By Daphne Mitchell
Editor's Introduction: Daphne Mitchell has been involved with the NFB and its student organizations on a state and national level for many years. She currently serves as president of the Louisiana Association of Blind Students. In this article, Daphne shares her journey to the federation and some of the changes it has made on her life.
"To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance," Oscar Wild. These are the only words that can describe the emotions that I have when I think of the National Federation of the Blind, and what it has done for me. My parents have congenital glaucoma; therefore, one or more of their children were bound to inherit the eye disease. I have two older siblings; beside myself, one of them also has glaucoma.
As a child growing up, I considered myself to be "one of the lucky ones."
Who are the lucky ones? The lucky ones are those who have eye diseases, but
are FORTUNATE enough to have some residual vision. At least, that is what I
had been taught by teachers and family. However, I would not be a lucky one,
for too long. Thanksgiving break of 1994 I took a trip to the Tyler, Texas Zoo
that in hindsight, would effect the course of my life.
I earlier mentioned that my parents have glaucoma; for this, I have always
been grateful. As a child, there were two main reasons for this, (1) I was not
the only one in my family dealing with this situation and (2) I believed that
I would never be totally blind. As I grew older, those reasons changed.
Growing up in Shreveport, Louisiana during the 1980's was great. There was
always something to do, and Shreveport had an organization for blind youths
to socialize with one another. There was an array of kids with different backgrounds
and most importantly, everyone had some degree of blindness. I am eternally
grateful for that organization because it ensured that I never felt that there
was no one else in the world like me. Although that organization did and still
does great work for the blind youth community, it further fueled the growing
feeling of superiority that I felt over totally blind people. I became ever
more attached to the vision I was blessed to possess. I began to pity those
totally blind children who were guided, restricted, and overall treated as invalids
by the sighted leaders of the organization, and then the unexpected transpired.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday of 1994, I was on one of the many excursions
that the youth organization embarks upon each year when I was stung by a bee.
We remove the stinger, applied some ointment and continued on our tour of the
zoo; not giving the simple transaction another thought. With in the span of
two weeks, I had become totally blind. I was depressed, devastated, and frightened.
Before this allergic reaction took place, I had been a vibrant, active, energetic
and cheerful teenager. I now felt as if I had no identity and if there was an
extremely bleak, dismal, and uncertain future for me. Up until this point in
my life, I had only been exposed to a handful of totally blind individuals and
none of those people remotely resembled the way I envisioned myself to be.
However, the previous spring I had attended a student seminar in Ruston, Louisiana
for blind people. There I saw Blind students who used long white canes walking,
talking, dancing, and living confidently. I decided to contact the organization
that hosted that seminar, the Louisiana Association of Blind Students, to see
what information I could find about being a "normal" blind person.
I attended my first state convention the following spring and my life from then
The National Federation of the Blind has taught me many lessons over the years.
The most important of these lessons is that it is respectable to be blind. I
was once ashamed and hated the fact that I am blind. Today I know that my self
worth is not compromised in any way by my blindness. I also now know the truth
about blindness and consider myself to be one of the true lucky ones to have
found the NFB.
I am currently a junior at a state university and no longer see the bleak,
dismal, and uncertain future that I felt I was destined for only seven years
ago. Due to the training, philosophy, and self-confidence I have gained from
the National Federation of the Blind, I now know that I truly am a lucky one.
I have been fortunate to help my parents find the truth about blindness, and
now in their own way they help to destroy the myths and misconceptions of blindness
every day. This past summer I was blessed to work for the Buddy program in Ruston,
Louisiana, one of the Federation's summer programs. I hope that through the
examples, skills, and philosophy that the staff and I were able to give our
students, they too, at a young age, will see that they too are lucky ones.
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