THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND OF MAINE NEWS MATTERS NEWSLETTER FOR MARCH 2013
GOAL BALL & SO MUCH MORE!
Vol.2 Issue 3
editor: Patricia E. C. Estes
"The Voice of the Blind in Maine-Changing What it Means to be Blind"
Leon Proctor, Jr., President
In this issue:
FROM THE EDITOR: Guarding against Identity Theft is up to You!
Even though I am a Mainiac, born and bred, people I meet don't believe me. My mother made sure that we never dropped an "r", especially on our last name, Clark. She didn't want us four children to be treated differently if we sounded like a Yankee. my dad, Arthur Clark, was a hopeless case of Yankee drawl. Even though I grew up with his dialect ("uncorrected" by my mother), I still cannot speak "Mainer" with any credibility. My mother didn't speak English until she went to school at six. Her parents were both French-Canadian extending back for generations. French was her first language and was spoken at all family functions that we went to as I grew up. However, my mother didn't "sound" Franco-American at all and she never dropped an "r." Why did she go to such lengths for so many years? My mother felt that she had experienced tremendous ridicule and prejudice for being French and she told me that it was like being a "second class citizen." She didn't want her children to go through the same heart ache that she had growing up. We stayed very close to our Memere and Pepere Bourque, of course, but never joined in the family chatter or in singing the songs. Consequently, I have a great disconnect with a full half of my heritage. That part of my identity was almost completely erased ...for my own good. it's a great loss I can never get back, totally, and for which my mother apologized for profusely in later years. Why am I telling you all this? Think about it.
When I was twelve, my eye doctor explained to me that I was "legally blind" and what that term would mean in my life: no driving, large print, etc. Then the case worker from the State started using "partially sighted" and tried to get me to focus on what I could see and to use that vision. Many migraines later, at eighteen I went to a summer program for college bound students in Maine's DBVI. We spent the summer at Syracuse University (unlike any other college or university in Maine!) and we separated into two groups: the Partials and the totals. I then became a "high partial." But, darn it, the kids who were in the totally Blind group seemed to get to do more, go more places and the totals just had more fun! It seemed that they generally had skills that I didn't that enabled them to travel independently with a white cane, to form reading groups with Braille notes and I stayed with the Partials and stuck to a one block area around our dorm, pretty much. I was never offered a Braille lesson or a cane travel lesson because I "had too much sight." sure! And a much smaller world!
A few years later, I was introduced to the National Federation of the Blind. Now everyone just referred to me as plain old "blind." This was confusing to me until I learned that the NFB philosophy was that "one is blind to the extent one needs alternative techniques to perform the same task as a sighted person." Well then, I was indeed "blind" and that really simplified things for me. No more of this definition confusion for me! Blind was and is blind! Simple. While this definition of blindness works well for me, it may not for every legally blind person. And I feel that is a personal choice for the visually impaired person to decide and for others, blind and sighted alike, to respect. A sighted person can no more insist that I be called this or that when it comes to my blindness than I can tell someone of another race or from another culture what they will be called! That is their right, prerogative and choice. Do you see where I am going?
As blind people in Maine, we are told what to call ourselves, "visually impaired" no matter what degree of sight we may have...or not. This is not a legal category and has caused confusion for blind people as they try to figure out if they might be eligible for certain programs. And it is a lie and a huge infringement on our identity! The deaf wouldn't stand for others to freely pick and choose their identity for them! As you may be a new member or checking out the NFB for yourself or another, you will notice this big difference: Federationists are OK with being blind. Period. Yes, we "happen to be blind" , by the same token we "happen" to have lots in common with a number of people who speak the same language, deal with the same problems and who might have some resources to share. I am very clear that referring to myself as "blind" works for me and keeps me honest! It keeps me from relying on damaged eyes that give me flawed information! Being blind is not having a problem with the life skills of blindness to get a job done. It saves me eyestrain and migraines. Choosing blindness gives me permission to live in that world and to explore solutions and to speak with those who just happen to speak the same language! The bonus is that these skills are critical for me to have in order to function successfully in the regular world of the sighted, as well. And I encourage you to ask us about this and to question if it is right for you. Professional or not, a sighted person just cannot relate. When you have that clarity about who you are and when you are completely comfortable with the word "blind" being in your life, protect that from those who would take that confidence from you! Be on guard for those, like my mother, who would talk you out of your identity "for your own good"!
The skills of blindness are tools for success, not an admission of retreat. I am very clear that being told to "use my usable vision" is like telling someone with vertigo, "walk where the room isn't spinning...right there, and you'll be fine!" I don't trust that, do you? It is a nonsensical statement...if I have "usable vision," where is it and what am I doing here and why didn't Dr. Beale, and not the VR worker, show me where my "usable vision" is? Sure, some spaces in my visual field might test better than others...on a "good" day, but I am still going to get results that I can't rely on to be accurate. And having written this, there still will be those who would try to talk me out of my identity as I have described it! I am clear that I "happen to be" a blind, Franco-American! And have a few other traits thrown in just for fun!
Now, where is that creton spread for my sandwich?
We will arrive a bit early to setup and Mark Sinclair of NABA tells me that everyone will have a chance to play. And since all Goal Ball players will be wearing sleep shades, our sighted friends can play, also! For those not playing, Pettingill Park is a nice place for walks and other activities. See you in a week. Contact Lee Ann at 713.8683 or Patty at 344.8292 if you have any questions.
*Lighthouse Chapter Meeting by Conference Call, Thursday, March 21 from 7:00-8:00
*Saturday, April 6 The BETA Students & Parents will hear about Lee Ann Nelson's recent training with her new Guide Dog, Ozzie. We can discuss Guide Dog school trainings, white canes and/or dogs and watch Lee Ann and Ozzie as they work. If the weather is nice, we will be at the Estes' home, 790 Pownal Road in Auburn from about ten to noon. Otherwise we will meet at the Androscoggin chamber of Commerce large conference room at 4 Lisbon Street, Lewiston for the same time frame. call Lee Ann 713.8683 or Patty 344.8292 with questions. we will not be walking out on the road at the Estes' and watch for Skip and help with directions for parking. We will be in the back yard here and walk to Nana's long paved driveway down the path just next door.
*Saturday, April 27, at Pat's Pizza in Augusta we will have our 2nd Annual (in person) At Large Lighthouse Chapter Meeting from promptly at 10:00 until 2:00. We will each be ordering from Pat's menu for lunch and will be responsible for our own checks. It may be time for some to renew membership dues...or to join! (which you can do now from our website, by the way). We will have updates from LCB, Newsline and more as well as assistive technology help on the iPhone, iPad and other devices with Roger Cusson and helpers. Hope to see you there! We will miss our mentor and good friend, Ron Gardner, this year but we all seem to have a good time just the same!
The Affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind of Maine is growing and on the move! We have applicants for the NFB National Scholarships, we have a great Legislative Team, our BETA (Blindness, Education, Training and Advocacy) Student and Parents group is coming together (watch for a Career Day in May and also for a BETA FB Page!), Newsline is being demonstrated to great reviews and our members from Elliot to Grande Isle are on the look-out for opportunities to teach and to spread our basic NFB belief in the capacity of the blind to join our sighted peers on terms of equality and effectiveness. The economic determinations from the Statehouse are being met with creativity and collaboration. This same critical thinking and creative problem solving extends to our fundraising, discussion of transportation issues in Maine and to the lack of responsiveness to the neglect of help for the blind of all ages to acquire the skills for independence, no matter where they reside in our State. We work together and one on one to move forward and to continue to assist where we can to share our confidence and our experience that vision is not a requirement for great quality of life!
The NFB of Maine: "We know who we are and we will not go back!"-Dr. Kenneth Jernigan