Braille Monitor                                                         June 2007

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Comments from Miss Whozit’s Mail Basket

by Kevan Worley

From the Editor: Miss Whozit has received comments on two recent columns which seem worth reprinting even though they require no response. Here they are:

Dear Miss Whozit:

A formal place setting, complete with placecard bearing the Whozit logo and the words "Miss Whozit."I have attended eight national NFB conventions since 1993. The reason I am writing is to encourage you to continue to speak to us blind folks about how we present ourselves, whether we are all together at state and national conventions or out in the seeing world. Many times I glance around at the conventions and see people in shorts and T-shirts, while others are wearing suits and ties and dresses and skirts at the formal banquets. Now I don't wear a dress and pearls myself, but I wear a nice pair of dress pants and top. I really do think that the old excuse "I can't see what I look like, so who cares?" is short-sighted and silly. The answer is that they should care about how they’re presenting themselves to the public.

When people look like slobs to the seeing world, they are saying, "I'm blind; that's why I look like a slob." No. They look like slobs because of low self-esteem or just plain laziness. There are techniques for keeping colors straight if they will bother to use them so that they don't wear a yellow and black plaid shirt with striped pants or a brown tie with a black suit. Now the next step is for Miss Whozit to tell us how to meet people to date without being able to see. Alas, one step at a time. Miss Whozit, keep the advice coming, and I will hope that at this year’s Atlanta convention I will see fewer T-shirts in the banquet hall.

Hoping for Better Things

Dear Miss Whozit:

I am glad you brought up the subject of using the white cane in church. You are of course correct in that Pilgrim will have to decide for himself how best to deal with the various issues he raised. May I offer a few suggestions that I have found helpful? As a regular attendant at my local Catholic church, I have discovered over the course of time that these techniques seem to meet my needs.

1. Regarding the stowing of a long white cane at the pew: it has been my experience that usually the best way is to position the cane behind you in the pew so that it's out of the way when people sit down or rise.

2. If this is not an option, the next best technique is to position the cane at your feet just in front of the kneeler (assuming of course that the pews in question have kneelers, as most Catholic churches do). In this way the cane is still out of the way; however, with this method the cane may be stepped on by people in the pew when they rise.

3. If neither of these methods is an option, may I suggest that, at least during Mass or other church services, you consider using a folding or telescopic cane? No, they're not perfect, but you are not using it extensively, so it should do nicely.

4. With regard to approaching the communion rail and taking into consideration the tile floor, I have found that it is best not to tap the cane but to slide the tip back and forth. This has a double benefit. It allows you to keep track of the progress of the person in front of you, and it is not as noisy as tapping. A very gentle tap, however, should not be all that disruptive. After all, I'd assume that most of the congregation will not be concentrating on the manner of Pilgrim's progress since they should be focusing their attention on receiving the Host and cup.

5. As for parishioners who may be overly helpful, you and Pilgrim are of course correct. You can't take the time during the most solemn moments of a service to explain anything in the way of NFB philosophy, but there is still a way. If a person grabs you by the arm even though you need no guidance, gently remove your arm and whisper as discretely as possible that you can get where you are going. Once, just after I began going to church on my own, an usher picked me up bodily and started carrying me off before he even knew where I wanted to go. I found this so disturbing that the next week I had a chat with the pastor, and it never happened again.
I hope that these suggestions may be of help to Pilgrim and others who wish to worship independently.

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