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Editor's Note: One of the damaging sterotypes about blindness is the belief that the blind are limited to a specific and finite "list" of jobs that "blind people can do." Even when we hear about ablind person who is doing something new or novel (new to us, anyway), we either discount it (she is the exception) or we just add one more "job that blind people can do" to our list. Seldom do we rethink our erroneous assumptions about blindness.
The real tragedy is that we--parents, teachers, friends, enemies, relatives, and yes, even other blind people- teach this flawed thinking to blind children. These blind youngsters don't think, "What do I want to do?" and "How am I going to do it?" but, "What can blind people do?" and "Which one of these things that blind people can do am I most interested in?"
Now, there is nothing wrong with occupations that have been stereotyped as "jobs that blind people can do." There are blind people who are happy and satisfied as medical transcriptionists, piano tuners, social workers, packagers and piece workers, computer programers, and lawyers. But the presumption that one is necessarily limited to these professions because of blindness is absolutely false.
The following articles are about blind people in different kinds of jobs. Some fit nicely into our stereotypes, others do not. The point is that these blind people have found jobs that suit their interests and abilities...regardless of whether those jobs fit anybody's notion of what a blind person can, or ought, to do.
BUILDING MY PIANO BUSINESS by Al Sanchez
Editor's Note: The following article was found in the NFB of Illinois newsletter, The Month's News.
In November, 1985, I moved to Spokane to begin a piano service business. I had just completed 20 months of training at the Emil Fries Piano Hospital in Vancouver, Washington. I chose Spokane because it had a good public transportation system and was a big enough city to offer good prospects for my business. I had an opportunity to learn more about the city when I attended the annual seminar of the Piano Technicians Guild which was held in Spokane in April of 1985. At that time I met some people who were already engaged in the business here, and they assured me that business prospects continued to be good. After I got started, some of them referred me some business, which I appreciated very much.
It took a few weeks after my arrival for me to find a place to live and work. I needed and found a house on the city bus line with enough space for me to do some work at home. I also had to get the proper licenses and tax identification number.
I put up notices on bulletin boards everywhere they could be found: grocery stores, bowling alleys, laundormats, etc. I began to get some calls to work on pianos. I walked into Music City Spokane, which is the largest piano store in the area, and explained to them that I would like to tune and repair pianos for them. Before long, they began to need me for a day, a week, and now it is sometimes more than that. I contacted churches and got some contracts for one year, which generally means at least two service jobs. Now I am getting referrals from satisfied customers.
I feel good about the way my business is growing. The most pianos I can handle in one day should be four, although I have done as many as five by working into the evening. I am willing to work six days a week (fifty or sixty hours). Of course, I must have some time to do bookwork.
I hire a person to drive me four to five days a week. The best way to find such a person I have found is generally to run an ad in the paper. That person drives, reads, and if not busy, does certain assigned tasks during the servicing of a piano. I do 20 to 30 percent of my work using public transportation and my white cane or dog guide, I do not think it is wise to take the dog into people's homes. You never know how they or their cats may feel about it. I do take the dog to the music store, to schools, and to churches. It is important to be flexible in one's ability to travel.
I am now tuning from two to three pianos a day. I have not done everything I might have done to get business, because I want to build right and keep my customers happy. The volume of calls continues to grow, and I believe I am keeping up with it. I am now beginning to see some profit over all expenses and can safely say that there is no question that it will continue to increase. It is a good business for me because I do not like to be cooped up in the builing all day long, and blindness has not been a major problem.
LEGALLY BLIND WOMAN WORKS AS BARBER
Editor's Note: This article was orginally published in the Jacksonville Journal-Courier, April 19,1987.
Hickman, KY. (AP) ~ Dawn Wiseman says a lot of her customers are going to be surprised to find out she's legally blind. But the handicap hasn't kept the 24-year-old woman from pursuing her dream--working as a barber.
"I just wanted to be a barber. They cut hair, not just do perms and styling," she said.
Howard Faughn, barber instructor at West Kentucky State Vocation- Technical School, has nothing but praise for his former student.
"When I found out she was coming into class, I went to an eye doctor and had him set his machine so I could see like she sees. I couldn't see anything," he said.
Faugh taught Wiseman to cut hair more by feel than by sight. "She had real acute feeling in her fingers anyway," he said.
But pupil and teacher agreed that class wasn't all smooth sailing. Wiseman said she was tempted to turn in her scissors and go home. That's when Faughn decided to do a haircut blindfolded. "She said if I could do it, she could, too."
Wiseman did, finished the course and earned a state barbers's license.
Wiseman credits Faughn for allowing her to take the class.
"A lot of teachers probably wouldn't have taken me or would have given up, but not Howard," Wiseman said. "I wouldn't be doing this if it wasn't for Howard."
Wiseman has been in business for about two years in her little shop, known as Hilltop Barber Shop, in this far western Kentucky town.
One of her regular customers, Donna Darnall, says she knows why other people keep coming back for haircuts.
"It's simple. They go to her because she does very, very good work. If she didn't I wouldn't come back."
Wiseman cuts hair for both men and women, as well as children. "Children never look at you to find something wrong. All they want is a good haircut," Wiseman said.
by Gwynne Widhalm
Editor's Note: This item was found in News From Blind Nebraskans, the newsletter of the NFB of Nebraska.
On November 18th, I received a telephone call for a job interview. Naturally, I was excited, since I'd been out of work for quite some time. The job involved working with an autistic child. I was well informed about this program, because I had been asked in May if I would be interested in working with the boy. However, I couldn't cornmit myself at that time, since I was expecting our second child.
I went in for the interview and received a full job description. Brian is seven years old. He is about the size of a child of nine or ten. When he wants to run and jump around the room, the worker must do these things with him. The idea of the "OPTION" Program is to repeat the things that he does. This will, hopefully, eventually draw him back into the external world, out of his inner self. If he says something, the worker must pick up on the cue. For example, he might say, "Go A Team!" In this case, the worker would show him a picture of the "A-Team"glued to the wall in his special room.
I will take a moment to say that I am working with Brian now, and therefore, I will finish this description with myself in the role of the worker.
He has one room in which we work. The only time I take him outside this room is when he requests to use the restroom. He has a shelf containing food and drinks. He will usually either take my hand and point to what he wants or he will say "drink of water" or "hungwe, nana." If he starts saying things like "Hy- Vee, K-Mart, Alco," I either repeat these things or I may sing the HyVee, the K-Mart, or the Alco jingles.
At times Brian likes to hit and pinch. This was very hard to get used to at first, because of course we cannot retaliate. We must redirect his attention to a toy or place an object between ourselvces and his hitting/pinching hands. The idea is to present as few negatives as possible.
I have really had to change my way of thinking with this program. It is a very positive approach to treating autism, for which I am very glad. I am honored to be a part of the "OPTION" process.
There are just two more points I would like to bring up. First of all, this is only the second such program in the state of Nebraska. And finally, Brian's mother keeps in constant touch with the "OPTION" Center in Massachusetts, and she has learned that I am the only blind person involved with "OPTION". This gives me a real lift, and I am proud to be a pioneer in this area.
NAPAN MAY BE BLIND, BUT HE CAN FIX BICYCLES
Editor's Note: We found the following article in The Blind Citizen, the NFB of California newsletter. They had, in turn, reprinted it from the NAPA REGISTER, July 20,1987. The article was written by Kevin Courtney.
Put George Blackstock in a windowless bicycle shop crammed with broken bikes and turn out the lights.
In the pitch black, Blackstock would be able to tear apart every bike, diagnose every ill, make every repair.
Not for Blackstock, who is blind.
Blackstock does the seemingly miraculous every day of the week at his Fix-A-Bike shop in the Napa Valley Shopping Center on Freeway Drive.
"There are alternative ways of doing everything," said Blackstock, who has memorized the locations of the hundreds of tools and spare parts that jam his tiny shop.
Since pencil and paper are of no use to him, Blackstock puts each repair request on a cassette tape, which he ties with an elastic to the bike seat.
As he makes the repair, he talks into the cassette, tallying the parts and the length of time it takes him to do the work.
When the customer comes for his bike, Blackstock plays the tape, adding the items on his talking calculator. The cash register also talks, telling Blackstock the keys he has pressed and announcing the correct change in a warbly, computer- speak voice.
Blackstock, a wiry man of 54 who wears glasses for appearances, not for vision, can do almost any repair without assistance.
When he wants to fill a tire to the correct air pressure, he thumps the rubber. The spokes give off a special vibration when the tires are properly inflated, he explained. If a tire needs patching, Blackstock puts his customer to work searching for the pinprick hole.
Blackstock started his bicycle business 18 years ago when his deteriorating eyesight forced him to give up his machinist's job at Mare Island Naval Shipyard.
As his sight worsened, Blackstock finally gave up bike repair as well.
"I took the easy way out for a while," said Blackstock of the years when he raised goats, got divorced and at times felt terribly sorry for himself.
Two years ago Blackstock decided he had made a mistake to give in to his blindness, which was by then nearly total.
With a loan from a friend, he reopened his business.
Only now is the operation breaking even, said Blackstock, who has learned plenty the hard way. As a blind man working alone, Blackstock has encountered humanity in its most contrary forms.
Most customers are respectful and honest, but there are a few-- Blackstock says they're mostly between age 15 and 20-- "who think it's funny to give you a $1 bill and say it's a $20."
After giving change one day for three twenties that turned out to be ones, Blackstock began insisting that suspicious customers accompany him to the nearby barbershop where the identity of the bill could be confirmed.
"Usually they'll say, 'Forget it,' and you'll never see them again," said Blackstock. To protect his merchandise, Blackstock has a buzzer at the entrance that every customer trips. He also locks each of his new and used bikes to the display rack. When Blackstock sometimes loses a cassette, he prays the customer will return to set him straight.
"There are other things that can happen, but not things that didn't happen when I had sight," said Blackstock. "Once I sold a customer's bike to another customer."
"I'm not an exceptional blind person," said Blackstock, who lost his vision to retinitis pigmentosa, a hereditary condition. "I'd much rather be here than sitting home doing nothing. "I'm contributing to society. I'm communicating with people. Just this afternoon I taught a gal how to put her tire on herself."
Blackstock never wastes an opportunity to promote bicycling and bike self-sufficiency. A customer who can repair his own bike will ride more, thus needing more replacement parts or a new bike sooner, he reasons.
Unfortunately, said Blackstock, "most blind people are sitting home doing nothing. It's a shame."
"When you're blind, everybody tries to protect you. You can't grow," he observed.
Blackstock gets around using his guide dog, Rosette, and a cane. A neighborhood youngster sometimes assists him in the store. Blackstock says he looks for kids "who won't move stuff." For Blackstock to do his work, every tool and part has to be returned to its proper place.
A bike shop can be spooky sometimes when you're by yourself, said Blackstock. "It can be very quiet and all of a sudden a tire blows a rim. Or one bike will tip over, knocking over a whole row of bikes."
ACCIDENT OR MAYBE JUST AN INCIDENT
by Mary Jo Seller
Editor's Note: This article appeared in the NFB of Illinois newsletter, The Month's News.
Has the neighbor's dog run across your swimming pool cover, fallen through it and damaged the lining? Did the drain cleaner you put in the upstairs plumbling last night escape and leak through the flooring onto the furniture and carpeting below? Well, probably not, but these and other not so similar accident (or incident) reports have been written, in the past eleven months, by me.
Working for Schmitt Adjustment Service, I take general liability, property, and auto reports from insurance companies as far north as Freeport, Illinois, to parts of southern Illinois/Indiana, and west to Grinnell, Iowa. Whether it be a minor fender-bender, a fire, storm damage, broken bones and, yes, the neighbor's dog damaging the pool lining - I have taken the report.
Using a tape recorder, I record the initial report and then go back and fill out the necessary forms. This works well for me as I do not have to ask the person giving the report to repeat or slow down. I might add this method is used by others taking reports also.
Besides the reports, I handle the usual run-ofthemill calls which you learn to expect in his kind of business. If I am not able to answer a question or assist someone, I usually take a message and give it to the adjuster.
I must say having no prior experience in this type of business it has indeed been a learning experience. So if you have an accident, or maybe just an incident, I just might hear about it.
And, by the way, when the farmer's corn down the road is ready to harvest, please keep your cattle at home.
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