by Bruce A. Gardner
Bruce Gardner is the father of six children. He is a successful practicing attorney. He is also blind. What is he to do when a perfect stranger confronts him in a parking lot, questioning his capacity to hold his sleeping baby? Here is how he tells the story:
I know that although the National Federation of the Blind has for over fifty years been making great progress in changing what it means to be blind, incorrect ideas and negative notions about blindness still abound. However, to my surprise one old misconception that I thought had surely been eradicated by now raised its ugly head and stared me in the face.
When our daughter Becca was just a baby, my wife and I went to San Diego, California, to attend the wedding of a friend. While there, we went to a reception brunch, and we took the baby along.
As we left the hotel restaurant and walked out to the parking lot to get into our car, I happened to be carrying little Becca asleep in my arms. A well-dressed and well-mannered woman came out quickly from the hotel and asked if everything was okay. We replied that it was. She apologized for bothering us and explained that she was just concerned about the baby. She said, "I saw the white cane and, and . . ." She then excused herself and left.
Moments later she came rushing back, fumbling in her purse for a pen and paper and asked for our names. When I inquired of her why she wanted our names, she said, "I just want to make sure that the baby is all right because, well, I saw the cane and thought you were blind. Sorry to bother you." And she left again.
My wife went back into the hotel to change into slacks because we were going to play tourist for a few hours. I decided that while she was gone I would just walk around the parking lot enjoying the cool breeze with the baby asleep in my arms.
A moment later the same lady was back again, trying to get our license plate number. And again she raised her concern about a baby being held by a man with a white cane. She asked if I was just using the stick as a pointer for a seminar I was conducting in the hotel. I told her it was indeed a blind man's cane and that I was using it because I was a blind man. She again apologized and left in a tizzy.
Believe it or not, a few moments later she approached me a fourth time expressing concern for the safety of the child. By then I had had enough. And believing that sometimes the most appropriate reaction to outrageous behavior is outrage, I took a couple of steps toward her and calmly but firmly said, "Look, lady, I am blind. This is my baby, and I often hold, carry, and care for her. She is just fine!"
I then said, "I am also an attorney, and I know the law. If you bother me again, I will call the police." She did not return.
Although she was well dressed and well-mannered, I could not help thinking she was not quite right in the head. But then I was well dressed and well-mannered, too (at least until my last comment), and apparently she thought I was crazy for thinking a blind person could safely and successfully raise children.
Because Becca is our sixth child and our oldest three are the most polite and well-adjusted teen-agers you could hope to find (parental bias notwithstanding), and because I personally know dozens of blind parents who have successfully raised their children, I think I know which of the two of us was right.
Experiences like these cause me to strengthen my resolve to do all I can to help the National Federation of the Blind share with others the truth about blindness. I know we are making great progress, but I am amazed at how long some of the most ridiculous negative notions linger.