Future Reflections Spring 1996, Vol. 15 No. 2
Editor's Note: The following skit was performed by students and staff members of the Louisiana Center for the Blind at the 1995 parents seminar in Chicago. These amateur blind actors have been enlightening (through the guise of entertainment) audiences at NFB conventions for a number of years. They frequently perform original plays written by Jerry Whittle, Braille teacher at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. An outstanding teacher, Jerry is also an excellent role model for his students. He did not let blindness prevent him from pursuing his love of acting and directing in theater (he has performed in numerous community play productions). Because of Jerry, play productions at the Louisiana Center for the Blind have become an integral part of its unique training program; a program which promotes a positive attitude about blindness as aggressively as it teaches Braille and other blindness skills.
LITTLE THINGS MEAN A LOT
Cast of Characters Narrator Lori Benfield Norma Benfield, mother of Lori Rodney Benfield, father of Lori Dr. Spooner, evaluator Jessica Franklin, sighted friend of Lori Geneva, Braille instructor
Narrator: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to our show-Little Things Mean A Lot. We are indeed privileged to have with us the Benfields-Lori (who is visually impaired), Mrs. Benfield, and Mr. Benfield. Today we will have the opportunity to view their struggles to cope with visual impairment up close and personal. Our cameras have been following Lori and her family around for several days, and we believe that you will enjoy their story. It is the stuff that the American dream is made of. So sit back, get some microwave popcorn, a soda pop, and enjoy the next episode of Little Things Mean A Lot.
Norma: Oh, Lori, I don't think you should wear that outfit to school. The colors just aren't right for you. They make you look so pale and sickly.
Lori: You bought them for me, Mother. I thought they would look nice.
Norma: Take them off and try this navy skirt and blouse. We want you to look your best. You must form the habit of looking your best, so when you become a professional businesswoman, your clothes will be appropriate.
Lori: Yes, ma'am. I sure would like to go shopping some time all by myself and select my own wardrobe.
Norma: Nonsense, Lori, how can you pick colors; and besides, you wouldn't want to trust your appearance to some tasteless store clerk. They will have you looking like yesterday's lunch.
Lori: Other kids my age pick their own clothes.
Norma: Have you ever noticed how some of them look? Holes in their pants. Flip-flops. Disgusting. Like something the cats dragged in. What's gotten into you lately? You always have worn the clothes I picked for you.
Lori: I guess so.
Norma: Now come over here and eat your breakfast. Here, let me pour you that cup of coffee. Just sit down there. Here is your knife and fork. I went ahead and cut up your sausage. No sense in making a mess. A good businesswoman should not be a messy eater.
Lori: You know, Mother, I don't think I have ever seen a sausage before it was cut into pieces.
Norma: It is usually round.
Lori: I know. I know.
Norma: The cream pitcher is just past your coffee cup. Don't knock over the cup. Here, let me pour it for you.
Lori: Honestly, Mother.
Norma: You only have ten minutes before your father takes you to school.
Lori: That's another thing. I don't see why I can't ride the school bus like everyone else.
Norma: Have you taken leave of your senses? I won't have you riding that bus with all of those nasty-mouthed heathens. Besides, your father enjoys taking you to school. You have time to visit.
Lori: The other children tease me. They say I am a weirdo. I hardly know any of them.
Norma: Count it all a blessing. Children are so cruel, and I won't have them teasing you about your eye condition. Now here is your toast. I buttered it for you and put some honey on it. Don't get it all over your blouse, for goodness sake. A professional businesswoman should not form the habit of dripping food all over her. Let me put this napkin around your neck. There, sweetie, that should make it better. Now eat up. Dad will be here before you know it.
Narrator: Wasn't it just a delight to observe the interaction between Lori and her mother? Just wait till you see the next scene.
Lori: Jessica, I am sure glad that you asked me to go with you to the school dance. Maybe I can meet some boys there and learn to dance.
Jessica: Lori, I remember hearing you say that you would love to dance sometime. We can walk down to the school gym and maybe go out afterward for an ice cream.
Lori: That would be great. I feel so cooped up here in this house. Don't tell anyone, but I feel absolutely smothered by my family.
(Enter Mr. and Mrs. Benfield)
Norma: Lori, who is your little friend? How do you do, I am Lori's mother, and this is her father.
Rodney: Hello. Jessica: Hello.
Lori: Mother and Dad, this is Jessica. She and I were planning to go to school for a dance and then go for ice cream afterward.
Norma: Oh, really. Lori, have you completed your lessons for tomorrow? A good businesswoman always puts business before pleasure.
Lori: I finished my homework at school during study hall. What kind of a dance is this?
Jessica: It is sponsored by our high school spirit committee. It is a way for all of us to get to know one another better.
Norma: Yes, I bet that is so. Do you turn the lights down low?
Jessica: Yes, we do for the dance.
Norma: Then, Lori, I don't think you should go. You know how difficult it is for you to find your way around in the dark. Suppose you fall down and hurt yourself?
Lori: Please, Mother, don't embarrass me in front of my new friend. The dance is on the gym floor. It is level, completely level.
Rodney: I don't see why Lori couldn't go to the dance, Norma.
Norma: Because boys will be there. Nasty minded little hooligans who would like nothing better than to have a little visually challenged girl there in the dark to prey upon like a bunch of vultures. Putting their hands all over her. I won't stand for it. She should not be subjected to such hideous behavior.
Jessica: Well, I guess I better be going. I'm sorry, Lori; I didn't mean to upset the family structure by suggesting a dance.
Lori: Just a minute, Jessica. Mother, I really want to go to this dance. I feel so isolated from my friends, so different. Do you realize that I have never danced with a boy before? I don't like being an odd duck. Just because my eyes don't work properly doesn't mean that my feet can't move.
Norma: You know yourself that you have balance problems. All visually impaired children do. I read that in a magazine.
Rodney: Lori, don't argue with your mother. Maybe you had better stay home.
Lori: I suppose you will teach me to dance, Mother?
Norma: Certainly. Your father and I do a mean fox trot and samba. I could show you a few steps and perhaps someday when you are working or married, you can put them to good use.
Jessica: Well, I must go. Good luck to you, Lori. I'll see you tomorrow in study hall.
Lori: Bye, Jessica. I think I will go to my room.
Norma: Be careful on the staircase, Dear. Use the rail.
Narrator: Is this drama, or what? Family crises and resolution. What a family! That Mrs. Benfield is surely a champion for the optically precluded-a truly caring and compassionate woman. Let's go up close and personal once again. This time, Lori and her parents are talking with Dr. Spooner at Lori's annual IEP evaluation meeting. IEP means Individual Education Plan. Lori's future is on the line.
Dr.Spooner: Mr. and Mrs Benfield, for the past five years the evaluators have concluded that Lori should be taught Braille. They base their conclusions on the fact that Lori has a degenerative eye disease with a prognosis of steady deterioration. Secondly, Lori must hold print material extremely close to her face. And finally, Lori can only read with optimum lighting conditions and then only for a short duration of time. It seems clear to us that Lori needs and would benefit greatly from Braille.
Norma: I will not accept your conclusions. Lori may have a so-called degenerative eye disease, but no one knows for certain that Lori will lose more sight. She can function just fine with print.
Rodney: Norma, maybe we should listen to Dr. Spooner this time. Lori cannot read print as well this year as she did even a year ago.
Norma: Nonsense. Lori's eyesight is fine. She can use a magnifier and her CCTV.
Lori: Mother, it hurts my eyes. I get headaches. Remember?
Norma: I have been reading extensively on this matter. Dr. Spooner, you are not the only expert on this subject. I found an article by a renowned educator in the field of visual impairment, and she stated that a child with visual impairment like Lori should work on visual efficiency. It is damaging to a person's psyche to have to use Braille instead of print. Lori could try some eye exercises and work on moving her eyes faster. This authority stated that if a child can read print at ten words a minute or more, she should not have to learn Braille.
Dr. Spooner: Mrs. B. is an advocate for visual efficiency-that is true; but, each IEP must be determined on the personal need of the client. Lori definitely could benefit from Braille instruction.
Rodney: We should sign the IEP, Norma.
Lori: Please sign it, Mother.
Norma: Not in a heartbeat. I will never stand for Lori to be condemned to Braille. Lori, you can still see. You are not blind. According to Mrs. B., Braille is complex and slow and extremely cumbersome. I get the feeling from her that Braille is almost obsolete and only for the totally blind, not someone like my daughter who can still see.
Dr. Spooner: I wish that you would reconsider. Lori may lose all of her functional vision in the near future.
Norma: I am betting that will never happen to my daughter.
Dr. Spooner: Then our hands are tied. Good day to all of you.
Norma: Come on, Sweetie, let's go and make an appointment with a good low vision clinic. Here, take my elbow. Watch out for the coffee table.
Lori: I am fine, Mother. You are embarrassing me again.
Norma: Nonsense. I am only trying to help you. Someday when I am gone, you will realize how much I have fought for your rights to have dignity. What do you say we go and get some ice cream at Baskin-Robbins?
Lori: I would rather have Braille.
Norma: Now that's enough of that foolish talk. The low vision clinic will probably have a new magnifier that will work miracles. Here is the door. Stay behind me. We are outside now.
Narrator: Isn't that a touching spectacle. One mother's battle to save her daughter from the throes of an obsolete system. We have just one more intimate glimpse into the lives of the Benfield family. Lori has courageously entered into competition with her classmates, and she is working on a project for school honors.
Norma: It is so nice to meet you, Geneva. My name is Norma Benfield, and this is my visually challenged daughter Lori. Lori wants to do a presentation on Braille for her school's competition.
Geneva: It's very nice to meet you, Lori. I have some materials you could use. Here is a slate and stylus that blind persons use to write Braille. I also have a Twin Vision(tm) Braille book you could use.
Norma: Isn't that just amazing how they can write print and Braille in one book like that. Lori, come and see this. Give me your hand. This is what blind children are suppose to read. Isn't that just amazing.
Geneva: It's not amazing at all. Braille is not that difficult to learn. Lori, have you never had Braille instruction before?
Norma: Certainly not. Lori does fine with her CCTV.
Geneva: Lori, would you like to learn Braille?
Norma: Lori does not need Braille. She wants to go to college at Fairmont University next year and major in marketing. She wants to manage her own business some day, and we are working hard to obtain her a scholarship. If we could win the school competition this year, Lori would have an excellent chance to win a scholarship to Fairmont. I felt like Lori should use Braille as her topic since she has a little vision loss herself.
Geneva: I have some alphabet cards with the letters of the alphabet in both print and Braille. Lori, do you need any other materials?
Norma: We would like a photograph of you reading Braille, wouldn't we, Dear?
Lori: Whatever you say, Mother. We want to do well on our project. We are going to win the competition.
Norma: Now, Lori, you stand here, behind Geneva while I take your picture. Be looking down at the Braille book while Geneva reads.
Geneva: Can you even see the Braille book, Lori?
Norma: Of course she can see the book. Now, smile, Lori. Say cheese. There, I have it. Now we need just one more photograph. Would you be willing to write Braille with your little stenciller?
Geneva: It is called a slate and stylus.
Norma: Whatever. Lori, you come and sit beside Geneva. Take that frown off your face. You look like a rat has just stolen your lunch. There, we have two nice pictures of Geneva. That should do the trick. Thanks so much for allowing us to interrupt your busy schedule.
Geneva: No problem at all. Lori, if you ever want to learn Braille, come and talk with me about it.
Lori: I want to learn...
Norma: We need to be going. Here, Dear, let me carry the materials. You might drop them. Grab a wing.
Geneva: Lori needs to be using a white cane instead of relying on you so much.
Norma: I can take care of her. She doesn't need a cane.
Geneva: Good bye, Lori. Give me a call some time. I want to tell you about an organization I belong to called the National Federation of the Blind.
Lori: Okay, I will call you tomorrow.
Norma: Lori, you don't have time to join any organization like that. You will need to devote all your time to becoming the world's greatest independent businesswoman.
Narrator: Lori will surely be a successful businesswoman as her mother has determined. I hope this program has been a lesson for all visually challenged persons and their family members. Behind every successful optically precluded child is a determined family. Lori's future is virtually sealed. Thank you for watching another episode of Little Things Mean A Lot.