We As Role Models


We As Role Models

     The monthly chapter meeting of the Metropolitan Blind was under way. The president said, “The next topic is our up-coming picnic for blind kids and their families. We know the importance of role models and we need to be this for them.”

      “I volunteer to grill.” spoke up Gary, a well-groomed and capable totally blind guy in his forties, a bank official by profession.

      “Good! Got you down for that. We need that type of demonstration. I bet there will be several parents who would not think grilling was a safe activity for the blind. So, who volunteers for setting up the tables?”

      “Jane, Sally, and I have talked about taking that duty.” said Martha, a gray haired woman with thick lenses who was retired and known for being very domestic. She had brought treats for the evening. “WOO, YES!” yelled out Martha’s two partners from where they worked passing out the last of the cookies and drinks. Jane, a secretary, partially sighted and a cane user. Sally, with light perception only, a hotel reservationist and a dog guide user.

     “Excellent, we will be in good hands. Then...who for helping with games for the kids? We want to show some of the adaptive recreational equipment that I’m sure some families aren’t aware of.”

     “CLANK, CLATTER!” Two medal folding chairs were knocked into one another by Sarah, a late-arrival. She was a college student, an individual with very restricted fields of vision; a person who chose not to use a cane and was timid, usually more of a follower than a leader. “Ah, I would if someone thought I could help.”

      “Sure Sara, I bet we can find the right spot for you. Well folks, Bob, over here, was saying before the meeting he’d be interested in ram-rodding it.”

      “You bet.” spoke up Bob, a large grin evident in his voice. He was a big guy, fifty’ish, totally blind, an independent businessman, running a string of vending machine sites. “Raising six kids, I got good at making a bunch of little-ones listen and follow orders."

      “That would be great!” spoke up Martha. “We need to show parents that we can monitor kid’s activities and be in charge of more than just one kid at a time.”

      “CLAP!” A single loud two-handed clap heralded the next persons comment. “Yeah, WO! We need to show them!” shouted out Norman, from where he sat hunched in his chair, cookie crumbs on his chin, the front of his shirt showing a sprinkling of fresh coffee spots amongst old mustard stains.

     “NORM...We’ve got a spill here!” Shouted another guy at the same table who like his friend Norman, was unemployed, also disheveled in appearance. “Yeah, we’ll all be there to show these kids and their families what we can do! What jobs have you got for me and Norman, Bob?”

e-mail responses to newmanrl@cox.net

**1. I think children who are blind or visually impaired need two types of role models. Positive ones who can demonstrate good blindness skills and negative
ones like people who demonstrate poor blindness skills. That way children who are blind can see both sides to the picture. They can think to themselves
who do I want to be like the person who refuses to use a cane or dog guide and bumps into things or do I want to be like the person who has good cane skills?
Also children need to realize that everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. We all have our strengths and weaknesses in everything including the blindness
related skills. Some skills I would like to expand on and others I could care less about working on.
I liked the idea of having the kids families exposed to recreational activities that children who are blind can participate successfully in. I also think
children who are blind or visually impaired need to know that they can participate in recreational activities that people who are sighted participate in.
Yes there are certain recreational activities that I think are primarily played by people who are visually impaired or blind like goal-ball for instance
but people who are blind or visually impaired are not always going to have a bunch of from to play sports with who are blind.
I like the girl Sarah in the provoker because she represents that society needs leaders and followers. If everyone was a leader the followers would be
lost and so would the leaders. I would say I'm a follower in a lot of ways and I'm comfortable with that. I really think kids who are blind or visually
impaired need to be comfortable with themselves accept their weaknesses and their strengths. I really think that is true for anyone with or without a

I think it is wonderful that parents of children with disabilities encourage them to do whatever they want in life to foster a positive attitude. I also
think these parents also need to discuss with their children what their limitations are going to be in life. Somehow striking a healthy balance that the
two I think helps the child grow up into a more happier healthier adult who is comfortable with their limitations and feels that they can succeed in life.
I say this because my parents raised me with the attitude of I could do whatever I wanted in life you know like I was going to go to college and get a job.
I got my BA and I don't know if it was worth it. Yes I probably wouldn't be employed now but somehow going to college and being successful should have
been my choice not theirs. I think now I am beginning to see it as I had the choice to be unemployed but children don't like to disappoint their parents
so you do what you are told to do.
I work with children who are blind and a lot of the parents seem to have a lot of guilt and often these kids feel like they cannot and will not accomplish
anything in their lives. Opposite of how I was raised. At least these kids can and will accept their limitations no problem. Now if they could just
understand that they could be successful in life.

Lisa Braille teacher, Guam

**2. It sounds like a battle cry. How about going to the picnic and being natural and having a nice time. That would shine through much more clearly.

Patricia H. USA

**3. Here were all these good-looking people ready to be roll models, except one.
He was all dirty. Sighted people would not be attracted to him because he
had stains all over him. They'd probably think, "Gee, that poor man.
Doesn't he have anyone to take care of his clothes? He needs someone to help
him because he's blind. That's too bad he goes around that way." He should
wash his clothes often, more than he thinks he really has to keep them in
good condition. In addition, he should ask friends or family if he has
spots on his clothes. If he needs assistance with spots, a sighted person
needs to spot his clothes. He'll get remarks like, " Wow, you look great.
How do you keep yourself looking so nice?

Leslie Miller USA

**4. This is a problem for most groups of blind consumers, based purely on their make-up of a cross section of society. However the question that begs to be answered is, do you with a “heads-up” manner use these extremes by addressing them with your guests? And if so, how do you set it up? You could have each person of the chapter tell their story to the assembled guests. You could have a trusted member go to each guest and point out each chapter member in turn and point out what there is to know of why that member is who there are; back ground, what their parents did or possibly did not do, their present level of skill and confidence and success in life, etc. Or, you just leave it all up to the guest to figure out what is what by having them, do their observing with no additional input about each members background. And with any of these options I realize that most people, speaking of the guests, but they can do their own thinking, however isn’t your event one in which you wish to maximize its learning potential?

Mark Best USA
**5. This reminds me of a dinner our visually impaired students prepared for the local adults who are blind. The adults raise money every year and present many
wonderful things the children can use for academics. This year it was boxes of great books in Braille with titles all the other children at school were
reading. The excitedly flopped down on the floor and began moving their fingers swiftly while reading out loud. They just dove into their new treasure
trove and the adults were smiling as the excited murmurs filled the air.
Soon we had the students jump up and wash their hands. Cooking was to be done. They boiled tortellini and drained it in the sink with big mitts to protect
their hands and arms from steam burns. Two of them rinsed the salad fixins and chopped the tomatoes and celery as they had learned in the summer school
independent living program we had done a few months ago. Two sliced sourdough French bread and slathered creamy butter on them. Then we had them serve
the adults who were sitting at tables decorated and set by the kids. We adults held the big pots of tortellini while they scooped out the servings. We
had some tossed salad fly around and everyone giggled a bit. A napkin saved the day as they felt for the clump and picked it up. Later cookies and brownies
were served with hot coffee.
The adults enjoyed the dinner as one student sat down and read a thank you speech he had written in Braille. It was humorous and the room was filled with
laughter as everyone applauded their efforts. I just remember how nice it was to watch the interaction and soon I was sitting there chatting with a fellow
I had gone to High School with. He was married to a visually impaired woman and they were laughing and teasing. We had the greatest visit. Soon the
kids cleared the table and sort of helped us clean up. They wiped the tables and then were drawn back to those boxes of Braille books and we let them
go lay on the floor and read to each other. It was delightful to have everyone experience an evening like this. It was great to for the children to meet
the Blind Adults who hold jobs and make it possible to provide for those coming up in the world and to honor their efforts to make their world a more enlightened

Suzanne Lange Chico

**6. I think that everyone in this thought-provoker could make viable role models for children--well-dressed, active, very much involved in what is defined
to be normal activities that sighted people do. the only thing I hope, of course, is that people like Norm would show up to the picnic better dressed
and with better posture than what he's presenting here at the chapter meeting. Yes, it's one thing to have spilled all over yourself and to clean it up
immediately, but it's another to spill and not do anything about it. It seems that Norm has done the latter. Otherwise, I think in general that everyone
here at this meeting make good candidates as role models.
In addition to putting on a picnic with games and such, however, I think that it would be good for the kids to also be socialized around older blind
kids and professionals. Either the kids could be taken where blind people are employed in different kinds of professions and/or they could be invited
into some of the homes of these very independent blind adults to learn how these kids, who will be future adults, can be just as independent.
I remember when I was ten years old when my mother introduced me to a blind woman. She not only was very independent, but she taught me in little ways
how someone with no sight could be independent--all kinds of things labeled in braille, instructions on how to do something written out in braille, things
around her house arranged in a particular manner where she could find things easily, etc. At that age of ten, though, it didn't make much sense, being
that I was just fascinated by all the things I found in braille. In looking back and finding myself doing the same thing as I grew older, however, I found
that my examining everything was actually an important teaching tool for me as opposed to this gal telling me this, that, and the next thing.
We blind people as role models goes beyond just being role models for other blind children and adults, however. being a role model also extends to
being role models for sighted children and adults as well. How we present ourselves physically, how we carry ourselves, and the kinds of things we do
domestically or professionally carry a long way in how sighted people, particularly those who have long-held stereotypical notions about blind people,
see us. In the town I live in, where one of the schools for the blind is located, most of the independent blind adults live in apartments and are much
lower-functioning compared to my husband and I. From what I'm seeing of people's admiration and respect for us in this town, my husband and I are, more
than likely, the only disabled couple who are home-owners. He's in a wheelchair (but can walk very short distances) and I'm blind. We not only do the
simple tasks of cleaning our house, but we do the comparatively harder tasks of mowing our lawn, cleaning out our gutters, and all the other things people
do to keep their property spruced up. In fact, a neighbor who happened to see us cleaning out our gutters asked us who climbs the ladder only to find
out that I'm the one who does the climbing and cleaning while my husband sets the ladder into position. We also do our own grocery shopping instead of
someone delivering it for us. Moreover, when we go places together or separately, we are well-groomed and are dressed in properly pressed clothes. I
could go on and on with all this, but I think I've given a good enough picture of us.
In other words, living by example and allowing for people to observe and look around are more important methods of teaching than telling people how
to do different things. Of course, different tips from other blind or sighted people do help along the way in fine-tuning adaptive methods of functioning
independently already learned.


**7. This is a very good thought provoker. It's made me think of the challenges
I face on a daily basis as someone who is blind, and as an American Indian.
Some of us have stereotypes in two or more worlds we have to try to live up
to ... or in some cases, down. As an example, I've seen students work
together in a center setting where some got together to cook a big dinner.
Also, most members of NFB work together to coordinate events and some are
good at fundraising too. It's simply a matter of seeing what our talents
are and seeing where they fit in.

As an American Indian, I've had to show people that I wasn't stupid or that
all I do is drink. Most people who know me know that neither are true. I
hope the first is the most true. *grin* We've had to step out into the
world to show that we can function in the non-Indian world; that we can
educate, and to be educated as well.

If anything, I hope I've given you all some food for thought.

Bonnie Ainsworth Laramie, Wyoming USA

**8. I got to thinking about some things. Rather than focus just on the blindness community, I'm going to talk about the organization at which I work and have been involved with since about 2003, give or take. It is called Center for Independent Futures. We are a nonprofit organization, and the co-founders--all of whom have family members with special needs--wanted it to remain a nonprofit simply due to the deplorable state services here in Illinois for people with special needs. The majority of our staff have extensive experience working with the special-needs population both in IL and other states. Our organization was modeled after an agency in Massachusetts, and we have also borrowed some ideas from a program in Canada. I have been working in our office part-time as an administrative assistant since late August of last year, and I really enjoy it. Each resident here has life-skills tutors who come work on various things with us. One of the great things I like about Center for Independent Futures is that there is no set way to do stuff, and the staff all totally embrace the idea that nobody is exactly alike and one size does not fit all. We the residents are included in the hiring of each person, and we are highly encouraged to give feedback about each person who is interviewed. Right before I moved into this building, a luncheon was held and we each got to meet and talk with several potential life-skills tutors. The first two tutors I had worked out great and I got along with them very well, and the same is true with my current tutor. In addition, these tutors are scheduled according to the residents' needs. To my understanding that's an element which is missing in most if not all other agencies. It is certainly missing in the VR system at least for the visually-impaired, and that really bothers me. I think that if VR recipients were integrated some way into the hiring and firing process, things would go a million times better and none of us would feel alienated. I'm very happy to report that there hasn't been a mistake to date made in hiring various staff and volunteer employees at Center for Independent Futures. Everybody is extremely competent and friendly. One of our part-time paid staff members--who is a neighbor of mine--has special needs but he's doing a terrific job. There's also someone with special needs on our Board of Directors, and I knew him before CIF even got started.

Jake Joehl