[nfbwatlk] This week's blog

Marci Carpenter mjc59 at comcast.net
Sun Apr 10 18:24:51 UTC 2016

Walking Away from Low Expectations
Submitted by dtrevino on Tue, 04/05/2016 - 14:57 
Blog Date: 
Tuesday, April 5, 2016
From the Editor:

John Pare is our Executive Director of Advocacy and Policy. He spends his days working tirelessly on behalf of the National Federation of the Blind to ensure that the rights of blind and low vision individuals are protected. Today, John walks the halls of the U. S. Capitol, his neighbourhood in Baltimore, and everywhere in between. Read on to learn about how a walk home almost kept him from moving forward.

By John Pare

For the first thirty-seven or so years of my life I did not have any problems with my eyesight. Then one day I noticed dots and flashing lights in my eyes. I thought I had a detached retina, but when I went to the ophthalmologist he said that was not the problem and that I would need to see a retina specialist for a diagnosis. Over the next few years I went to several specialists, who all agreed that my vision was deteriorating, but not on the cause. I eventually learned that I had Cone-Rod degeneration—an incurable and degenerative eye disease.

As my vision got worse, I reduced my driving to the point where I was rarely on the road. I was too embarrassed to ask my friends for rides and was going out less and less. I realized it wasn’t safe for me to drive, and that I had no choice but to give up my driver’s license. I went to the local Department of Motor Vehicles and exchanged my driver’s license for a state-issued identification card.

I remember that long walk home, and thinking I would now be doing a lot of walking. I remember thinking that my independence and freedom were over, and I remember feeling very alone. Soon, I began to have problems crossing streets. I did not know to use a white cane and had no idea how blind people got around by themselves. 

Then, one day I read about the National Federation of the Blind and learned that there was a chapter meeting near my home. I went, and after all those years met another blind person. In fact, I met lots of them. They were much more independent than I was, even though many of them had less vision than I did. They all used long white canes, and a few had guide dogs. But, the main difference was their attitude and the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind. They did not view blindness as the obstacle that I did. They were not defined by their blindness. They were living the lives they wanted to live, and I immediately wanted to be more like them.

I immersed myself in National Federation of the Blind literature and learned that I was not alone. Other people had lost their vision and learned the skills needed to live with their blindness. I have since learned the skills needed to successfully live with my blindness, but most importantly I have learned that blindness does not have to hold me back. Although I do not drive, I travel all around town, the state, the country, and even the world. I now travel more than I did when I could see. I have come a long way from the day I walked home from the DMV. It is now hard to imagine how I let such low expectations creep into my life, but I am thankful that the National Federation of the Blind has transformed my dream for a full and productive life into reality.

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