[Ohio-talk] Good Reading

Cheryl Fields cherylelaine1957 at gmail.com
Thu Apr 18 18:26:11 UTC 2013


Thank you Eric, I know you are a little under the weather and I am
keeping you in my prayers, and hoping that you will be up to speed in
a soon. This is the perfect discussion starter, it may take us some
time to digest it all, but we will keep you posted on our discussions.
Thanks again. Blessings,
Cheryl

On 4/18/13, Eric Duffy <eduffy at deltav.org> wrote:
> I was asked by my Friend Cheryl Fields to suggest  something that would
> clearly outline the NFB philosophy. There are many things out there, but
> here is what I have for now. I have also attached it as a word doc.
>
> :
>
> BLINDNESS-HANDICAP OR CHARACTERISTIC
> by Kenneth Jernigan
> It has been wisely observed that philosophy bakes no bread. It has, with
> equal wisdom, been observed that without a philosophy no bread is baked.
> Let
> me talk to you, then of philosophy-my philosophy concerning blindness-and,
> in a broader sense, my philosophy concerning handicaps in general.
> One prominent authority recently said, Loss of sight is a dying. When, in
> the full current of his sighted life, blindness comes on a man, it is the
> end, the death, of that sighted life... It is superficial, if not naive, to
> think of blindness as a blow to the eyes only, to sight only. It is a
> destructive blow to the self-image of a man ... a blow almost to his being
> itself.
> This is one view, a view held by a substantial number of people in the
> world
> today. But it is not the only view. In my opinion it is not the correct
> view. What is blindness? Is it a "dying"?
> No one is likely to disagree with me if I say that blindness, first of all,
> is a characteristic. But a great many people will disagree when I go on to
> say that blindness is only a characteristic. It is nothing more or less
> than
> that. It is nothing more special, or more peculiar, or more terrible than
> that suggests. When we understand the nature of blindness as a
> characteristic-a normal characteristic like hundreds of others with which
> each of us must live-we shall better understand the real need to be met by
> services to the blind, as well as the false needs which should not be met.
> By definition a characteristic-any characteristic-is a limitation. A white
> house, for example, is a limited house; it cannot be green or blue or red;
> it is limited to being white. Likewise every characteristic-those we regard
> as strengths as well as those we regard as weaknesses-is a limitation. Each
> one freezes us to some extent into a mold; each restricts to some degree
> the
> range of possibility, of flexibility, and very often of opportunity as
> well.
> Blindness is such a limitation. Are blind people more limited than others?
> Let us make a simple comparison. Take a sighted person with an average mind
> (something not too hard to locate); take a blind person with a superior
> mind
> (something not impossible to locate)-and then make all the other
> characteristics of these two persons equal (something which certainly is
> impossible). Now, which of the two is more limited? It depends, of course,
> entirely on what you wish them to do. If you are choosing up sides for
> baseball, then the blind man is more limited-that is, he is "handicapped".
> If you are seeking someone to teach history or science or to figure out
> your
> income tax, then the sighted person is more limited or "handicapped".
> Many human characteristics are obvious limitations; others are not so
> obvious. Poverty  (the lack of material means) is one of the most obvious.
> Ignorance (the lack of knowledge or education) is another. Old age (the
> lack
> of youth and vigor) is yet another. Blindness (the lack of eyesight) is
> still another. In all these cases the limitations are apparent, or seem to
> be. But let us look at some other common characteristics which do not seem
> limiting. Take the very opposite of old age-youth. Is age a limitation in
> the case of a youth of twenty? Indeed it is, for a person who is twenty
> will
> not be considered for most responsible positions, especially supervisory
> and
> leadership positions. He may be entirely mature, fully capable, in every
> way
> the best qualified applicant for the job. Even so, his age will bar him
> from
> employment; he will be classified as too green and immature to handle the
> responsibility. And even if he were to land the position, others on the job
> would almost certainly resent being supervised by one so young. The
> characteristic of being twenty is definitely a limitation.
> The same holds true for any other age. Take age fifty, which many regard as
> the prime of life. The man of fifty does not have the physical vigor he
> possessed at twenty; and, indeed, most companies will not start a new
> employee at that age. The Bell Telephone System, for example, has a general
> prohibition against hiring anyone over the age of thirty-five. But it is
> interesting to note that the United States Constitution has a prohibition
> against having anyone under thirty-five running for President. The moral is
> plain: any age carries its built-in limitations.
> Let us take another unlikely handicap-not that of ignorance, but its exact
> opposite. Can it be said that education is ever a handicap? The answer is
> definitely yes. In the agency which I head I would not hire Albert Einstein
> under any circumstances if he were today alive and available. His fame
> (other people would continually flock to the agency and prevent us from
> doing our work) and his intelligence (he would be bored to madness by the
> routine of most of our jobs) would both be too severe as limitations.
>
> Here is an actual case in point. Some time ago a vacancy occurred on the
> library staff at the Iowa Commission for the Blind. Someone was needed to
> perform certain clerical duties and take charge of shelving and checking
> talking book records. After all applicants had been screened, the final
> choice came down to two. Applicant A had a college degree, was seemingly
> alert, and clearly of more than average intelligence. Applicant B had a
> high
> school diploma (no college), was of average intelligence, and possessed
> only
> moderate initiative. I hired applicant B. Why? Because I suspected that
> applicant A would regard the work as beneath him, would soon become bored
> with its undemanding assignments, and would leave as soon as something
> better came along. I would then have to find and train another employee. On
> the other hand I felt that applicant B would consider the work interesting
> and even challenging, that he was thoroughly capable of handling the job,
> and that he would be not only an excellent but a permanent employee. In
> fact, he has worked out extremely well.
> In other words, in that situation the characteristic of education-the
> possession of a college degree-was a limitation and a handicap. Even above
> average intelligence was a limitation; and so was a high level of
> initiative. There is a familiar bureaucratic label for this unusual
> disadvantage: it is the term "overqualified". Even the overqualified, it
> appears, can be underprivileged.
> This should be enough to make the point-which is that if blindness is a
> limitation (and, indeed, it is), it is so in quite the same way as
> innumerable other characteristics which human flesh is heir to. I believe
> that blindness has no more importance than any of a hundred other
> characteristics and that the average blind person is able to perform the
> average job in the average career or calling, provided (and it is a large
> proviso) he is given training and opportunity.
> Often when I have advanced this proposition, I have been met with the
> response, "But you can't look at it that way. Just consider what you might
> have done if you had been sighted and still had all the other capacities
> you
> now possess."
> "Not so," I reply. "We do not compete against what we might have been, but
> only against other people as they are, with their combinations of strengths
> and weaknesses, handicaps and limitations." If we are going down that
> track,
> why not ask me what I might have done if I had been born with Rockefeller's
> money, the brains of Einstein, the physique of the young Joe Louis, and the
> persuasive abilities of Franklin Roosevelt? (And do I need to remind
> anyone,
> in passing, that FDR was severely handicapped physically?) I wonder if
> anyone ever said to him:
> "Mr. President, just consider what you might have done if you had not had
> polio!"
> Others have said to me, "But I formerly had my sight, so I know what I am
> missing."
> To which one might reply, "And I was formerly twenty, so I know what I am
> missing." Our characteristics are constantly changing, and we are forever
> acquiring new experiences, limitations, and assets. We do not compete
> against what we formerly were but against other people as they now are.
> In a recent issue of a well-known professional journal in the field of work
> with the blind, a blinded veteran who is now a college professor, puts
> forward a notion of blindness radically different from this. He sets the
> limitations of blindness apart from all others and makes them unique.
> Having
> done this, he can say that all other human characteristics, strengths, and
> weaknesses, belong in one category-and that with regard to them the blind
> and the sighted individual are just about equal. But the blind person also
> has the additional and unique limitation of his blindness. Therefore, there
> is really nothing he can do quite as well as the sighted person, and he can
> continue to hold his job only because there are charity and goodness in the
> world.
> What this blind professor does not observe is that the same distinction he
> has made regarding blindness could be made with equal plausibility with
> respect to any of a dozen-perhaps a hundred-other characteristics. For
> example, suppose we distinguish intelligence from all other traits as
> uniquely different. Then the man with above one hundred twenty-five IQ is
> just about the same as the man with below one hundred-twenty-five IQ-except
> for intelligence. Therefore, the college professor with less than one
> hundred twenty-five IQ cannot really do anything as well as the man with
> more than one hundred twenty-five IQ-and can continue to hold his job only
> because there are charity and goodness in the world.
> "Are we going to assume," says this blind professor, "that all blind people
> are so wonderful in all other areas that they easily make up for any
> limitations imposed by loss of sight? I think not." But why, one asks,
> single out the particular characteristic of blindness? We might just as
> well
> specify some other. For instance, are we going to assume that all people
> with less than one hundred twenty-five IQ are so wonderful in all other
> areas that they easily make up for any limitations imposed by lack of
> intelligence? I think not.
> This consideration brings us to the problem of terminology and
> semantics-and
> therewith to the heart of the matter of blindness as a handicap. The
> assumption that the limitation of blindness is so much more severe than
> others that it warrants being singled out for special definition is built
> into the very warp and woof of our language and psychology. Blindness
> conjures up a condition of unrelieved disaster-something much more terrible
> and dramatic than other limitations. Moreover, blindness is a conspicuously
> visible limitation; and there are not so many blind people around that
> there
> is any danger of becoming accustomed to it or taking it for granted. If all
> of those in our midst who possess an IQ under one hundred twenty-five
> exhibited, say, green stripes on their faces, I suspect that they would
> begin to be regarded as inferior to the non-striped-and that there would be
> immediate and tremendous discrimination.
> When someone says to a blind person, "You do things so well that I forget
> you are blind-I simply think of you as being like anybody else," is that
> really a compliment? Suppose one of us went to France, and someone said:
> "You do things so well that I forget you are an American and simply think
> of
> you as being like anyone else "-would it be a compliment? Of course, the
> blind person must not wear a chip on his shoulder or allow himself to
> become
> angry or emotionally upset. He should be courteous, and he should accept
> the
> statement as the compliment it is meant to be. But he should understand
> that
> it is really not complimentary. In reality it says:
> "It is normal for blind people to be inferior and limited, different and
> much less able than the rest of us. Of course, you are still a blind person
> and still much more limited than I, but you have compensated for it so well
> that I almost forget that you are inferior to me."
> The social attitudes about blindness are all pervasive. Not only do they
> affect the sighted but also the blind as well. This is one of the most
> troublesome problems which we have to face. Public attitudes about the
> blind
> too often become the attitudes of the blind. The blind tend to see
> themselves as others see them. They too often accept the public view of
> their limitations and thereby do much to make those limitations a reality.
> Several years ago Dr. Jacob Friend, at that time a young teacher of
> sociology and now head of the Jewish Braille Institute of America,
> performed
> an interesting experiment. He gave a test in photograph identification to
> Negro and white students at the university where he was teaching. There was
> one photograph of a Negro woman in a living room of a home of culture-well
> furnished with paintings, sculpture, books, and flowers. Asked to identify
> the person in the photograph, the students said she was a "cleaning woman,"
> "housekeeper," "cook," "laundress," "servant," "domestic," and "mammy". The
> revealing insight is that the Negro students made the same identifications
> as the white students. The woman was Mary McLeod Bethune, the most famous
> Negro woman of her time, founder and president of Bethune-Cookman College,
> who held a top post during Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration, and a
> person of brilliance and prestige in the world of higher education. What
> this incident tells us is that education, like nature, abhors a vacuum, and
> that when members of a minority group do not have correct and complete
> information about themselves, they accept the stereotypes of the majority
> group even when they are false and unjust. Even today, in the midst of the
> great civil rights debate and protest, one wonders how many Negroes would
> make the traditional and stereotyped identification of the photograph.
> Similarly with the blind the public image is everywhere dominant. This is
> the explanation for the attitude of those blind persons who are ashamed to
> cany a white cane or who try to bluff sight which they do not possess.
> Although great progress is now being made, there are still many people
> (sighted as well as blind) who believe that blindness is not altogether
> respectable.
> The blind person must devise alternative techniques to do many things which
> he would do with sight if he had normal vision. It will be observed that I
> say alternative not substitute techniques, for the word substitute connotes
> inferiority, and the alternative techniques employed by the blind person
> need not be inferior to visual techniques. In fact, some are superior. Of
> course, some are inferior, and some are equal.
> In this connection it is interesting to consider the matter of flying. In
> comparison with the birds man begins at a disadvantage. He cannot fly. He
> has no wings. He is "handicapped." But he sees the birds flying, and he
> longs to do likewise. He cannot use the "normal," bird-like method, so he
> begins to devise alternative techniques. In his jet airplanes he now flies
> higher, farther, and faster than any bird which has ever existed. If he had
> possessed wings, the airplane would probably never have been devised, and
> the inferior wing-flapping method would still be in general use.
> This matter of our irrational images and stereotypes with regard to
> blindness was brought sharply home to me some time ago during the course of
> a rehabilitation conference in Little Rock, Arkansas. I found myself
> engaged
> in a discussion with a well-known leader in the field of work with the
> blind
> who holds quite different views from those I have been advancing. The error
> in my argument about blindness as a characteristic, he advised me, was that
> blindness is not in the range of "normal" characteristics; and, therefore,
> its limitations are radically different from those of other characteristics
> falling within the normal range. If a normal characteristic is simply one
> possessed by the majority in a group, then it is not normal to have a black
> skin in America or, for that matter, a white skin in the world at large.
> It is not normal to have red hair or be over six feet tall. If, on the
> other
> hand, a normal characteristic is simply what this authority or someone else
> defines as being normal, then we have a circular argument-one that gets us
> nowhere.
> In this same discussion I put forward the theory that a man who was sighted
> and of average means and who had all other characteristics in common with a
> blind man of considerable wealth would be less mobile than the blind man. I
> had been arguing that there were alternative techniques (not substitute)
> for
> doing those things which one would do with sight if he had normal vision.
> The authority I have already mentioned, as well as several others, had been
> contending that there was no real, adequate substitute for sight in
> traveling about. I told the story of a wealthy blind man I know who goes to
> Hawaii or some other place every year and who hires sighted attendants and
> is much more mobile than any sighted person I know of ordinary means. After
> all of the discussion and the fact that I thought I had conveyed some
> understanding of what I was saying, a participant in the conference said-as
> if he thought he was really making a telling point, "Wouldn't you admit
> that
> the wealthy man in question would be even more mobile if he had his sight?"
> Which brings us to the subject of services to the blind and more exactly of
> their proper scope and direction. There are, as I see it, four basic types
> of services now being provided for blind persons by public and private
> agencies and volunteer groups in this country today. They are:
> 1. Services based on the theory that blindness is uniquely different from
> other characteristics and that it carries with it permanent inferiority and
> severe limitations upon activity.
> 2. Services aimed at teaching the blind person a new and constructive set
> of
> attitudes about blindness-based on the premise that the prevailing social
> attitudes, assimilated involuntarily by the blind person, are mistaken in
> content and destructive in effect.
> 3. Services aimed at teaching alternative techniques and skills related to
> blindness.
> 4. Services not specifically related to blindness but to other
> characteristics (such as old age and lack of education), which are
> nevertheless labeled as "services to the blind" and included under the
> generous umbrella of the service program.
> An illustration of the assumptions underlying the first of these four types
> of services is the statement quoted earlier which begins, "Loss of sight is
> a dying." At the Little Rock conference already mentioned the man who made
> this statement elaborated on the tragic metaphor by pointing out that "the
> eye is a sexual symbol" and that, accordingly, the man who has not eyes is
> not a "whole man." He cited the play Oedipus Rex as proof of his contention
> that the eye is a sexual symbol. I believe that this misses the whole point
> of the classic tragedy. Like many moderns, the Greeks considered the
> severest possible punishment to be the loss of sight. Oedipus committed a
> mortal sin (unknowingly he had killed his father and married his mother);
> therefore, his punishment must be correspondingly great. But that is just
> what his self-imposed blindness was-a punishment, not a sex symbol.
> But this view not only misses the point of Oedipus Rex-it misses the point
> of blindness. And in so doing it misses the point of services intended to
> aid the blind. For according to this view what the blind person needs most
> desperately is the help of a psychiatrist-of the kind so prominently in
> evidence at several of the orientation and adjustment centers for the blind
> throughout the country. According to this view what the blind person needs
> most is not travel training but therapy. He will be taught to accept his
> limitations as insurmountable and his difference from others as
> unbridgeable. He will be encouraged to adjust to his painful station as a
> second-class citizen-and discouraged from any thought of breaking and
> entering the first-class compartment. Moreover, all of this will be done in
> the name of teaching him "independence" and a "realistic" approach to his
> blindness.
> The two competing types of services for the blind-categories one and two on
> my list of four types-with their underlying conflict of philosophy may
> perhaps be clarified by a rather fanciful analogy. All of us recall the
> case
> of the Jews in Nazi Germany. Suddenly, in the 1930's, the German Jew was
> told by his society that he was a "handicapped" person-that he was inferior
> to other Germans simply by virtue of being a Jew. Given this social fact,
> what sort of adjustment services might we have offered to the victim of
> Jewishness? I suggest that there are two alternatives-matching categories
> one and two of my list of services.
> First, since he has been a "normal" individual until quite recently, it is,
> of course, quite a shock (or "trauma," as modern lingo has it) for him to
> learn that he is permanently and constitutionally inferior to others and
> can
> engage only in a limited range of activities. He will, therefore, require a
> psychiatrist to give him counseling and therapy and to reconcile him to his
> lot. He must "adjust" to his handicap and "learn to live" with the fact
> that
> he is not a "whole man." If he is realistic, he may even manage to be
> happy.
> He can be taken to an adjustment center or put into a workshop, where he
> may
> learn a variety of simple crafts and curious occupations suitable to Jews.
> Again, it should be noted that all of this will be done in the name of
> teaching him how to live "independently" as a Jew. That is one form of
> adjustment training: category one of the four types of services outlined
> earlier.
> On the other hand, if there are those around who reject the premise that
> Jewishness equals inferiority, another sort of "adjustment" service may be
> undertaken. We might begin by firing the psychiatrist. His services will be
> available in his own private office, for Jews as for other members of the
> public, whenever they develop emotional or mental troubles. We will not
> want
> the psychiatrist because the Nazi psychiatrist likely has the same
> misconceptions about Jews as the rest of his society. We might continue
> then
> by scrapping the "Jew trades"-the menial routines which offer no
> competition
> to the normal world outside. We will take the emphasis off of resignation
> or
> of fun and games. We will not work to make the Jew happy in his isolation
> and servitude, but rather to make him discontent with them. We will make of
> him not a conformist but a rebel.
> And so it is with the blind. There are vast differences in the services
> offered by various agencies and volunteer groups doing work with the blind
> throughout the country today. At the Little Rock conference this came up
> repeatedly. When a blind person comes to a training center, what kind of
> tests do you give him, and why? In Iowa and some other centers the
> contention is that he is a responsible individual and that the emphasis
> should be on his knowing what he can do. Some of the centers represented at
> the Little Rock conference contended that he needed psychiatric help and
> counseling (regardless of the circumstances and merely by virtue of his
> blindness) and that the emphasis should be on the center personnel's
> knowing
> what he can do. I asked them whether they thought services in a center were
> more like those given by a hospital or like those given by a law school. In
> a hospital the person is a "patient". (This is, by the way, a term coming
> to
> be used more and more in rehabilitation today.) The doctors decide whether
> the patient needs an operation and what medication he should have. In
> reality the "patient" makes few of his own decisions. Will the doctor "let"
> him do this or that? In a law school, on the other hand, the "student"
> assumes responsibility for getting to his own classes and organizing his
> own
> work. He plans his own career seeking advice to the extent that he feels
> the
> need for it. If he plans unwisely, he pays the price for it, but it is his
> life. This does not mean that he does not need the services of the law
> school. He probably will become friends with the professors and will
> discuss
> legal matters with them and socialize with them. From some he will seek
> counsel and advice concerning personal matters. More and more he will come
> to be treated as a colleague. Not so the "patient". What does he know of
> drugs and medications? Some of the centers represented at the Little Rock
> conference were shocked that we at the Iowa Commission for the Blind
> "socialize" with our students and have them to our homes. They believed
> that
> this threatened what they took to be the "professional relationship".
> Our society has so steeped itself in false notions concerning blindness
> that
> it is most difficult for people to understand the concept of blindness as a
> characteristic and for them to understand the services needed by the blind.
> As a matter of fact, in one way or another, the whole point of all I have
> been saying is just this: blindness is neither a dying nor a psychological
> crippling-it need not cause a disintegration of personality-and the
> stereotype which underlies this view is no less destructive when it
> presents
> itself in the garb of modern science than it was when it appeared in the
> ancient raiment of superstition and witchcraft.
> Throughout the world, but especially in this country, we are today in the
> midst of a vast transition with respect to our attitudes about blindness
> and
> the whole concept of what handicaps are. We are reassessing and reshaping
> our ideas. In this process the professionals in the field cannot play a
> lone
> hand. It is a cardinal principle of our free society that the citizen
> public
> will hold the balance of decision. In my opinion, it is fortunate that this
> is so, for professionals can become limited in their thinking and committed
> to outworn programs and ideas. The general public must be the balance
> staff,
> the ultimate weigher of values and setter of standards. In order that the
> public may perform this function with reason and wisdom, it is the duty of
> each of us to see that the new ideas receive the broadest possible
> dissemination. But even more important, we must examine ourselves to see
> that our own minds are free from prejudices and preconception.
>


-- 
Peace




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