[vendtalk] Blind Governor Patterson

Kevan Worley kevanworley at blindmerchants.org
Thu Mar 11 21:29:47 UTC 2010

Greetings Mr. LeBoutillier,


I have always enjoyed your witty, well informed, and occasionally pointed,
commentary on the Imus in the Morning Show. I heard you this morning. With
all due respect, given your intellect, demonstrated social awareness,
reporting skills, depth and breadth of experiences, I was troubled by your
glib analysis of Governor Patterson vis a vis blindness and blind people.
Certainly, some of what you said is precisely, absolutely accurate when it
comes to the Governor. However, you framed the analysis of the Governor's
inability to read, and other faults, in such a way as to paint other blind
people with that same brush. My sense is that this was not your intent. When
you indicated that, paraphrasing, "since Governor Patterson is blind, he has
trouble receiving information. He can't read. Well, he can read a little.
The Governor is totally dependent on staff, like many blind people." That
was clearly the gist. You are right about the Governor, as I understand it,
but I am blind. I am a voracious reader of Braille and the internal
documents I generate in my day to day business pursuits, and in life.
Hundreds of thousands of blind Americans read through the use of their
computer screen readers, Braille, and audio downloads. Many CEO's might
suggest that they are somewhat dependent on staff. I know that in my
company, I would suggest that my staff and I are interdependent. The
question is, blind or sighted, what is the capacity and personality of the
staff with whom you choose to work? My guess is that someone of your station
in life has staff assistance. Would anyone say you are dependent on staff,
if you asked them to retrieve a cup of coffee, make a copy of a document, or
provide you some information? I don't think so. Yet, if I task staff to
provide those same functions, there is often the conclusion that I'm doing
so because, "well, you know, he's blind and all." 


It is not the fault of the blind of the nation that Governor Patterson chose
to "pass". In other words, it is pretty clear that he was happy to be blind
when blindness suited him, but mostly he didn't want to be identified with
the historically socially and economically disadvantaged group of blind
people. The fact is, he chose to capitalize on the legacy of his father. He
chose cronyism over competence. I'm sure that on one hand he loved it when
people marveled at his ability to do the simplest day to day task as a blind
person, and on the other hand, he no doubt did all he could to avoid any
negative connotation which blindness often brings. He chose not to get
training in the alternative techniques of blindness, which can open doors of
opportunity and full inclusion. He could have learned how to use a long,
white cane through the structured discovery method of travel used by
successful blind people. He could have learned Braille, personal management
techniques and strategies, and the competent use of access technologies.
Instead, I'm sure he reveled in those times when people would say "how
remarkable he is. He can actually reach over and grab the hors d'oeuvres off
the tray at the swanky political soiree." He was happy to let the National
Federation of the Blind push back when Saturday Night Live performed a
sketch, mocking his blindness. Yet, he inferred that his blindness would
truly have disadvantaged him at the World Series game, since "he couldn't
really see it anyway." As though blind Americans do not enjoy outings with
family, friends and business associates at all manner of sporting events.
After all, we hear the crack of the bat, the slap of the glove against ball,
the roar of the crowd. We enjoy the energetic camaraderie and the "root,
root, root for the home team." And we can enjoy overpriced beer and hot
dogs, or not, just like everyone else. Your comments, and the abhorrent
behavior of the blind Governor, do much to magnify and continue the myths,
misconceptions and stereotypes, which keep blind people down and out. After
hearing your comments, witnessing the behavior of the Governor, and reading
the comments of other pundits, do my colleagues at the Chamber of Commerce,
the Board of the Sustainable Business Network, Catamount Environmental
Institute, political organizations for which I volunteer, and my business
associates truly value my participation and consider me an equal? Or, do
they think, "well, we're happy to have him along, and he certainly can
contribute a little, but...?" how many parents with blind newborns are now
believing that in spite of empirical evidence to the contrary, there is
really no future for their blind child? How many proud wounded warriors,
blinded in combat, will return from Afghanistan and Iraq with less
opportunity because of your glib analysis and the Governor's actions? How
many teachers will succumb to the stereotype and choose not to teach blind
kids Braille? How many lives will be devastated because employers have
decided not to give a blind person a fair shake and an even break? 


The National Federation of the Blind is the oldest and largest civil rights
organization. We operate three dynamic training centers, and we know from
personal experience that with proper training and real opportunity, blind
people can compete and contribute on terms of equality in our society. 


Thank you so much for reading these comments.


At Your Service, 

Kevan Worley

President, National Association of Blind Merchants




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