Future Reflections Winter/Spring 1990, Vol. 9 No. 1

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LOOK, MOM!, NO CANE!

Reprinted from the April, 1986, Braille Monitor.

When the Matilda Ziegler Magazine (which has been around since the early part of the century) carried an article by Frances Koestler about Telesensory Systems and the Sensory Aids Foundation, David Andrews was moved to express his opinion. Federationists are like that --a trait which sometimes endears us to others, and sometimes doesn't. Andrews took particular exception to Koestler's comment that Candy Linville was able to travel (after a month's practice in the same area) without using cane or dog. Of course, a man could walk downtown without his shirt or a woman without her shoes, but it is questionable whether this would be an accomplishment or a spectacle. It might be noted in passing that Frances Koestler has for many years been closely associated with the American Foundation for the Blind. Therefore, it is not surprising that her attitudes differ from those held by blind persons of an independent (or, as some would put it, "militant") frame of mind. Be this as it will, here is what David Andrews had to say:

Chicago, Illinois, January 23,1986
Mr. Michael Millar, Editor
Matilda Ziegler Magazine
New York, New York

Dear Editor:

I read with interest Frances Koestler's article in the January, 1986, edition of your magazine on Telesensory Systems, Inc., and the Sensory Aids Foundation. I thought the article was good except for a couple statements at the end.

Koestler said, "What she does not use is any sort of mobility aid. She learned to do without cane or dog while still in public school." This statement referred to Candy Linville, daughter of John Linville, one of the co-founders of TSI. Koestler then went on to describe how Candy and her mother spent a month teaching Candy how to travel around her college campus without a cane.

I think that Koestler's statements are very demeaning to blind persons and damaging to all of us. First she implies that those of us who use canes or dogs are somehow inferior to Linville. She then goes on to say what an exceptional person Linville is. Secondly, her statements are misleading to a person just losing his or her sight, a person who might be already reluctant to use a cane or dog.

Yes, it is possible to travel in a familiar area without a cane or dog. However, Koestler herself said that it took Linville and her mother a month to learn one area. Most of us do not have this kind of time to devote to that kind of project. More importantly, how would Linville travel in an unfamiliar area? Would she tell a prospective employer, "Yes, I can start work in a month, but first I must learn how to get to your building!"

Furthermore, Koestler and Linville seem to be saying that it is bad to be seen with a cane or dog. I personally use a cane every day and travel all around the Chicago area in conjunction with my job. I see my cane as a symbol of independence, not dependence. I am proud to be seen as a blind person who can travel anywhere I want to go, unassisted. I do not want to be like Linville who must slide her feet around and shuffle off to work or school.

I view my cane, or dog guide, as a tool just like the Optacon, which Linville's father and James Bliss developed. Each should be used for what it can do for an individual. Koestler was the editor of the Ziegler Magazine for many years and has probably been around blind persons all of that time. In addition, she has also written about blindness issues before. She should know better than to promote the belief that a blind person should do everything he or she can not to appear as a blind person by carrying a cane or using a dog.

Sincerely,
David B. Andrews

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