If Only We Could See Through the Eyes of a Child
by Sue Drapinski
From the Editor: As spring rolls around again, this little reminder of the importance of the work that we all do every day may be helpful. Sue Drapinski is the Treasurer of the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan. This is what she says:
The importance of the NFB of Michigan's tutoring program and the ongoing education of our blind children is immeasurable. However, the education of the general public about blindness issues and the capabilities of those who are blind must also be a high priority. Today's blind and sighted children are the best teachers. The following tradition in our family demonstrates how easy it would be if only society could see things through the eyes of a child.
Each year our family has a barbecue on Memorial Day weekend. We invite friends and family and enjoy outdoor games, food, fellowship, and the local carnival games and rides just a block away. Each year new friends join us. Last year, Sid and Dawn Neddo and their children came. Kyle Neddo, who is an eight-year-old blind child, was one of the twelve children under the age of ten. He ate with the rest of the kids, played with the rest of the kids, and went to the carnival with the rest of the kids. Because Kyle and his family are a part of our Federation family and because they believe in and live our philosophy, Kyle has never been excluded from children's activities.
During the barbecue never once did any of the children question Kyle's abilities. Never once did they treat him differently, and most important never once did they assume there was something he couldn't do. The same is not true for the adults watching the children play. Some wondered if Kyle should be running; some worried that he would get hurt; some marveled at all of the exceptional things he was able to do (such as playing like any other eight-year-old).
One by one, the concerned adults realized that neither Kyle's parents nor those of us who knew Kyle were concerned. They began to understand a little bit of NFB philosophy-- Kyle is no different because he is blind, and he doesn't need to be treated any differently because he is blind. The next step is for these same adults to realize that Kyle is not exceptional, nor has he overcome great adversity. Kyle, like all of the other children, was just having fun being a kid.
As we meet new people and try to spread our philosophy, our ultimate goal is for everyone to understand the truth just as simply as the children do--blindness does not make a difference in who a person is, what he or she can do, or how he or she should be treated. We have a long way to go, but if each of us takes advantage of the opportunities presented to us, our philosophy will prevail.