by Steve Dolan
From the Editor: David House is Treasurer of the East San Diego Chapter of the NFB of California. The following article appeared in the August 31, 1999, edition of the Daily Californian.
As David House sits behind the desk of his office here, he speaks about a vision he has as manager for House Properties. David would like to see the company, owned by his father, Mike, continue to be among the county's more successful commercial real estate operations.
What separates House's vision from his competitors' is that he cannot see. He suffers from retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited disorder characterized by a gradual degeneration of photoreceptor cells and a progressive loss of vision.
Blind for half his life, House, forty-one, doesn't allow blindness to limit him personally or professionally.
"I figure we all have crosses and burdens to deal with," he said. "As with anything else, it's how well you handle it mentally. I don't think blindness is most debilitating. If you have a positive outlook and forge ahead, you'll be successful regardless of what your handicap might be."
House leads a remarkably normal life. He and Theresa, his wife of fifteen years, spent last week whitewater rafting and horseback riding with their four children, seven to fourteen, in the Klamath area near the Oregon border.
The eldest of five children, House was diagnosed with RP at the age of five, when his parents took him to have his eyes examined. They thought he needed glasses.
His next three siblings also suffer from RP, but his youngest brother does not.
House's children are tested annually for the disease, but none have shown signs of RP.
"You don't notice it each day," House said. "It's a slow process. As a kid I would sit close to the chalkboard. As soon as I got to high school, I relied more on large print. With the heavy work load in college I got cassette tapes, had someone read to me, and used Braille."
House said he became aware of vision loss while in high school. "As a senior in high school I went to the movies with a couple of buddies and couldn't see the screen," he said. "I could never see well enough to get a driver's license. As a teenage guy, that was tough to deal with, but I overcame it."
At work House said he offsets his lack of sight by using alternative techniques, such as one that makes use of the telephone and a mini-cassette recorder.
When he completes a call, he transcribes the information from his cassette into Braille to create a permanent record he can consult later.
House said he figured out some time back that he could get a ride to work each day if the maintenance truck were parked at his home, where an employee picks it (and him) up each morning and delivers them each night.
House, one of 100,000 people in the U.S. suffering from RP, believes the disease has given him a special responsibility.
"There's such a negative stereotype with the stigma of blindness that there needs to be a positive role-model to show others that you can be happy and successful, even with blindness," he said.
"Believe it or not, the normal unemployment rate for blind people is 70 percent. If you are working full-time, you almost have a duty to help other blind people obtain gainful employment."
To that end House hosts a monthly meeting of the National Federation of the Blind in his El Cajon office. Although the group doesn't specifically place people in jobs, it leads them to agencies that can help them gain employment.
Patty Klimczyk, a bookkeeper for the company, said House is "just like any of us, pretty much. His attitude is good all the time. I haven't really noticed that his blindness has handicapped him."
House said he does not believe blindness is a factor.
"For the most part," he said, "people focus on the business aspects [of their dealings with House]. If, once in a blue moon, someone has a condescending attitude, it's advantageous for me. I feel I have them beat right off the bat because they've underestimated my situation. My blindness is not a problem in the business world."