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August 27, 2009
Dear President Obama:
I understand that you are interested in the welfare of the blind of our nation. I am sighted, but I do have a younger sister who is blind. My sister Maria and her husband, who is also blind, are living independent lives and raising their children. I cannot imagine their being able to do this without the use of Braille. I have watched them successfully manage their lives with a great deal of competence, but this would not have been possible if they had had no means of reading and writing.
I believe that those of us who can see initially think of blind people as somehow broken, and we want to fix them. It took my family many years to come to the realization that my sister was not going to regain her sight but that this would not mean that her life would somehow be diminished. We now understand that blind folks are just like the rest of us—they want to fall in love, get married, have children, buy a house, go on vacation, and try to avoid paying as much tax as possible.
While it is true that some very successful people have made it with low literacy skills, it is by far not the norm. For blind people the handicap is in being asked to function without proper skills, not the fact that they cannot see. How can this segment of our society fully participate without the benefit of being able to read and write? I am sure that you have been made aware of the problems that blind people face in our country in obtaining good literacy skills. You are in the unique position to raise awareness and to promote the notion that Braille is an incredible tool in leveling the playing field for anyone who cannot read print as a result of blindness.
I look forward to hearing how your administration will make strides in ensuring that we do not fail those who may be blind and who only want for themselves what all of us take for granted—our means of reading and writing.