Braille Monitor January 1986
by Mike George
(The following article appeared in the September, 1985, Gem State Milestones, the official publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Idaho. Mike George is not only a Federationist but also one who takes his Federationism seriously: wherever he may be--at work or at play, in chapter meetings or at the carnival. So does his wife Janet, and so do Federationists Pat and Trudy Barrett. This is what the Federation is all about; and, incidentally, it is why there is no possibility that our march to freedom will be blocked. Too many blind people understand and believe and act.)The battle of discrimination against blind people still rages, and now it has reached the bumper cars at the Western Idaho Fair. On the night of August 31, 1985, my wife, Janet, and I, along with Pat and Trudy Barrett, met at the fairgrounds and ended up at the bumper cars. We joined the line like any other person. The
Barretts got past the gate man, but as my wife and I approached, he noticed our canes and stopped us. He said that according to OSHA rules, blind persons were not allowed to ride the bumper cars. We protested, saying that the couple ahead of us were also blind. That didn't work. He went after them, and they unwillingly left their seats. We left the bumper cars undecided what to do. We went on the ferris wheel and then decided to return to the bumper cars and find out just why we weren't allowed to go on. Again, we took our places at the end of the line. Two of our party would act as spokesmen if we were again intercepted, and the other two would act as support. The ticket man was even more upset.
He demanded that we leave the ramp, but we stood fast. We asked why we were not allowed to ride. After all, we had been to other carnivals and had ridden. He again spoke of the OSHA rules. We asked for a copy, which he couldn't show us. We would not leave the ramp until we were shown a copy of the rules or saw the man in charge of the carnival. The ticket man tried to put us off, saying he would bring the manager in fifteen minutes. We stood still, blocking the line. The manager listened to our story. He, too, tried to explain the OSHA rules to us. He also could not present us with a written copy of the rules he alleged to be quoting. He did finally decide we could ride, although he blustered that there were insurance problems. It was clear that this man thought blind people had no business on any rides, but he did not want a legal fight.
So what does it all mean? It means that far too often we are still looked upon as second-class citizens and not permitted to take our rightful places in society because of hang-ups about blindness and lack of knowledge as to what a blind person is capable of. Too often people make up their minds before giving us a chance. To the sighted we say: The only difference between us and you is that we carry canes and do not see. We are the National Federation of the Blind, the voice of the blind speaking for ourselves.
September 6th Loren Schmitt, Pat Barrett, and Ramona Walhof went out to speak with Maxine Killian, Chairwoman of the Fair Board. She was warm and friendly and interested in preventing this kind of discrimination in the future. We will work together on this problem. Like us, Mrs. Killian seems to believe it is respectable to be blind.