This is the second Kernel Book to be issued this year, and the fifth in the series. The first Kernel Book was published in 1991, just over two years ago.
When we started the series, we hoped it would reach a wide audience and bring a new understanding about blindness-that it would show blind people as they really are, ordinary human beings with the normal range of wants and wits, strengths and weaknesses. I think it is fair to say that we are well on the way to achieving that objective-or, at least, that we have made substantial progress toward it.
We have now published more than two million Kernel Books, and the demand for them shows no sign of diminishing. An increasing number of people (very often strangers I meet as I travel over the country) tell me they have read more than one of these books and now feel that a great deal of the mystery has gone out of blindness for them. These strangers (they usually don't stay strangers) feel comfortable in asking me questions about blindness-how a blind person travels from place to place, how clothes are selected, and how the ordinary tasks of daily living are performed. But they also feel comfortable talking about personal matters-how it feels to be blind, and everything from perception of color to courtship and marriage.
This, of course, is what we hoped would happen. The people whose stories appear in these pages are mostly just like you except that they can't see. This doesn't give them unusual talents, such as improved hearing or special musical ability; nor does it curse them with unbearable burdens. If those of us who are blind have appropriate training and equal opportunity, we can get along as well as anybody else-earning our own way, having a family, and leading a regular life. And, after all, isn't that really the way it is with you? If you didn't have a chance for an education and if everybody thought you were incompetent and inferior, isn't that pretty much the way it would be? That's how it is with the blind.
In short, if we have a chance and good training, we'll do all right, neither needing nor wanting custody or care. And one more thing: We want you to know about the National Federation of the Blind. Established in 1940, this organization has, in the opinion of most of us who know about such things, been the single most important factor in helping blind people stand on their own feet and do for themselves. We who are blind still have a long way to go, but we are getting there-and the Kernel Books are helping.
Some of you already know many of the people you will meet in this volume. Others will be new to you. Whether you are a first-time reader or have been with us from the beginning of the series, I hope you will find the present volume interesting and informative. If you have questions about blindness or know somebody who needs our help, let us know. Meanwhile, here is the fifth Kernel Book. It tells of a journey-a journey which, in its own way, is as significant as the trek across the prairie in the last century by the pioneers, or the landing on the moon in the present century. It is the journey of the blind from second-class status to hope and opportunity.