'s (individualized transition plan) emphasizing improvement of
vocational and life skills.

            d. PL 101-336 - Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
(ADA): mandates equal acceptance and accessibility of the disabled to
all places and facilities that are open to the general public; extends
civil rights protection to persons with disabilities in private sector
employment, all public services, public accommodations, transportation,
and telecommunication.

            e. PL 101-476 - Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
of 1990 (IDEA): Extends educational services to include autism and
traumatic brain injury; introduces the I.T.P. (individualized transition
program) which extends rehabilitative and social work services to
adolescents by age 16 or as early as 14.

     E. Things to watch out for:

         1. Don't let your child be shoved into a special day class for
most of the day. It is not uncommon for all the blind kids to be
funneled to a single classroom or two out of convenience for everyone
involved, except the child. Be sure that your child is receiving ample
(at least half) time in regular classes doing regular curriculum, unless
there are extenuating circumstances that are made clear to you. The
child should be doing the homework that the regular kids are doing, and
participating in the same assignments.

         2. The aid should not be assigned to watch over your child. The
aid is mainly there to support the classroom teacher and adapt materials
under supervision. The aid should not be policing at recess and should
not be teaching the student instead of the teacher.

         3. Blind students read Braille; they have to have Braille to
read. Do not let your kids get stuck with lots of books or materials on
tape; they need them in Braille. Don't let your kid get pulled out of
class for every test to be read to her; she needs the tests in Braille.
Don't let your kid get stuck with electronic note taking devices such as
Braille N Speaks, PacMates, or Voiceationotes that just talk but have no
Braille output. These devices are often used because they're cheap; they
have little utility to the Braille learner nowadays. Each of these
devices has a Braille alternative that is thrice as expensive, but ten
times more useful. Would you let your sighted child come home without
printed materials? What would happen if the schools suddenly sent
sighted kids home only with books on tape? There'd be a riot! I'm not
saying that there isn't a good place for books on tape, but never in
place of Braille, ever.

         4. Do not let them keep your kid's cane at school. Do not let
anyone tell you that the cane can't be used at home. That's your choice,
and it's the right one. The cane is an aid to seeing, and should NEVER
be restricted by circumstance or locale. It is equivalent to the school
sending your child home in a blindfold and saying, "only we're competent
to teach your child how to see properly, so please don't let her see
while she's at home. You might make a mistake. We don't want her to pick
up bad habits, and we don't want to be liable."

         5. Be careful that your child isn't socially promoted from
grade to grade without learning the skills to function properly at grade
level. A blind child without other involvements should function at grade
level. If he's not, try holding him a year; give him a chance to catch
up. He will not catch up if pushed through the grades before he's ready.
He will always lag behind. By the same token, don't be in a hurry to
start your child in Kindergarten before he's ready. I've seen the woeful
consequences of this mistake too often. It's far better to start him at
6 or even 7 than to force him to play catch for the rest of his school
life and my experience says he never will.

         6. Try providing (or having a specialist provide) an in-service
to your child's class or school about blindness (as discussed in section
VI-E-2-c of this document). This isn't to call attention to your child,
but to answer questions in advance that all the kids and teachers will
have. The presentation should focus on how the child does things to
succeed, not how the child needs help or special treatment. Just as
everyone needs tools to succeed - pencils, books, calculators - so the
blind child needs her tools likewise - Brailler, cane, Braille books,
talking computer.

         7. Services should not be provided strictly in a "consult"
model. Though collaboration among professionals is good, it is not
intended to replace direct service. This is often done to satisfy
minimal state or federal requirements for service delivery not
necessarily in the best interest of the child.

         8. The term "retardation" or "cognitive delay" should never be
applied to your child by anyone, no matter how many initials after their
name, until all other avenues of perception and learning have been
addressed and exhausted. In general, it is poor developmental practice
to apply this label before the age of 6 years.

         9. Do not allow your visually impaired child to be placed in a
class of orthopedically or language impaired students, even if he's
designated with these impairments. The mistake made here is the
assumption that a class for the language impaired will facilitate
language development. Blind kids especially need to hear language. These
classrooms are often structured and taught very visually, as it is the
visual modality that these kids often rely on. This doesn't help the
blind kid at all. You will see regression in this model. More
appropriate placements for blind kids with additional involvements are
often classes for the learning disabled, not classrooms for the severely
handicapped.

        10. Do not allow admission of any psychological assessment material
into your student's file unless the testing was done in conjunction with a
blindness professional such as a TVI and properly adapted for use by the visually
impaired. You should sign the permission to assessment form only if this condition
is met. Test materials should be rendered in Braille or tactile, not just read.

XVI. SOME QUICK AND EASY HELPFUL HINTS

     A. Eliminate the word "guide" from your vocabulary with your child.
Blind people do not need to rely on the guidance or leadership of
others, and they do not need to climb on the backs of those with eyes in
order to take flight. If you want to take your child by the hand because
he's a child, go right ahead, but don't do it because he's blind, and
don't think of it as "guiding." If it happens that your child needs to
hold on to someone in order to keep better track of them, think of that
person as a "partner" not a "guide," and try to keep even this to a
minimum. The child won't learn to keep up if he is never called upon to
do so.

     B. Make your child responsible for household chores just as her
siblings are or just as you were when you were a kid. With help from the
V.I. or mobility instructor if needed, label or mark all appliances as
necessary for the child to be able to use them without assistance. (You
can engrave tactile marks using any sharp implement, or use adhesive
felt or rubber pads from the hardware store.) Rinsing or washing dishes,
cleaning the floors or furniture, setting and clearing the table,
picking up after herself, carrying in the groceries, helping with the
yard, helping to prepare meals or snacks, doing their own laundry when
older, - all these things help a person grow. Try to keep your dishes
and groceries somewhat organized so the child has good modeling for
herself, and so she can expect to find things where they belong. If she
puts the groceries away in consistent places, then she'll know where to
go to look for them when she needs them.

     C. Make sure you have plenty of Braille books around when the child
is very young. When he's older, make sure your child does most of his
reading and homework in Braille. Tapes are okay, but if the child is
sitting all day listening to tapes, there's something wrong. True
literacy is through Braille, not tapes.

     D. Enter the child into a community program such as scouts, a
league sport, children's club, or something. You could also try
volunteering your child in community service projects or enrolling him
in a formal program to serve as Child Mentor or Big Brother. Your
school, Chamber of Commerce, or library will have information about
what's available in your community. If you meet with unwillingness, stay
calm, and just remember that your child can't be denied entry into any
facility or program open to the general public. Accommodations must be
made. For the blind, they're usually not that big a deal. Consult with
your mobility specialist for ideas.

     E. Be sure the child has his cane at all times and knows where it
is. He may not use it everywhere; some play activities aren't conducive
to having a cane. But he should not be dependent on others to fetch and
carry it for him. The excuse "I forgot" should never be heard. It only
means that he's not accustomed to using it. It's like saying "I forgot
to open my eyes this morning." It's that important. If your young child
is resistant to using a cane, carry and use one yourself (if it doesn't
embarrass you). Children, even blind children, learn from modeling and
love to imitate others. Trade with your child; let him use your cane.
Practice finding things with it. Don't worry about "doing it the right
way." A cane is just a stick used as a feeler. Just make sure he keeps
it in front and on the ground. Leave the rest up to experience and
advanced instruction from a qualified specialist. If your child's
specialist discourages you from practicing with your child, tell the
specialist to double his service hours and work with your child at home,
because you want your child to have the experience.

     F. Eliminate the word "can't" from yours and your child's
vocabulary. Anytime the word "can't" is used, the response should be
"let's find a way."

     G. Be sure your child has at least one friend close to her age in
her neighborhood. If she only plays with the other blind kids at school,
that's a pretty sheltered and unrealistic situation. The child should
have someone she can call a friend, someone to hang out with whenever
she wants. Remember, this isn't a "helper", it's a friend. There's a
difference. "Typically developing" elementary school aged blind kids are
often (though not always) a year or two delayed socially and
emotionally, even if very mature intellectually and physically (I was
both), so don't be afraid to foster friendships with kids a year or two
younger. This is often a good match. If the friend is too much older, it
often become a helper relationship. This isn't a bad thing, but it
shouldn't be the only thing.

     H. There are ways to foster productive friendships with blind kids
who have other involvements. Social interaction and communication are
often the two biggest hurdles for blind kids with additional
involvements.

         1. Pair the child with someone around 8 to 11 years old. This
could be someone from church, scouts, or school whom you trust, and
who's mature but still child-like. I suggest same gender, because girls
have a tendency to be too nurturing, and you want a more natural
interaction. Bring the kids together regularly, and arrange activities
or outings, or just let them play. Your child can learn just to be a kid
from this interaction. He can learn comradery with someone who'll teach
'em the ropes. Frankly, it may take a few tries before you find a good
match, but once you do, a boy or girlhood comrade can make differences
that no adult can make.

         2. Try hiring a high school kid to be a mentor or big brother,
or just a "chum" for one day a week. I got this idea from a parent who
pays a neighbor kid $50 a week to take her son with Down's Syndrome out
just to have fun. The kid certainly doesn't mind the money, but he has a
true bond now with her son. The $50 bucks is really just a thank you.

         3. Try formalized Child Mentor or Big Brother programs. You can
find these through your Chamber of Commerce or local public library.

     I. If your child is really reluctant to grow, or learn to stand on
his own two feet, explain to him that if we deny ourselves growth, then
we deny ourselves all the opportunities and privileges of life. Withhold
all privileges from the child until he agrees to participate in his own
growth. This may sound harsh, but the consequences of not growing are
much more damaging, and this method will work fairly quickly. Believe me
that this will not traumatize your child, and he WILL thank you someday.
Do not count on him just figuring it out on his own someday without your
having to play hard ball. I can assure you that most blind kids, once
they've started down the path of dependency, do not grow out of it on
their own. And, the world is a very unforgiving place to an adult baby.

     J. Don't let your child rule you. You are the adult and responsible
for your child's growth, not the other way around. A household ruled by
a 7-year-old is never a pretty sight, and your friends will be talking
about it behind your back.

     K. Use chimes or some other marking to identify your house if your
child has trouble finding it. If you have a very big yard, use chimes to
highlight different parts of the yard so your child can find his way
around it easier. There's no reason to be lead around his own yard or
neighborhood by the hand. That's demeaning, whether he knows it or not.

     L. A quick and easy way to play ball with your child is to put it
into a spare plastic bag. Tie it very loosely around the ball, and it
will make a lot of noise that your child will learn to hear and follow.
You want the bag to really crackle and rustle. Trash bags are not good
choices. The best are the one's you get from the grocery store or
supermarket. It should be very loose.  A well pumped basketball is the
best choice for bouncing games. A volley ball or beach ball is good for
catch. A soccer ball or utility ball is good for rolling and kicking,
not so good for bouncing. Tether ball also works, but requires good
practice. For this, tie the handles of the bag an inch or so on the rope
above the ball so the ball is approximately centered in the bag. You may
need to tie a knot in the rope here to keep the bag from sliding down.
Don't let your child cheat and grab the rope or stay too close to the
pole. He can learn to hit the ball properly. Start out by playing catch
with it. You can start out with nerf balls or balloons. See how long
your child can keep it in the air. Play with him. He will get the hang
of it with practice, just as sighted kids do. If he's afraid of getting
hit in the face with the ball, he needs to learn that bumps and bruises
are just part of being a kid. Blind kids are often too accustomed to
being treated with "kid cloves," but bumps and bruises are a part of
normal childhood. Blind kids growing up healthy probably get them more
than most; that just comes with the territory. I hope you can accept
this, and let it happen. Believe me, it makes a child stronger.

     M. Let your blind child have access to efficient transportation as
you would your sighted child. I suggest you consider investing that same
amount of time and money into facilitating your blind child's
transportation at 16 that you would your sighted child at the same age.
How much time would you spend making sure your sight child was prepared
to drive? - driving lessons, supervision, test preparation ... How much
money would you spend on a car, insurance, gas? As a general rule I
recommend that parents spring for a cell phone with a minimum plan, as
this is crucial for managing transportation. They pay for any personal
calls. I suggest agreeing to pay for half of their transportation
expenses whether they use a cab, bus, access, or a private driver. You
make the process feasible for them by paying half, which is probably no
more than you'd do for your sighted kid, and it's tax deductible. Since
they're paying the other half, they'll be encouraged to show
responsibility in how they use their transportation. Private drivers can
be hired through the high school, local colleges, or churches. You might
also contact local service clubs like Lions or Elks for trustworthy
people. Perhaps there are family friends willing to make a little money.
You can help your child interview and choose good drivers. I recommend
they pay around a dollar a mile from pick-up to drop-off.

     N. Some financial tips:

         1. Any money that you spend to help your child access the
environment is tax deductible as a medical expense including
transportation to special appointments, assistive technology, even
things you use to mark your appliances.

         2. Any equipment used to augment vision such as a CCTV or
monocular can often be paid for by medical insurance, but it's a tooth-
and-nail fight.

         3. The school district must pay for any equipment needed to
ensure equal access to the curriculum. It must be carefully justified,
but it's law. You should never need to pay for canes, monoculars, a
Braille writer, books, anything school related. The school district must
also pay for transportation to and from school, or reimburse you for
providing it.

XVII. SOME RESOURCES:  Catalogs and Brochures are always available,
often in alternative media such as Braille, large print, tape, computer
digital, and/or on-line sites.

     A. Parent/Family Groups and Materials

         1. California Association of Parents of the Visually Impaired
(CAPVI):  Joanne Claytor, (909) 945-5619.

         2. National Organization of Parents of Blind Children:  (410)
659-9314; speak with Barbara Cheadle

         3. Institute for Families with Blind Children:
         mail stop 111
         P.O. Box 54700
         Los Angeles, CA  90054-0700
         (213) 913-3455

         4. Children with Visual Impairments: A Parent's Guide; Edited
by M. Cay Holbrook, PhD; ISBN 0-933149-36-0.

     B. Books for Blind Children (large print, Braille, talking):

         1. The Xavier Society for the Blind
         154 E. 23rd Street
         New York, NY  10010
         (212) 473-7800
         Ask about "Funny Alphabet."

         2. Children's Braille Book Club
         National Braille Press
         88 Stephen Street
         Boston, MA  02115
         (617) 266-6160
         Ask about Twin Vision books and other series'.  (Twin Vision
are books written in large print and Braille so parents and children can
read together.)

         3. American Printing House for the Blind
         1839 Frankfort Ave.
         P.O. Box 608
         Louisville, KY  40206
         (502) 895-2405
         Ask about "On the Way to Literacy:  Early Experiences for the
Visually Impaired."

         4. Seedlings: Catalog of Books
         P.O. Box 2395
         Livonia, MI  48151-0395
         (313) 427-8552

         5. The Guild for the Blind
         180 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 170
         Chicago, IL  60601
         (312) 236-8569
         Ask about "The Teddy Bear Series", "The Buddy Series", "The Owl
Series", and "Brailleables."

         6. Rabbit Ears
         P.O. Box 2284
         S. Burlington, VT  05407-2284
         (802) 863-0222
         They sell excellent children's books on tape with sound
effects, various voices, and music.

         7. American Action Fund
         1800 Johnson Street
         Baltimore, MD  21230
         (410) 659-9314
         Ask about books for preschoolers.

         8. Braille Institute Library
         (800) 808-2555
         Again, ask about Twin Vision books.

         9. National Braille Press: (617) 266-6160

         10. National Braille Association (NBA): (585) 427-8260

     C. Adaptive Equipment and Recreation:  (canes, low vision devices,
sports and recreational, independent living aids)

         1. United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA): (719)
630-0422, www.usaba.org

         2. NFB Children's Cane Bank:  510-846608; (Rigid and
collapsible canes are available free to blind children. They just need
to know the height of the child. When the child outgrows the cane, the
cane can be exchanged for another.)

         3. California Canes:  (760) 956-5265

         4. Brian Klinesteker:  (805) 943-9866, fax:  (800) 331-6123
         Leather cane holsters

         5. American Printing House for the Blind
         1839 Frankfort Ave.
         P.O. Box 608
         Louisville, KY  40206
         (502) 895-2405

         6. National Materials Center for the Blind:  (410) 659-9314;
(canes, living aids, information especially on adaptive computer
technology)

         7. Beyond Sight:  (303) 795-6455; (information, adaptive
equipment with emphasis on computers)

         8. Sport Time:  (800) 444-5700; (sports and recreation)

         9. Maxy-aids:  (800) 522-6294

         10. Flaghouse Inc.:  (800) 793-7900

         11. L.S.&S.:  (800) 468-4789

     D. Organizations Made Up of Blind People - Blindness Groups,
Scholarships, Adaptive Materials and Equipment, Advocacy, Information

         1. American Council of the Blind (ACB):

            a. National Office:  (800) 424-8666
            b. California Office (CCB):  (800) 221-6359

         2. National Federation of the Blind (NFB):

            a. National Office:  (410) 659-9314

            b. California Office:  (510) 846-6086

     E. Organizations for the Blind - Vocational Support, General
Information

         1. American Foundation for the Blind (AFB):  (800) 232-5463;
(scholarships, information)

         2. Braille Institute (independent living skills training,
recreation, social involvement, Braille and taped library services,
adaptive materials and equipment including canes and low vision aids,
equipment subsidy grants)

            a. Anaheim:  (714) 821-5000

            b. Los Angeles:  (213) 663-1111 or (800) #bra-ille

         3. Foundation for the Jr. Blind:  (800) 352-2290; (independent
living skills training, recreation, social involvement)

         4. Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic:  (800) 221-4792;
(scholarships, taped books)

         5. Light House, Inc.:  (800) 334-5497, (800) 453-4923;
(information, equipment)

     F. Hot-Lines

         1. Blind Ambitions:  (714) 502-8142

         2. New Visions:  (714) 520-9663

         3. Job Opportunities for the Blind:  (800) 638-7518

     G. Other Resource Guides

         1. Blind Children's Learning Center (BCLC): (714) 573-8888,
"www.blindkids.org", Ask for Elayne Strong's resource guide for parents.

         2. Blind Childrens Center: (800) 222-3567,
"www.blindchildrenscenter.org", Their web site is full of useful links.

         3. "www.wayfinding.org" is put up by the Institute of
Innovative Blind Navigation, and it is an excellent resource for
understanding and locating services.