The Search for Anonymity

An Address Delivered by Marc Maurer
President of the National Federation of the Blind
July 9, 1998

Ideas expressing new understanding of reality inevitably, if they are to be accepted, undergo a process of internalization. To paraphrase the naturalist Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz, every great truth goes through three stages. First it is claimed that the idea conflicts with recognized truth and is heresy. Next it is argued that the idea has been discovered in a former time. Finally it is asserted that knowledgeable people have always believed it.

Groups that come to be accepted as part of society must undergo a similar process. The members of such groups begin with the experience of rejection or indifference. Then comes a grudging toleration. The toleration is eventually replaced by a peculiar mixture of uneasy suspicion and admiration. During each of these stages the individuals in the group are regarded as distinctly separate and different from the ordinary, regular members of society. They are a part of the fringe—having an identity strange and mysterious—an identity so unusual that those who have it are always under scrutiny and can never be taken at face value.

The fourth and final stage is unlike the first three because it is undramatic and unremarkable. At this point in the evolution of the process, there is full acceptance. The characteristics which marked the group as separate from the rest of society still exist, but they are no longer thought to be important—no longer an identifiable means for differentiation—no longer a symbol denoting special emphasis or special treatment. These identifying characteristics have come to be a part of the norm, and the members of the group that were once so noteworthy as a result of possessing these characteristics have lost their high profile and become anonymous.

Consider, for example, the Irish. In the history of the United States there have been times during which immigrants from Ireland were unacceptable as part of the social set or the work force. Employers posted advertisements for jobs which included the statement "No Irish Need Apply," and they meant exactly that. Those from Ireland, regardless of their abilities or qualifications, were rejected. Today, such a pattern of behavior would be completely unimaginable and unacceptable.

But what does this delineation of elements in social change mean for us, for the blind? The process of achieving acceptance within society is not automatic; it does not come to every group. To get it, a group must possess self-discipline, the capacity for joint action, assertiveness, a willingness to give, and the understanding to take the long view. Furthermore, acceptance is never offered free; it must be earned.

When we the blind came to organize in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in 1940 under the leadership of Dr. Jacobus tenBroek and those few other pioneers who formed the National Federation of the Blind, our history was one in which the blind were either regarded with indifference and dismissed or actively rejected. No blind person could escape the all-pervasive social attitude which relegated the blind to positions of inferiority and idleness. Indeed Dr. tenBroek, who was later to be counted among our nation's most brilliant authors and constitutional scholars, had enormous difficulty at the beginning of his career finding any kind of meaningful work within the discipline he had studied.

For the blind of the early 1940's there were few if any jobs, not many books, and only limited opportunities for a college education. Some sheltered workshops had been established, which provided a little work for a few blind people, but wages were low and working conditions dismal.

The Social Security Act had been adopted in 1935, but it provided minimal support to a small number of blind beneficiaries. Most blind people were without financial resources, without the ability to gain a first-class education, without employment, without the opportunity to engage in social interaction at a meaningful level, and without hope. On those rare occasions when members of the general public thought about blindness at all, they dismissed us as being unable to make substantial contributions. When we who were blind sought the opportunity to engage in productive activity, our efforts were rejected.

Then Dr. tenBroek and that small group who joined with him formed the National Federation of the Blind. With that single act circumstances for the blind began to change—the rejection became less frequent, and the dismissal less firm. The possibilities for blind people began to expand. There were more jobs, more opportunities for education, more books, and more social and political interaction with the rest of society. The process has continued for more than half a century, and the reason for the change is unmistakably clear. It is in this room tonight. It is our joint effort—yours and mine—through the National Federation of the Blind. It is also the effort of those tens of thousands of blind Federationists who preceded us. It is the strength and commitment of the organized blind movement—speaking for ourselves with one united voice. It is the organization we have built—the National Federation of the Blind!

As soon as the force of the Federation was felt, the rejection of former times began to give way to toleration—although it has not always been a peaceful toleration. Blind people could no longer be universally dismissed—we were becoming too well organized to permit it. Of course not all of the rejection came to an end—some of it still exists even today. But blind people as a group proclaimed for the first time that we have a role to play, and some (at first only a few) within society responded.

During this phase of development laws were adopted—laws which had, for the most part, been drafted by the National Federation of the Blind—laws to guarantee the rights of the blind to equal access to institutions of higher learning, to public buildings, and to other places of public resort. Blind people were not always welcomed, but we were frequently admitted because it was easier to let us in than to keep us out; and having learned something of independence and the joys of participation, we would no longer stay at home, where some thought we belonged. As the pressure continued to be exerted to include the blind in all activities of life, the toleration of the blind slowly changed. It was replaced by a mixture of cautious suspicion and admiration.

In the past those who were blind were not expected to be competent to handle much of anything. When blind people did something successfully, there was (and sometimes still is) a measure of surprise that a blind person could do the job at all. Some have wondered whether the job was really done with competence, and others have suspected that the apparent success must be attributable to luck or accident rather than ability. The situation is made more complex by the legal requirement under the Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal statutes to offer the blind reasonable accommodation with the attendant uncertainty about what this means.

In some government institutions, for example, this concept has been distorted to such an extent that it is said to require a double standard of performance—a higher one for the able-bodied and a lesser one for the handicapped. In these institutions a blind employee is required to produce only 50 percent as much work-product as a sighted employee. In such circumstances to speak of a blind employee as successful is a mockery and a sham. It creates mistrust, frustration, and annoyance. There is a tendency on the part of employers to say, "When I buy a quart of milk, I'm not prepared to settle for a pint or even a pint and a half. If this is what the handicapped demand, I will do my best to avoid them. I will take one of them if I must, but I won't like it."

Even with all of the frustration and mistrust, blind people do perform, and when there is no other convenient explanation for success, we get the credit, sometimes accompanied by a healthy dollop of admiration. When the admiration is offered not for outstanding performance but for the ordinary job done in the ordinary way in the regular routine, it signifies inferiority. It implies that the blind worker cannot reasonably be expected to be successful—that incompetence and failure are the norm for the blind. The admiration is better than rejection—but not much.

We who are blind do not want recognition because of our blindness. We want to be known for the talent, the energy, and the imagination we possess. We do not believe that the ordinary job performed by a blind person becomes extraordinary or that blindness is amazing. We do believe that the ordinary blind person, given training and opportunity, can perform the ordinary job in the ordinary place of business and do it as well as the ordinary sighted person similarly situated. We also believe that there are many extraordinary blind people, who deserve recognition for what they are and what they do, but not because of blindness. It is nice to be admired, but we want the admiration that we deserve—not false admiration from those who believe that they are superior to us. They can keep their false admiration; we are not prepared to accept a counterfeit. We want the real thing, and we have the talent to earn it.

The various reactions to blindness included in the shift from second-class status to first-class citizenship often exist simultaneously. It is not that one reaction disappears and another takes its place, but that a reaction which has been predominant diminishes to permit a different attitude to become primary. Rejection for the blind still occurs, and toleration is often an element in the attitude of the general public toward us. But there is a growing admiration for talented blind people and, of even more importance, a growing acceptance of the blind in general.

One of the more poignant depictions of blindness during the last twelve months occurred on December 22 of last year on the nationally televised NBC program "Dateline." Desiree Strand, a single parent living in Albany, New York, and working as a business consultant, became blind in 1995 only days before Christmas. The devastation caused by blindness was featured on "Dateline" two years later. The ancient myth that blindness is always an unmitigated tragedy was laid on with a heavy hand. Desiree Strand says at one point during the dialogue that she contemplated suicide. She decided not to kill herself because she has a daughter to raise. She tried rehabilitation but found it less than satisfactory. Then she received training at a guide dog school, and her prospects changed. Excerpts from this extensive program describe the experience this way:

Tonight: The story of a remarkable woman, and the extraordinary dog who came to her rescue! It's about a woman of tenacity and wit [said Jane Pauley, host of the program], a woman whose happy life was torn apart by a terrible twist of fate. Dennis Murphy [the "Dateline" reporter] learned how she came back from the brink with the help of a remarkable friend.

It happened a few days before Christmas [said the reporter], and at first Desiree Strand thought, just maybe, she was getting the best gift of all. She'd lost the vision in her left eye several years before, but now something in her eye was changing—maybe for the better. Tingling with excitement and hope, she made an appointment with the eye doctor.

I went to the doctor's [said Strand] with joyful anticipation that I was getting my sight back in my left eye, and in fact, he informed me I was going blind.

[The reporter asked] And how much later was it, when you actually lost the vision?

[Strand responded] Two days. I turned to my doctor and said, "Oh my God, what am I going to do? What am I going to do, how am I going to live? How will I survive?" He said to me, "I don't know, but you're going to have to find a way."

[The reporter asked] how did you go about the routines of your life?

[Strand answered] I didn't. I lay on my couch, and I waited for the sun to come through the window—so I could feel it. I was afraid of falling. I was afraid of looking foolish, and so I locked myself, literally, in my home. And it dawned on me that I was taking the one place on earth that I loved very much [and making of it a prison]. It was a prison, [so I hated it].

[The reporter asked rhetorically] How could she ever raise her eleven year-old daughter Mandy? Her consulting business was all about numbers—poring over the books for new car dealers. How could a blind person do that?

[Said Strand] I envisioned myself living in a basement on public assistance.

[The reporter stated] her prospects were black as night.

[Said Strand] I'm probably one of the strongest people you'll ever meet. It brought me to my knees in a flash. It was overwhelming, absolutely overwhelming. It was truly the depths of despair that I think any human being can go through. And I had the pills in my hand.

[The reporter sympathized] You were looking over the edge. How did you crawl back, Desiree?

[She responded] I reached down real deep for every ounce of inner strength I could muster. I did it then for my daughter. I do it now for me.

Starting over [said the reporter], Desiree had to put her life back together piece by piece, relearning everything, from getting toothpaste on the toothbrush, to making sure her shoes matched. She put her career on hold. Everything she did now was focused on how to be a blind person.

[Said Strand] The only thing I didn't have to relearn was sleeping.

Let me interrupt the dialogue to reflect that blindness, if it is not properly understood, can be devastating. But I also reflect that the language in the "Dateline" program is written for maximum drama, not for truth. Those of us who are blind need not relearn everything except sleeping. To declare that every skill we possessed before we became blind disappears at the onset of blindness, except the capacity to sleep, is a distortion, a vast overstatement, one that characterizes the entire presentation. But back to the program.

Desiree had devoured books [said the reporter]. Now she was learning to read with her fingertips. She had to learn to get about by tapping a cane.

[Strand said] It's hard as hell to get around. Blindness is lonely. It's like being in a cocoon.

[The reporter said] Potholes, cracks in the sidewalk: things that used to be just annoyances now could break her neck. Desiree's teacher took her to downtown Albany, New York, for a gritty lesson with obstacles galore. Like this bicycle left in the middle of the sidewalk. Desiree knew it was there, somewhere. She overheard two bystanders giving cynical play-by-play as she approached.

Once again I interrupt the "Dateline" presentation to ask you, how often have those of us who are blind broken our necks on potholes, cracks in the sidewalk, or bicycles? Such things are annoyances, but not more than that. But back to the program.

[The reporter asked] The cane really bugs you, doesn't it?

[And Strand replied] It bugs the hell out of me. I hate it. I felt pitiful. I don't want anybody's pity. Absolutely not. Be happy for me. I'm out and about; I'm not locked in my house.

But [said the reporter] the clock of her life was still stopped at that December day. Even though the cane works well for most, Desiree needed something more to get back to where she was before she lost her sight. That's when she decided to heed a friend's advice and investigate the possibility of getting a guide dog.

[Strand said] I've tried so hard to put my life back together again. And this is really the last piece. Now, if the dog could just drive, we'd be all set.

[As Strand departed from the guide dog school, she said, in part] I have spent the last few months of my life getting up each morning and turning my back on the curse of blindness, telling it, "You cannot have me; I am not yours—not today." I find myself walking towards that door once again which was slammed in my face when I became blind; I will open it and resume my life. I don't think I can lose. Indeed, I think I've already won.

And Desiree is back at work [said the reporter]. Back in the thick of her consulting business she loved so much. Desiree and her new silent partner in the firm. [She] is back to where she was before she lost her sight. The clock has started again. It was a cruel Christmas season, the December she went blind. One year later, this past Christmas, the greatest gifts turn out to be the family and friends who saw her through and the companionship of one special partner, who is so much more than that. [Said Strand] My life is wonderful, and, you know, people hear me say that, and they say "My God, you're blind! How can you say you're happy?" I'm happy. I don't feel blind anymore. I felt different before. I don't feel different anymore. I'm the happiest I've ever been in my life.

So says the story on "Dateline" from December 22, 1997, less than seven months ago. Such descriptions are intended to warm the heart, renew the belief in goodness and the human spirit, and remind us that each of us is given a measure of hope and the strength to bring success to our lives if we have faith and the willingness to work. But wait, there is something even better. The reporter has not finished. We return to "Dateline."

This past June [the reporter said], just when Desiree was finally comfortable with Braille and she and Ruth had become an inseparable team, something totally unexpected happened. Desiree went to see a doctor who specializes in low-vision problems. A person resigned to being blind for the rest of her life could see. Her life is enormously improved by her new special glasses. But she is still legally blind and needs Ruth's help to get around. The glasses work only for reading, and that is a struggle. Being able to simply read poems to her daughter Amanda resting at her feet is something she never thought she'd do.

Since we first met Desiree [said the reporter], she's also received a number of awards over the months for her courage and her strength. She was recently named entrepreneur of the year by the state of New York, not just for her skills in business, but for the inspiration she instills in others.

[At one of the gatherings where Strand was honored she said] hope is the thing that we need to move forward. Most importantly, I'd like to thank my twelve-year-old daughter Amanda, who has believed in me as a mother and a provider. For the longest time I felt that blindness was a punishment, something that we [my daughter and I] were going through together. I was wrong. It's a test. We passed, honey; we passed.

[Jane Pauley, the host of the program, closed by telling us these things]: As for Desiree, her condition continues to improve. She tells us she just saw her eyes in the mirror for the first time in two years. Seeing her own eyes, she says, makes her feel like she's been given back her soul.

This is what the "Dateline" program said, and is it any wonder that the blind are misunderstood when such drivel is portrayed on television as reality? "Dateline" saves the essential point to the final moments of the program. The significant factor is not the struggle to rebuild a career, not the reestablishment of a family circle, not the return to community activity. Desiree Strand is informed that she may be able to regain her sight. If she can get it, she will be able to abandon the despondency and despair associated with blindness. Even with the experience of becoming blind, she has permitted herself to be duped. Such training as she has been able to get has not taught her the truth. She equates sight with goodness and blindness with deprivation. Although as a blind person she has declared that her life is happy and that she has already won, she demonstrates no happiness. She thinks that the capacity to see will allow her to regain possession of her own soul.

What a Christmas present for the blind of America—what a shallow, misguided, misleading portrayal! Blindness can be, if it is not properly understood, a tragedy indeed, but blindness is not equivalent to inferiority. It need not deprive a person of a career or prevent a mother from caring for her child. And under no circumstances can it rob us of the essence of our being—it cannot take away our souls.

It is not the blindness itself but the attitudes portrayed by programs like "Dateline" that stifle the initiative and curtail the opportunity. "Dateline" does not reject the blind—at least not overtly. It has admiration for the courage and fortitude of a blind woman, but its assessment is that the courage and fortitude are insignificant compared to sight. We know that this understanding of the relative importance of the capacity to see is unfounded. "Dateline" admires us, but in doing so it asserts our inferiority. We reject that formulation. We are willing to be admired, but only if it is the real thing. And we will never accept a counterfeit.

Becoming first-class citizens requires blind people to perform competently. If we do not, we should face the consequences. For an employer, through a feeling of charity, to decide not to dismiss a blind person who has failed is a disservice not only to the employer but also to us who are blind. An article from the Associated Press which appeared in January, 1998, describes a disciplinary action taken against a blind judge. It says in part:

A state judicial panel Friday suspended Alabama's only blind judge for failing to keep his docket up to date and trying to block testimony that the judge feared would show how poorly he ran his office.

The State Court of the Judiciary also censured Jefferson County Circuit Judge Tony Cothren for sleeping on the bench, but it did not issue sanctions on that count because of undisputed evidence that he suffers from a sleep disorder.

Cothren, forty-eight, was suspended with pay until June 30 and without pay for the remainder of his appointed term, which ends in January, 1999.

A friend, Jefferson County Tax Collector Jack Williams, said he was disappointed in the ruling and he felt Cothren had been "hammered" for having a physical disability.

"I definitely think he didn't get a fair chance" to work as a judge, Williams said.

Cothren also testified he was not aware of ever falling asleep on the bench, although his lawyers said he has a sleep disorder and introduced evidence that people with the disorder don't always realize they doze off for brief times during the day. Numerous witnesses told the court that Cothren fell asleep during court proceedings.

When asked about stacks of court files supposedly littered throughout his office, the judge said he was not aware of them. He said he relied on his staff to tell him about such matters.

Cothren said that, because he is blind, he is more dependent than most judges on his staff members. He said he must trust them to do the work he asks them to do because he cannot see it for himself.

This is the story from the Associated Press. If the judge was disciplined because of blindness, as one person believed, we in the Federation should support him in challenging the decision. But if the reason for dismissal is a failure to get the work done and to stay alert, the decision is fair. It is beyond comprehension that we would ask for special treatment because we didn't know that the stacks of paper representing court files littered the office. There are those who want to hide behind the disability of blindness and blame all their misfortunes on it, but we know better. We want the admiration that our performance deserves, and we have the talent required to earn it. But we insist on the real thing, and we will never accept a counterfeit.

When I was a boy at the school for the blind in Iowa, all people were divided into three categories: the sighted, the blind (sometimes called totals), and the partials—sometimes partially sighted, sometimes partially blind, but most of the time just partials. The difference between the partials and the totals was significant. Partials were permitted to meet guests and give tours of the campus; totals were not. Partials, if they were old enough, could travel downtown by themselves. Totals had to be escorted by partials. Partials were also called "sight-savers" because they could read large-print books. Totals read Braille, which was regarded as slow and clumsy. Being a partial was better than being a total.

Today, at least in certain erudite professional writing, the classification is different. The three categories are the sighted, the blind, and the low-vision. The argument is made that those who have some remaining sight (we used to call them partials) are not really sighted but not really blind. The problems faced by the blind, according to this theory, are fairly well defined and readily addressed. However, those with some remaining sight cannot be helped by the techniques for the blind because these solutions do not apply to them. But the techniques for the sighted don't work either. Consequently, the low-vision live in a shadow-world—suffering from the disadvantages of not being able to handle the world as the sighted do and not being accepted by the blind.

Of course it is tempting to dismiss this line of argument as just one more effort to create a euphemism for blindness—sight-limited, visually impaired, visually challenged, sight-savers, partials, or, as some wags would have it, the hard of seeing. But the professional theorists in the business of advancing the claims of the low-vision say it's not that simple. There is not only a physical difference but a psychological one as well, they say.

A book by Helen Neal entitled Low Vision: What You Can Do to Preserve and Even Enhance Your Usable Sight contains suggestions for adapting the home for the partially sighted. The author believes that the ordinary comfortable home becomes, for the partially sighted, a place of inconvenience and danger. Here are portions of the text that describe this phenomenon:

As vision deteriorates, [says Neal] the once familiar, safe household has a disconcerting way of developing hazards that didn't seem to exist before. Staircases that were once descended without looking down at all become perilous, one tread indistinguishable from another. Scatter rugs that one used to walk on surefootedly slide from underneath. Tiled bathrooms, their light intensity once perfect for shaving or putting on makeup, develop a blinding glare. One is less likely to notice the dog or cat stretched out in pathways from one room to another. Tripping over invisible family pets is a common accident for the partially sighted, adding broken bones to an already crowded list of problems. Some people get rid of pets they have difficulty seeing. But there are other solutions--an elderly woman, whose sight had deteriorated to the point where she kept tripping over the Siamese cat that blended into the gray living room carpet, instead of getting rid of the cat as everyone advised, had the carpet dyed a deep reddish brown that contrasted with the silvery cat.

That is part of what Neal tells us, but there are other, more devastating problems, she believes--problems of perception, problems of communication, problems of psychological wholeness.

Among the reasons many people with defective vision try to cover up [Neal tells us] is fear of being labeled blind if they take rehabilitation courses, and especially of being rejected by the opposite sex. Dating is a major concern of partially sighted young adults and of older adults as well. How do you meet people? Should you admit you have a vision problem if they haven't already noticed? One young man told about going on a first date carrying his white cane—the date ended at the front door. At a dance a young woman whose sight was minimal approached a tall, slender man and asked him to dance. The tall man with close- cropped hair turned out to be a woman, very indignant at having been mistaken for a man. Among the many anxieties besetting the partially sighted is fear of losing sexual drive and attraction. In psychiatric language the eyes are an erogenous zone, organs of sexual excitation. Painters, poets, and lovers have immortalized the attributes of the eyes: their beauty and power to arrest, haunt, invite, question, and transmit messages of desire, melancholy, hatred, adoration. Being unable to see the eyes of others deprives one of what has been called the little consoling flirtations of everyday life.

So says the writing of Helen Neal, but there is more. In her book, she quotes a man who has lost substantial amounts of vision. He says he feels "undesirable and unmanly." He laments not being able to "engage in the sophisticated language of the eyes." He says that his lack of vision leaves him with "no access to the eyes' ambiguities, no playful enigmatic dialogue, no sexual finesse."

I interrupt to ask you how does such a description strike you? Have you lost your sexual drive? Do you feel undesirable and unattractive? Have you lost all of your sexual finesse? But I return to the writing of Helen Neal.

She quotes the partially sighted man this way: "I felt particularly loutish without my eyes. I wondered what signs I was missing, whether her countenance was sparkling or dull, bored or preoccupied or aroused. I yearned for the absolute truth of the eyes' and the body's involuntary code."

Such writing makes a person wonder whether Helen Neal has ever met a blind person. When you are with a person of the opposite sex in a setting where such things matter, can you tell whether your companion is preoccupied, bored, or interested? And even though it seems both obvious and elementary, sex can occur with no involvement of the eyes.

Although Helen Neal purports to offer a fresh perspective concerning the lives of those who have lost much but not all of their sight, there is nothing new in the images presented. She takes extraordinary pains to avoid using the word "blind." She tells us that the eye is a part of the essence of our being, and that this sense organ is necessary to communication in complex relationships. She says that for those who have lost sight, simple chores become difficult and complex. This is not new science, but ancient witchcraft decked out in modern form.

We in the Federation believe that those with some remaining sight should use it to the extent that it is useful. The writers about low vision emphasize sight because they fear blindness. This fear is transmitted to those who are losing vision, and it creates a tremendous anxiety. Suppose that the person with a little sight loses just a little more. Will the cat still be visible on the newly dyed carpet? How much easier it would be to learn the techniques of blindness and to combine those techniques with such sight as remains. How much more effective it would be to abandon the fear of blindness and accept blind people for what we are. Those who seek euphemisms for blindness do not believe that it is respectable to be blind. Although they claim to be among the most modern thinkers on the subject of low vision, their attitude is of a bygone era. They are seeking to reject the blind.

However, such self-proclaimed experts are not the only people with the capacity to write. We who are blind, we who make up the organized blind movement, we will offer our own opinions and our own advice. We have learned that blindness cannot stop us, but the writing of such people as Helen Neal may--if we let them. When we started the Federation, our experience was almost total rejection, and Helen Neal and the others who write in a similar vein would resurrect that benighted thinking of a former day. But they cannot do it, for we will not permit it. This too is the reason we have formed the National Federation of the Blind.

As we gather here at the convention in our thousands from every part of the nation, what are the prospects for the blind in the months and years ahead? The "Dateline" program tells us there is little hope unless we can regain sight. The blind jurist argues that blindness prevents a person from observing that there are stacks of files littered throughout the office. The expert in low vision writes that the lack of sight can cause loss of sexual finesse and a consequent rejection by members of the opposite sex. If this were the total picture of our future, the prospects would be dismal indeed. But it is not the total picture; it is one scene in a much greater panorama.

The complete rejection of the blind as part of society, which was once the norm, has not yet come to an end, but this primitive approach to blindness is much less prominent than it was even just a few years ago. The toleration of blind people is slowly giving way to a sense of admiration and, in many instances, to genuine acceptance. Such a revolution in understanding is not a matter of accident; it comes only to those who earn and demand it. The requirements for success are rigorous and exacting. But no matter what the cost, we in the Federation are equal to the challenge. When work must be done, we will do it. When sacrifices of time, of money, of energy, and of commitment are required, we will make them. When problems confront us, we will solve them. And above all else we will believe in ourselves and each other, and we will share the dedication that must exist to bring the dream of a brighter future to reality.

I will expect of you, the members of the Federation, all that is best within you, and I will not hesitate to ask for your support. For my part I will not ask of you what I am not prepared to give myself. I will stand in the front lines and take whatever comes, and I will not equivocate or flinch or duck responsibility. In the past we have been rejected, tolerated, and admired for the wrong reason—because of our blindness. We will find the strength and the resolve to change these attitudes so that we who are blind gain full acceptance. In so doing we will lose the high profile so often associated with blindness and will reach anonymity. We want no false admiration from those who think us their inferiors. Instead we insist on the real thing, with all the recognition that this implies. And we will not rest until we have it. Join me, and we will make it come true!

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