WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR WHOM?

by Gary Wunder

Gary Wunder is an articulate man of greater than average sensitivity and insight into the human condition. He is also a father and husband; a member of the National Federation of the Blind National Board; and president of the NFB of Missouri. He has been blind since birth. Here Gary relates an incident which occurred when he was out walking with his daughter.

I am the blind parent of a sighted child. My daughter was four years old when we were out walking one day. Now, there have been times when my daughter knew that I knew everything and times when my daughter was sure I knew nothing. We were going through one of those "I don't think he knows very much" stages. Whether that happened because of something that somebody at preschool said to her about having a blind father, or because it just happens in the development of children, I don't know. So, we were out walking one day. I've always walked with a cane, and I've always taken care of Missy—never had one accident whatsoever. But when we came up to the curb, she said, "Stop, Daddy, stop!"

I was surprised, and I said "Missy, I know to stop."

"How do you know?" said Missy.

"My cane falls off the curb," I said.

"Oh, Yeah. Well, don't go Daddy, don't go."

"Missy, I'm not going to go."

"Well, you can't see the light!"

"No, I can't see the light, but I can tell when to go by the traffic. Do you know what I mean?"

"Huh, uh."

"Well, when the traffic parallel to me is going, it's safe to go. When the traffic perpendicular is going, it's not safe. Do you know what I mean?"

"No, what's perpendicular?"

So I explained to her that parallel is that traffic moving on my right and perpendicular are those cars sitting out here in front of me. We waited a while, and Missy says, "Go, Daddy, go." I said, "Missy, the traffic in front of me is still going. It's not safe." She said, "I know. I just wanted to see did you know." So we cross the street when the light (and the traffic) changes. And no sooner do we get across than this woman bends down and gives my daughter a hug, and she said "Oh, you do such a good job with him."

It is at times like this I realize that, although we have come a long way in changing public understanding about blindness, we still have quite a distance to go. It was easier for the stranger on the corner to believe that my four year-old daughter possessed the maturity and understanding to deal with traffic and intersections than it was for her to believe that I, as a blind person, could be responsible for my own safety let alone that of my daughter. It is at times like this also, that I renew my commitment to work as hard as I can in the National Federation of the Blind.