[Nfbc-info] The Nature of Indipendence

Hoby Wedler hobywedler at gmail.com
Tue Jul 16 18:28:46 UTC 2013


This speech contributes significantly to why I became a part of the NFB.
-- Hoby


-----Original Message----- 
From: Jim Barbour
Sent: Sunday, July 14, 2013 2:41 PM
To: NFB of California List
Subject: Re: [Nfbc-info] The Nature of Indipendence

Listening to this speech reminds me how much I really enjoy and respect
Dr. Jernigan's writing and speaking styles.  He does an excellent job
of getting his points across in a very engaging style.

Jim

On Sun, Jul 14, 2013 at 02:30:43PM -0700, Jim Barbour wrote:
> Here is a link to the audio of this speech.  I agree, well worth the
> time to read/listen.
>
> https://nfb.org/Images/nfb/Audio/BanqSpeech/The_Nature_of_Independence.mp3
>
> Jim
>
> On Sat, Jul 13, 2013 at 08:47:18PM -0700, Rob wrote:
> > Hello all. Here is an article tht was sent to me from the nfb of 
> > Illinois.
> >
> > It is long, but it is well worth reading.
> >
> > This is my favorite NFB speech.
> >
> > The Nature of Independence by Kenneth Jernigan From the Editor: Given 
> > the number of articles the Monitor has run lately about the issue of 
> > independence, it seemed appropriate to look back at this address 
> > delivered to the annual convention of the National Federation of the 
> > Blind held in Dallas, Texas, in 1993. Never has there been such a cogent 
> > argument differentiating the tools and techniques to achieve 
> > independence from the attitudes and behaviors that express true 
> > independence. Here is what Dr. Jernigan said to the spellbound audience 
> > who responded enthusiastically to his remarks: Shortly after last year's 
> > convention, I received a number of letters from students at the 
> > Louisiana Center for the Blind. It was clear that the letters were 
> > written as the result of discussions held at the Center and that, 
> > although the apparent topic was independent mobility, the real issue was 
> > independence in general, and how blind persons should live and behave. I 
> > want to share those letters with you, then tell you how I answered them, 
> > and finally say a few things about what I think independence really is. 
> > The letters are all dated July 23, 1992. Here is a composite of them: 
> > Dear Dr. Jernigan: I am a sophomore in high school. Right now, I am in a 
> > teenage program that the Louisiana Center for the Blind is sponsoring. 
> > It is the STEP program. That means Summer Training and Employment 
> > Project. We are allowed to get jobs and make money as well as have 
> > classes. A few weeks ago I attended the national convention. I really 
> > enjoyed all your speeches and everything. People noticed that you and 
> > Mr. Maurer walked sighted guide sometimes, [I interrupt to call your 
> > attention to the almost code-word use of the term "sighted guide. Not 
> > "walking with a sighted guide" or "walking with a sighted person" or 
> > "holding the arm of a sighted person," but "walking sighted guide. This 
> > makes it clear that the concept of "sighted guide" has been the topic of 
> > considerable conversation. But back to the letter.] and we thought you 
> > all would never walk sighted guide, because you all are so highly 
> > involved in the NFB. I never thought sighted guide was OK until then. So 
> > why did you all use sighted guide? I know there are many reasons why 
> > this might be. We discussed this in one of our talk times and came up 
> > with one reason this might be. We know that you all have to be at 
> > meetings all the time, and it would be faster if you would use sighted 
> > guide. [I interrupt again to call your attention to the use in the 
> > following sentences of the depersonalized "it. Now, back to the letter.] 
> > I am sure you don't use it so much that you lose your  cane travel 
> > skills. I am not trying to say this is wrong. I was just wondering why 
> > you do this. Someone brought up that if we, as the people being trained 
> > at the moment, were caught using sighted guide, they would fuss at us. 
> > And I realize that you are not the one in training, so it is not wrong. 
> > We couldn't use sighted guide, because we might want to use it more than 
> > the cane if we use too much of it. Yours truly, Dear Dr. Jernigan: 
> > During this past convention in North Carolina some of us noticed that 
> > you did not walk with a cane. I do not understand this at all. I can 
> > understand that you have to be in many places in a short amount of time 
> > at the conventions, and that might be the reason you went sighted guide. 
> > But I also know that when you came for a tour of the Center, you also 
> > went sighted guide. We do not understand this. We all have our own 
> > theories as to why you went sighted guide, but we want to get the 
> > correct answer straight from the horse's mouth. Your fellow 
> > Federationist, That's a very clear-cut letter, and I am pleased to be 
> > called that end of the horse. Here is the last one: Dear Dr. Jernigan: 
> > This  year I came to Charlotte to attend my third national convention of 
> > the NFB. I am currently a student at the Louisiana Center for the Blind 
> > in the STEP program for blind teenagers. This program stresses cane use, 
> > Braille literacy, employment readiness, and self-confidence based on 
> > achievement. While at the convention I heard from a friend that you were 
> > never actually seen using your cane. I discussed this with a group of 
> > friends, and it was decided that you most likely had many places to go 
> > and had to get to them quickly. This made sense, and the question seemed 
> > settled. Then one of the group remembered you using sighted guide during 
> > a tour you took of the Center while passing through Ruston on the way to 
> > the Dallas convention in 1990. This was such a hectic situation, and the 
> > question was no longer settled because the only alternative travel 
> > technique anyone noticed you using was sighted guide. I do not mean this 
> > letter to imply any disrespect towards you, the Federation, or its many 
> > achievements. If the Federation had not pushed so hard for independence 
> > for the blind, I would have no grounds on which to write this letter. It 
> > is because of my own personal convictions about independence that I ask 
> > why the figurehead of the NFB is not himself using the alternative 
> > techniques that his student, Joanne Wilson, has been teaching for nearly 
> > ten years in Ruston. I would prefer to end the letter on a positive 
> > note. I realize that you are responsible for the training I am currently 
> > receiving, and I am grateful for it. I am not implying that you have no 
> > cane skills, because I do not honestly know. Sincerely, These are 
> > straightforward letters, seriously written. They raise fundamental 
> > questions, questions that deserve a reasoned answer. Here is the 
> > expanded substance of what I wrote: Baltimore, Maryland July 29, 1992 
> > Under date of July 23, 1992, the three of you wrote to ask me why I 
> > didn't travel alone with a cane during the national convention in 
> > Charlotte and why on a visit to the Louisiana Center in 1990 I took a 
> > sighted person's arm instead of walking alone with a cane. I appreciate 
> > your letters and will tell you why I do what I do. In the first place 
> > let us assume that I didn't have any cane travel skills at all. This 
> > might be comparable to the situation of a parent who had no education 
> > but dreamed of an education for his or her child. That parent might 
> > preach the value of education and might work to send the child to high 
> > school and then to college. The parent might, though personally 
> > uneducated, feel tremendous satisfaction at the learning and 
> > accomplishment which his or her effort had made possible. In such 
> > circumstances what attitude should the child have toward the parent? The 
> > child might be critical of the parent for his or her poor grammar and 
> > lack of education and might even be ashamed to associate with the 
> > parent-or the child might feel gratitude for the sacrifice and the work 
> > that had made the education possible. This is not an apt analogy since I 
> > have perfectly good cane skills, but it has elements of truth about it. 
> > When I was a child, there were no orientation centers or mobility 
> > training. The only canes available were the short heavy wooden type, and 
> > we youngsters associated carrying a cane with begging, shuffling along, 
> > and being helpless. It was not until I finished college and had taught 
> > for four years in Tennessee that I first carried a cane. It was made of 
> > wood and had a crook handle. I might also say that it was longer than 
> > most of those in vogue at the time, forty inches. I started using it in 
> > 1953, just before going to California to work at the newly established 
> > state orientation center for the blind. The Center had been in operation 
> > for only a few months and had enrolled only four or five students by the 
> > time of my arrival. In those days the California Center was using 
> > forty-two-inch aluminum canes. They were a tremendous improvement over 
> > the forty-inch wooden cane I had been carrying, and I immediately 
> > adopted the new model. Even so, it seemed that something better was 
> > needed. I worked with the person who had been employed as the travel 
> > teacher, and we experimented with different techniques and canes. In the 
> > mid-1950s the solid fiberglass cane was developed. It was first made by 
> > a blind man in Kansas, but we at the California center popularized it 
> > and brought it into general use. We also worked to improve the tip. Our 
> > students received intensive training, those with any sight using 
> > blindfolds (or, as we called them, sleep shades), and our students and 
> > graduates were identifiable in any group of blind persons because of 
> > their competence and ease in travel. Since they had enjoyed the benefit 
> > of our study and experimentation, as well as intensive instruction and 
> > the time to practice, many of them probably became better travelers than 
> > I-and I felt pride and satisfaction in the fact. We were advancing on 
> > the road to freedom and independence. In 1958 I went to Iowa as director 
> > of the state commission for the blind, and I carried with me the 
> > experience and knowledge I had acquired in California plus a 48-inch 
> > fiberglass cane and a head full of new ideas and hopes for the future. I 
> > hired a young sighted man who had no experience at all with blindness 
> > and spent several days giving him preliminary instruction in mobility, 
> > using blind techniques. First I had him follow me all over Des Moines, 
> > watching me use the cane while crossing streets and going to various 
> > places. Then, he put on sleep shades, and I worked with him to learn 
> > basic skills. Next I sent him to California for three or four weeks to 
> > gain further experience and to compare what I had taught him with what 
> > the California Center was doing. Finally he came back to Des Moines, and 
> > I spent several more weeks working with him until (though sighted) he 
> > could (under blindfold) go anywhere he wanted safely and comfortably 
> > using a cane. During all of that time I worked with him on attitudes, 
> > for unless one believes that he or she is capable of independence as a 
> > blind person, independence in travel (as in other areas) is not truly 
> > achievable. This travel instructor's name is Jim Witte, and he developed 
> > into one of the best I have ever known. Iowa students rapidly became the 
> > envy of the nation. You could single them out in any group because of 
> > their bearing, their confidence, and their skill in travel. As had been 
> > the case in California, some of them undoubtedly traveled better than I, 
> > and I felt a deep sense of fulfillment in the fact. Joanne Wilson (the 
> > director of your own Louisiana Center) was one of those students, and I 
> > am sure she has told you how it was at the Iowa Center-how students were 
> > treated, what was expected of them, the relationship between staff and 
> > students, our dreams for the future, and how we set about accomplishing 
> > those dreams. Arlene Hill (one of your teachers) was also an Iowa 
> > student. Both Joanne and Arlene are living examples of what we taught 
> > and how it worked. So are President Maurer, Mrs. Maurer, Peggy Pinder, 
> > Ramona Walhof, Jim Gashel, Jim Omvig, and at least fifty others in this 
> > audience. It was in Iowa that we developed the hollow fiberglass cane. 
> > It was an improvement over the solid cane, lighter and more flexible. We 
> > also gradually began to use longer and longer canes. They enabled us to 
> > walk faster without diminishing either safety or grace. As I have 
> > already told you, I started with a 40-inch wooden cane. Then I went to 
> > 42-inch aluminum-and after that to solid fiberglass, then to hollow 
> > fiberglass, and (three or four years ago) to hollow carbon fiber. As to 
> > length, I went from 40 inches, 42, then to 45, 48, 49, 51, 53, 55, and 
> > 57. At present I use a 59-inch cane. It seems about right to me for my 
> > height and speed of travel. Will I ever use a still longer cane? I don't 
> > know-but at this stage I don't think so. Obviously there comes a time 
> > when a longer cane is a disadvantage instead of a help. I've told you 
> > all of this so that you may understand something of my background and 
> > approach to independence in travel, and independence in general. The 
> > doctors who established the medical schools a hundred years ago were 
> > (with notable exceptions) not generally as competent and skilled as the 
> > doctors they trained, for they did not have the benefit of the kind of 
> > concentrated teaching they themselves were providing. Obviously they 
> > could not stand on their own shoulders. Through their students they 
> > extended their dreams into the future, building possibilities that they 
> > themselves had not known and could never hope to realize. So it is with 
> > me in relation to you. You are the third generation of our mobility 
> > trainees, having the benefit of what I have learned and also of what 
> > Joanne and the other Iowa graduates have learned. Unless you make 
> > advances over what we have done, you will, in a very real sense, fail to 
> > keep faith with those who have gone before you and those who will 
> > follow. In this context I would expect and hope that some of you will 
> > become better travelers (and, perhaps, better philosophers and teachers) 
> > than I, and if you do, I will take joy in it. Having said all of this, 
> > let me come back to my own travel skills. During the 1950s I traveled 
> > completely alone on a constant basis throughout this entire country, 
> > going to almost every state and dealing with almost every kind of 
> > environment-urban area, city bus, taxi, complicated street crossing, 
> > rural setting, hired private car, country road, and almost anything else 
> > you can imagine. During late December and early January of 1956 and 
> > 1957, for example, I traveled alone to fourteen states in eleven days, 
> > writing testimony for the NFB's Right to Organize bill. It was no big 
> > deal, and not something I thought about very much. It was simply a job 
> > that had to be done, and the travel was incidental and taken for 
> > granted. I have taught travel instructors and have developed new 
> > techniques and canes. I travel whenever and wherever I want to go in the 
> > most convenient way to get there-and sometimes that means alone, using a 
> > cane. Once when I was in Iowa, students observed that I walked to a 
> > barber shop one day with another staff member, and they raised with me 
> > some of the same questions you have raised. That afternoon in our 
> > business class (you may call it by some other name-philosophy or 
> > something else) I dealt with the matter. I told the students some of the 
> > things I have told you, and then I went on to say something like this: 
> > Although what I have told you should mean that even if I couldn't travel 
> > with much skill at all I might still not merit your criticism, we don't 
> > need to leave it at that. Follow me. We are going to take a walk through 
> > downtown traffic-and see that you keep up. I took the lead, and we 
> > walked for eight or ten blocks at a fast clip. When we got back to the 
> > classroom, I didn't need to tell them what kind of travel skills I had. 
> > They knew. Then, we talked about why I had walked to the barber shop 
> > with another staff member. In that particular instance I had matters to 
> > discuss, and I felt I couldn't afford the luxury of doing nothing while 
> > going for a haircut. As a matter of fact, in those days I often made a 
> > practice of taking my secretary with me to the barber shop and dictating 
> > letters while getting my hair cut. Of course, I could have made a point 
> > of walking alone each time just to make a visible demonstration of my 
> > independence, but somehow I think that such insecurity might have made 
> > the opposite point and would certainly have been counterproductive. In 
> > the Iowa days I was not only director of the state Commission for the 
> > Blind but also first vice president and then president of the National 
> > Federation of the Blind. Both were full-time jobs, requiring me to use 
> > to best advantage every waking minute. I was up before 6:00 to go to the 
> > gym with the men students; I wrote over a hundred letters a week; I 
> > entertained legislators and other civic leaders an average of two or 
> > three nights a week to gain support for our program; I traveled 
> > throughout the state to make speeches; and I spent long hours working 
> > individually with students. Besides that, I handled the administrative 
> > details of the Commission and the NFB on a daily basis. At the same time 
> > I was doing organizing in other states and dealing with problems brought 
> > to me by Federationists throughout the country. In that context it would 
> > have been a bad use of my time (and both Federationists and Iowa 
> > students and staff would have thought so) for me to spend much of my day 
> > walking down the street to make a visible show of my independent travel 
> > skills. I traveled alone when I needed to, and I gave demonstrations to 
> > students, legislators, and others when I needed to do that-but I never 
> > did either to convince myself or to establish in my own mind the fact of 
> > my capacity or independence. It didn't seem necessary. So what about the 
> > NFB convention in Charlotte? I was in charge of convention organization 
> > and arrangements, and there were a thousand details to handle. There 
> > were four hotels and a convention center, each with its own staff and 
> > each requiring separate handling and a myriad of decisions. Sometimes I 
> > had not only one but two or three people with me as I went from place to 
> > place, talking about what had to be done and sending this person here 
> > and that person yonder. Even so, I might (you may say) have refused to 
> > take the arm of one of the persons with me and used my cane to walk 
> > alone. But for what reason? When a blind person is walking through a 
> > crowd or down a street with somebody else and trying to carry on a 
> > meaningful conversation, it is easier to take the other person's arm. 
> > This is true even if you are the best traveler in the world and even if 
> > both of you are blind. In fact, I contend that there are times when 
> > refusing to take an arm that is offered may constitute the very opposite 
> > of independence. If, for instance, you are a blind person accompanying a 
> > sighted person through a busy restaurant closely packed with tables and 
> > chairs, do you create a better image of independence by trying to get 
> > through the maze alone, with the sighted person going in front and 
> > constantly calling back, "This way! This way! or by simply taking the 
> > sighted person's arm and going to the table? What is better about 
> > following a voice than following an arm? From what I have said, I 
> > presume it is clear which method I favor. Of course, if no arm is 
> > conveniently available, you should be prepared to use another method, 
> > regardless of how crowded the restaurant or how labyrinthine the path. 
> > In either case you should do it without losing your cool. But back to 
> > the convention. When you are trying to get through crowds quickly to go 
> > from meeting to meeting, and possibly also trying to find different 
> > people in those crowds in a hurry, the efficiency of sighted assistance 
> > multiplies. Incidentally, even if I were sighted and doing the things I 
> > do at national conventions, I would want two or three persons with me-to 
> > look for people in crowds, to send for this and that, and to talk and 
> > advise with. As an example, consider what happened at last year's 
> > convention with respect to Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander. He 
> > has normal eyesight and is in every other way, so far as I know, 
> > able-bodied and energetic. I am sure that he can drive a car and walk 
> > vigorously. Yet, he sent an assistant to Charlotte a day in advance of 
> > his arrival. The assistant scouted out the convention and then went to 
> > the airport to meet the Secretary. The assistant drove the car from the 
> > airport to the convention, accompanied the Secretary into the meeting 
> > hall, went with him to the platform, met him at the edge of the platform 
> > when he finished speaking, and drove him back to the airport. If the 
> > Secretary had been blind, I wonder if somebody would have said, "Just 
> > look! He's not independent. He has to have a sighted person with him at 
> > all times, accompanying him everywhere he goes and driving his car. 
> > Since I am not a student trying to learn to travel independently or to 
> > establish within my own mind that I can compete on terms of equality 
> > with others, and since I can and do travel by myself when that is most 
> > convenient, I feel no particular obligation to make a demonstration when 
> > it is more efficient to do otherwise. If I were a student, I should and 
> > would behave differently. As an example, I think a student should always 
> > use a rigid (not a collapsible) cane. But I generally use one that is 
> > collapsible. Why? Students often are uncomfortable with canes, and if 
> > they are allowed to use those that fold or telescope, they may tend to 
> > hide or conceal them because they think (even if subconsciously) that it 
> > will make them look less conspicuous. I have carried a cane for so long 
> > that I would feel naked without it, and I always carry one whether I am 
> > with somebody or not. Because they were so rickety, I refused to carry a 
> > collapsible cane until we developed the telescoping carbon fiber model. 
> > I pull it to such a tight fit that it doesn't collapse as I use it, and 
> > I almost never collapse it unless I'm in close quarters. Again, it is a 
> > convenience, and my sense of independence is not so brittle that I think 
> > I have to carry the rigid cane to prove to myself or others that I am 
> > not ashamed to be seen with it or uncomfortable about blindness. When I 
> > was teaching orientation classes in California and Iowa, I often said to 
> > those in attendance that students at a center tend to go through three 
> > stages: fear and insecurity, rebellious independence, and normal 
> > independence-FI, RI, and NI. During fear and insecurity one tends to be 
> > ultra-cautious and afraid of everything, even if at times putting on a 
> > good front. During rebellious independence one tends to be overly 
> > touchy, resenting anybody who attempts to offer him or her any kind of 
> > assistance at all, even when the assistance is appropriate and needed. 
> > In the rebellious independence stage one is likely to be a pain in the 
> > neck, both to him or her and others-but this is a necessary step on the 
> > road from fear and insecurity to normal independence. Unfortunately some 
> > people never get beyond it. Hopefully one will eventually arrive at the 
> > stage of normal independence, with relatively little need constantly to 
> > prove either to oneself or others that one is capable of independence 
> > and first-class citizenship. This means maturity in dealing with 
> > condescending treatment and it also means flexibility in accepting or 
> > rejecting offers of assistance, kindness, or generosity. Sometimes such 
> > things should be graciously or silently taken, sometimes endured, and 
> > sometimes rejected out of hand-but the reason should never be because 
> > you doubt your own worth, have inner feelings of insecurity, or wonder 
> > whether you are inferior because of blindness. Normal independence also 
> > means not rationalizing your fear or inability by saying that you are 
> > just doing what is convenient and efficient and that you don't feel the 
> > need to prove something when in reality you are just covering up the 
> > fact that you are as helpless as a baby-and it means not going so far 
> > the other way and being so touchy about your so-called independence that 
> > nobody can stand to be around you. It means getting to the place where 
> > you are comfortable enough with yourself and secure enough with your own 
> > inner feelings that you don't have to spend much time bothering about 
> > the matter one way or another. It means reducing blindness to the level 
> > of a mere inconvenience and making it just one more of your everyday 
> > characteristics-a characteristic with which you must deal just as you do 
> > with how strong you are, how old you are, how smart you are, how 
> > personable you are, and how much money you have. These are the goals, 
> > and probably none of us ever achieves all of them all of the time. 
> > Nevertheless, we are making tremendous progress-and we are farther along 
> > the road now than we have ever been. I am pleased that you wrote me, and 
> > I am especially pleased that you are able to receive training at the 
> > Louisiana Center. It is grounded in Federation philosophy, and it is one 
> > of the best. You are getting the chance while you are young to learn 
> > what blindness is really like, and what it isn't like. You have the 
> > opportunity to profit from the collective experience of all of us-the 
> > things we tried that didn't work, and those that did. On the foundation 
> > of love and organizational structure which we have established, you can 
> > make for yourselves better opportunities than we have ever known-and I 
> > pray that you will. The future is in the hands of your generation, and I 
> > hope you will dream and work and build wisely and well. Sincerely, 
> > Kenneth Jernigan That is what I wrote, and there have been a number of 
> > subsequent developments. One person, hearing these letters, said, "I can 
> > see your point, but don't you think you should try to be a role model? 
> > To which I replied, "I thought that was what I was doing. Then, there 
> > was the letter I got about a month ago from a person who attended a 
> > seminar at the National Center for the Blind last Christmas. She said in 
> > part: The discussion about the letter from the students at the Louisiana 
> > Center for the Blind has stuck with me and helped me in two ways. I no 
> > longer feel the deep embarrassment I had been experiencing about being 
> > unable to read Braille and having less-than-perfect travel skills. I 
> > remain painfully aware that I could be much more efficient than I am, 
> > particularly if I could read and write Braille, but I no longer feel 
> > that I am less worthy because of the lack. And, by the way, I hope to 
> > take care of my deficiencies in that area soon. The discussion also 
> > helped me better to appreciate and respect my dad, who was blinded by an 
> > on-the-job accident when he was 26. After he became blind, he went to 
> > law school, and I have always admired his relatively quick adjustment to 
> > blindness. On the other hand, I have always felt somewhat embarrassed 
> > that when traveling he uses a sighted guide the majority of the time. 
> > (For instance, I was horrified and disbelieving when I heard my dad flew 
> > to Alaska by himself to go fishing without his guide dog or a white 
> > cane!) He has a guide dog but only used him when he was going to work. I 
> > have never seen him use a white cane although I have just learned that 
> > he used one while in his office at work. However, the seminar discussion 
> > helped me to understand that everyone's situation differs and that the 
> > opportunities available are not uniform. My dad has accomplished a lot: 
> > He was an administrative law judge until he retired last month; he is an 
> > avid fisherman; and he is as pro-Braille as anybody I have ever met. 
> > That is what the seminarian wrote me, and her letter makes a point. It 
> > is simply this: We absolutely must not become so rigid and dogmatic 
> > about the means and precise details of achieving independence that we 
> > make ourselves and everybody else around us miserable. Down that road 
> > lies bigotry, as well as the loss of any real independence or true 
> > normality. Usually when I go to bed at night, I read myself to sleep 
> > with a recorded book. A few months ago somebody took me to task for 
> > this. The person said something to this effect: "You should not read 
> > recorded books. You should use Braille. After all, the Federation 
> > advocates Braille literacy, and if you use tapes and talking books, you 
> > decrease the circulation of Braille from the libraries, and you also set 
> > a bad example. What kind of statement are you making? What kind of image 
> > are you creating? You have an obligation to serve as a role model. I 
> > didn't argue with the person. It wouldn't have done any good. Yes, I use 
> > Braille; and as you know, I find it helpful. More than that. My life 
> > would be poorer without it. But Braille is a means. It is a vehicle, not 
> > an article of faith. I am conscious of the fact that I have an 
> > obligation to be a role model, and I do the best I can to meet the 
> > requirement. But the kind of role model I want to be (for anybody who 
> > cares to see me that way) is that of a competent, well-balanced human 
> > being, not a caricature. The fact that I don't want to die of thirst 
> > doesn't mean that I want to drown. What is independence? I would define 
> > it this way. With respect to reading, it means getting the information 
> > you want with a minimum amount of inconvenience and expense. For me that 
> > means Braille, but it also means using live readers, recordings, and 
> > (despite my limited competence in that area) a certain amount of work 
> > with computers. For somebody else the combination may be different, but 
> > any active blind person who lacks skill in Braille will be limited-not 
> > necessarily unable to compete but definitely limited. As to travel, 
> > independence is the ability to go where you want when you want without 
> > inconvenience to yourself or others. Probably none of us (blind or 
> > sighted) ever fully achieves that goal all of the time-and almost all of 
> > us achieve at least some of it some of the  time. Usually we are on a 
> > continuum. If I could not travel by myself without discomfort or great 
> > expense, there are times when it would be a real problem. What about the 
> > trip I made to Kansas City in May of this year to meet with local 
> > Federationists and speak at a JOB seminar? My wife had other things to 
> > do, and it would have been inconvenient to take somebody else. I went 
> > alone. Did I have any assistance during the trip? Yes. At times-when it 
> > was convenient for me and not inconvenient to others. What about the 
> > time last month when I was called for jury duty? It would have been very 
> > difficult for a guide to have accompanied me to the jury box or the jury 
> > room-so, of course, I went by myself. Does that mean that nobody showed 
> > me where the jury box was or gave other assistance? No. It means that I 
> > went where I needed to go without inconvenience to me or those around 
> > me. That is what I call independence. Just as with the sighted, there 
> > are times when you as a blind person want privacy-want to go somewhere 
> > (to see a boyfriend or girlfriend, for instance) without being 
> > accompanied by your daily associates, want to buy a present for a friend 
> > or a loved one, or just feel like following a whim. In such cases a dog 
> > or a cane is helpful. On the other hand, there are times when the 
> > assistance of a sighted person is extremely beneficial. Taken by itself, 
> > the use or lack of use of a sighted guide has very little, if anything 
> > at all, to do with real independence. In fact, the whole notion of 
> > independence (not just in mobility but also in everything else) involves 
> > the concept of doing what you want when you want, and doing it without 
> > paying such a heavy price (either monetarily or otherwise) that the 
> > thing is hardly worth having once you get it or do it. In conclusion, I 
> > say to each member of this organization: Hold your head high in the joy 
> > of accomplishment and the pride of independence-but not because of dog 
> > or cane or human arm, and not because of your ability to read Braille or 
> > use a computer. These are the trappings of independence, not the 
> > substance of it. They should be learned, and used when needed-but they 
> > should be regarded only as means, not ends. Our independence comes from 
> > within. A slave can have keen eyesight, excellent mobility, and superb 
> > reading skills-and still be a slave. We are achieving freedom and 
> > independence in the only way that really counts-in rising self-respect, 
> > growing self-confidence, and the will and the ability to make choices. 
> > Above all, independence means choices, and the power to make those 
> > choices stick. We are getting that power, and we intend to have more of 
> > it. That is why we have organized. That is why we have the National 
> > Federation of the Blind. We know where we are going, and we know how to 
> > get there. Let anybody who doubts it put us to the test. My brothers and 
> > my sisters, the future is ours! Let us meet it with joy; let us meet it 
> > with hope; and (most important of all) let us meet it together! This 
> > article is provided to you as a courtesy of NFB-NEWSLINE® Online for 
> > your sole use. The content of this E-mail is protecte
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