The Braille Monitor                                                                                               May, 2002

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Why Did They Let Her Do It?

by Peggy Elliott and Megan O'Rourke

From the Editor: Peggy Elliott is Second Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the NFB of Iowa. She persuaded Megan O'Rourke to tell this anecdote, and she wrote an introduction. Here both are:

When she wrote this little story, Megan O'Rourke was a blind high school senior in New Florence, Missouri, about to graduate with her high school Class of 2001. It tells volumes about her determination. Megan lost her sight as a teen-ager and had to decide whether she would face this change in her life with resignation or fire. Megan obviously chose fire and lit the first flame under herself. Other blind people easily recognize the link between learning to read and demanding more of oneself in other areas. When a blind person cannot do tasks for herself like jotting down notes, larger life challenges can appear to be insurmountable. Megan met the challenge of reading and then a bigger, more difficult one. Blind people are sometimes affected by what President Bush calls the "soft bigotry of lowered expectations," and as a result we sometimes demand less of ourselves than we should. Megan has learned the lesson young and well that she should expect of herself the highest and best she can imagine. Her few words paint a picture not only of determination but, unforgettably, of a blind person fully and freely participating in the life around her. Here is her small, yet very big story:

When I started middle school, my eyesight began to worsen. I began getting my books on tape and took on the challenge of learning Braille. It felt as if I were back in kindergarten, learning to read all over again. But I was determined not to give up on myself. I kept working hard, and I finally succeeded in learning to read again.

Around this time I also took on another challenge. I decided to try cheerleading. Many people thought this would be too much for me to handle, but I was determined to prove them wrong. With a lot of hard work and patience from the other girls on the squad, I learned everything I needed to know. I continued cheering into high school and eventually became captain of the varsity squad my junior and senior years.

To this day I still smile when my coach describes the reaction of the crowd from other schools. They are always surprised when I pull out my cane and walk off the field after cheering at the game.

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