[Perform-talk] Article about NFB Braille Monitor editor, Barbara Pierce

Donna Hill penatwork at epix.net
Wed Jan 21 14:54:38 UTC 2009

Hi Everyone,
The article copied below is posted at:
Donna Hill

Woman devotes life to helping the blind
John Light | The Chronicle-Telegram
Contact John Light at 329-7148 or
ctnews at chroniclet.com.

OBERLIN — Barbara Pierce retired as president of the National Federation 
of the Blind of Ohio last November. Her work, however, is far from 

Pierce, a resident of Oberlin, has been actively helping blind people 
for more three decades. She talks passionately of her work and of the 
issues she has
championed, although she feels that not nearly enough progress has been 

Pierce moved to Lorain County to attend Oberlin College in the early 
1960s but she did not become involved in the federation until 1974, when 
she came across
its literature. After reading it, she said she had a new appreciation 
for the struggles that she and other blind people faced daily.

“I realized, if I was honest with myself, that I talked a better game 
than I lived. I pretended that I was comfortable using a white cane and 
doing what
I needed to do to take care of my family and so on,” Pierce said. “But I 
found that here were people who were living boldly the life that I only 
sort of
pretended to live. … Here were people who were doing what I didn’t dare 
to do.

“And then there were other blind people who absolutely were being 
discriminated against — having their children taken away from them, 
being told that they
couldn’t rent houses or rent apartments. … I just simply hadn’t had the 
hard time that a lot of people had, and I thought, ‘Well, I’m not 
pulling my weight.’

Within a few months, Pierce founded the Lorain County Chapter of the 
National Federation of the Blind of Ohio. And 10 years later, in 1984, 
she was elected
president of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio, a position 
she held until last November, when she chose not to stand for re-election.

Pierce also serves as editor of the National Federation’s monthly 
publication, The Braille Monitor, a position she plans to continue at 
least through the
end of the year.

But while being heavily involved in her work at the state and national 
levels, Pierce has remained active locally as an advocate for 
inclusiveness in Lorain
County, said Brian Wilbert, Pierce’s friend and the pastor of Oberlin 
Christ Church.

“You’re not going to get Barbara focused on handicaps or physical 
challenges,” Pierce said. “You’re going to get Barbara talking about how 
is a way of life. … It’s not just one thing, it’s everything.

“I don’t see her ever really retiring. I see her letting go of some of 
the administrative stuff, but I don’t see her ever really giving up 
helping people.
People call her that want to speak to her because they have a child 
that’s been born blind, or they themselves have gone blind and they want 
to know what
it’s like. She’s there to help people make that kind of transition.”

Sherry Ruth, Pierce’s successor as president of the Lorain County 
chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio, relied on 
Pierce when she first
lost her sight.

“I was very unsure of myself as to what I would do with the rest of my 
life,” Ruth said. “Barbara was a major inspiration to me by the way she 
independently and the way she kept her home, always baking and cooking.”

Pierce takes a direct approach to helping people cope with becoming blind.

“I get them to tell me what bothers them,” she said. “If they can’t dial 
a telephone, I can teach them over the telephone how to dial a 
telephone. You put
yourself in the other guy’s position and you try to think, ‘OK, what is 
it that bothers this person, and what can I suggest out of my experience 
that will
help get them grounded, let them know where to start?’ ”

When asked how blindness affects someone’s life, Pierce replies that it 
doesn’t make the individual feel deprived.

“When you’ve never had it, or you’ve lost it early on, or you’ve lost it 
gradually, you fill up the rest of your sensory world with the data that 
you have
that do come in,” she said. “The world is full no matter what your 
experience of it is.”

Contact John Light at 329-7148 or ctnews at chroniclet.com.

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