by Gwen Nelson
Gwen Nelson is a leader in the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia, and she takes her Federationism seriously. Therefore, when she received a summons to appear for jury duty, it caused her to do some soul searching. As blind people we want our rights, but we try to remember that with them comes responsibility. Here is how Gwen describes it.
One afternoon I was looking through what seemed to be a routine batch of mail when I found a rather official-looking envelope. The envelope contained a summons for me to appear for jury duty. I knew one blind person who had received this same type of summons, and that individual wrote "blind" across the envelope and returned it to the court. The individual was not contacted again.
For a brief moment I considered making the same response as my blind acquaintance. After all, I reasoned, jury duty certainly would be an inconvenience. My term was to last for a month, and I was to call a number at the court each day to hear if I was to appear. My next thought was that even if I were to appear, I would not be permitted to serve because someone might object to my serving because I am blind.
Then, as a Federationist, I was really ashamed, because many blind people before me who believe as I do that blind people should be first-class citizens, had stood by their convictions so that now I had the opportunity to accept the responsibility and privilege of taking my turn on jury duty.
Yes, I did have to wait around the courthouse for hours. It was inconvenient, but I did serve on a jury. I had the assistance I needed to read printed materials submitted as evidence at the trial. And, as I look back, I am truly glad that I chose to fulfill my duty as a citizen. Jury duty was educational and rewarding. Now, when people ask me, I will have one more reason to say that I am proud to be a member of the National Federation of the Blind.