Braille Monitor                                                                                 March 2006


Telling Time and Catching Buses

Marilyn Donehey entertains party-goers at the NFB of Ohio convention.
Marilyn Donehey entertains party-goers at the NFB of Ohio convention.

by Marilyn Moss Donehey

From the Editor: Marilyn Donehey is an active member of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio. The following little anecdote demonstrates the way that the investment of a few minutes effort on the part of one person can benefit a lot of people. This is what she says:

I rushed out of the bank after completing my transaction and looked at my watch, which has a gold expansion bracelet and a standard face with a second hand--tick, tick, ticking--, a minute hand, and an hour hand. I didn't want to miss my bus because that meant waiting another forty-five minutes to catch the next one. (Ah, the joys of not driving.)

As I walked out looking at my ordinary watch, two older teen-aged girls noticed and commented. First girl: "Look, she can see; she has a regular watch!"

Second girl: "She should be reported to the police for using a white cane illegally."

I felt my face flush and for a moment wondered how I should handle this situation. In an instant I decided that maybe I could provide some education. I turned around and gently but firmly asked, "Do you mind if I share something about my blindness with you? Do you have a couple of minutes?"

One of the girls sighed, "Ohhhh, Ohhhh!"

Quickly responding, I said, "I'm not chastising you or anything. You have a right to understand how I can see a regular watch and use a white cane at the same time."

The girls looked relieved and said they had some extra time. I told them about the onset of my blindness at age twelve, "There are different kinds of blindness, I explained. "The two most common are loss of visual field and loss of visual acuity. When you go to the eye doctor, sit in the chair, and read the E-chart, he is finding out about your visual acuity, or how much you can actually see. Normal is 20/20. Visual field is determined by looking at a point and measuring how much you can see around it. In my case, I have only 20 degrees of visual field, but the acuity within that visual field is 20/30 (almost normal) when I am looking right at an object or person.

What I see, I see very clearly; I just don't see very much of it."

The girls listened carefully to the explanation of peripheral vision and how necessary it is for depth perception. "I use the white cane so that I don't fall down curbs and trip up stairs and to let people know that I am legally blind when I accidentally run into them at the mall," I joked.

"Wow!" one teen responded. "I never had any idea about this. Thanks so much for taking time to explain it to us."

"We'll be more careful when we see people using a white cane," the other teen chimed in.

Glancing at my watch, I went to catch my bus, realizing that it had turned out to be a positive few minutes for all of us. I was able to explain something about blindness, and the girls got a whole different point of view about people who are blind. Gratitude for the National Federation of the Blind--the organization that teaches self-advocacy that doesn't alienate, but educates--filled me.