Braille Monitor June 2008
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by Judy Jones
From the Editor: Judy Jones is one of the thousands of blind Americans who live and work in their communities, changing attitudes and expectations about blindness and blind people every day. She is also a leader in the NFB of Washington. In the following article she reflects on the importance of remaining engaged and living life to the fullest. This is what she says:
When I read articles about the accomplishments of blind men and women around the world, I often wonder what is left to write about. My father was in the air force for thirty years, and my parents made sure I participated fully in their lives while developing lifeskills of my own. All good parents, to the best of their ability, would do the same for their child, but to hear my parents talk, blindness was not a barrier to overcome as much as it was just one more area of adaptation to life. After all, living in a military family means making do with what you have wherever you happen to be stationed.
I've lived overseas, attended various schools, graduated from college with a teaching degree, taught school, married, and am raising children and running a small business. Exciting, yes; fulfilling, definitely; but not particularly remarkable. Thousands of other blind people are doing the same thing, and I am sure many are climbing higher and faster on life's ladder, are more financially successful, are shouldering more burdens, and have accomplished more. What part of my life or bit of wisdom can I contribute that hasn't been articulated hundreds of times already?
Then I realized it's thisto remind all of us in our own corners of the world to be encouraged. We are all making contributions, whether we recognize it or not. It's up to us whether those contributions are positive or negative. Every day we create impressions in others of how blind people live, work, and communicate with the rest of society. Every time we interact with children or young people we are shaping the tomorrow in which we and the next generation of blind people will live.
I believe that first impressions are lasting. When I was a young teen, my mother told me of an encounter she had had with one of our neighbors. This woman had a daughter who had recently married and become pregnant. She had also learned that the baby might be born with a disability. The daughter told her mom she wouldn't worry about the baby if it were blind since she knew our family and knew that her blind baby would grow up to have a full life.
I was surprised that this young woman had been so observant. She was about
ten years older than I, and not someone I saw very much since she lived away
from her parents' home. I've wondered sometimes now what she is telling others
about her impressions of blind people whenever the subject arises in conversation.
Has she gone on to influence others unconsciously with her positive attitude?
What influences do we have on our corner of the world? In the NFB we say that with proper training and opportunity blind people can and do participate equally with their sighted counterparts. That's great! Very straightforward if you've received effective training in daily living skills, cane travel, adaptive equipment, etc. But what if you haven't? Maybe you grew up in an area where there were few services for the blind or families were not sure where to get help or were working too hard making ends meet to have time for anything but preparing for the next day.
All of us are vulnerable to one degree or another; we are inadequate in some
areas; we have weaknesses. The point is to work steadily on improving skills,
strengthen weaknesses (sometimes one at a time), and realize that, sighted or
blind, all people have vulnerable moments.
I remember one particularly trying day when I was a new chapter president. We were to have a chapter board meeting in our home. I was watching a neighbors kids that summer day as well. Not bad, a manageable set of responsibilities until that afternoon when I discovered a water bed leak. All housework came to a screeching halt while I hunted madly for the patch and glue. The leak was growing bigger and faster, seemingly by the second. By now I discovered it was squirting water near the underside of the mattress, not the top, where it would be easy to fix. No towels, duct tape, or patch would fix it. I remembered to yank out the plug of the bed heater and pop out the window screen, for that was the only fast way to attach the hose to pump out the bed. By this time the kids were excited at the possibilities an open ground-floor window and a waterhose might have. The dogs were running back and forth barking at the kids. I told them window access and waterpower were out, but some could make sure water was pumping out, while others could make sure the hose was attached to the bed. There was a lot of running back and forth to check each other's work.
Later that afternoon, as board members arrived, they found me whisking folded
laundry off the couch. The laundry room had been taken over by wet rugs, wet
blankets, and wet kids. One of our members was newly blind and newly married
to a woman I had never met and, as far as I knew, might never have been around
blind people before. What must she have been thinking about the chaos? I was
self-conscious. I don't remember whether we even got dinner that night, but
none of us have starved, so something must have happened.
Situations not of your choosing can leave you feeling vulnerable. But these things happen to everyone. It's okay. Everyone, sighted or blind, sometimes feels like the odd man out. Fortunately we can take control over more situations, and it's important to do so.
As a new homemaker I remember feeling very self-conscious walking into a hardware store to ask for help with a home repair project. What if they want to ask the blindness questions? What if they won't help me because they think blind people can't learn to do home repairs? That first incident happened almost twenty years ago, and my fears were groundless. I've received nothing but encouraging help, and some of the techniques I've adopted are those thought up by sighted clerks in home repair stores.
I hope that in the future, if one of those helpful employees should become blind or have a relative who is blind, he or she will remember a blind customer, maybe more than one, who once asked for help and got the job done. If blind people can repair things, could they perhaps do other tasks too?
Every day I work with other mothers in my daughters' classrooms, with school
and church administrators, and with other business people. The recipe for acceptance
is an initial dash of assertiveness plus kindness, added to drive, innovation,
and a generous dose of friendliness. Our job of educating the public will seem
much easier, and we will continue to make positive contributions in our corner
of the world.
Consider a Charitable Gift
Making a charitable gift can be one of the most satisfying experiences in life. Each year millions of people contribute their time, talent, and treasure to charitable organizations. When you plan for a gift to the National Federation of the Blind, you are not just making a donation; you are leaving a legacy that insures a future for blind people throughout the country. Special giving programs are available through the National Federation of the Blind (NFB).
Points to Consider When Making a Gift to the National Federation of the Blind
Will my gift serve to advance the mission of the NFB?
Am I giving the most appropriate asset?
Have I selected the best way to make my gift?
Have I considered the tax consequences of my gift?
Have I sought counsel from a competent advisor?
Have I talked to the planned giving officer about my gift?
Benefits of Making a Gift to the NFB
Helping the NFB fulfill its mission
Receiving income tax savings through a charitable deduction
Making capital gain tax savings on contribution of some appreciated gifts
Providing retained payments for the life of a donor or other beneficiaries
Eliminating federal estate tax in certain situations
Reducing estate settlement cost
Your Gift Will Help Us
Make the study of science and math a real possibility for blind children
Provide hope for seniors losing vision
Promote state and chapter programs and provide information that will educate blind people
Advance technology helpful to the blind
Create a state-of-the-art library on blindness
Train and inspire professionals working with the blind
Provide critical information to parents of blind children
Mentor blind people trying to find jobs
Your gift makes you a part of the NFB dream!