by Marcia Dresser
For the past few years, Library Users of America has made book discussion a part of its annual program at the ACB conference and convention. This year, we will be reading "The Blind Advantage" by Dr. William W. Henderson. Just released last October, the book is available in braille or Web-Braille, on cartridge, or as a digital download.
Dr. Henderson grew up in Connecticut and was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa as a teenager. At the age of 24, after completing his first year as a Boston middle school teacher, Henderson was advised by a retina specialist to "get out of education" because he would probably lose his sight in the next several years. Undaunted, Henderson continued teaching, honing his craft, and eventually became principal of the Patrick O'Hearn Elementary School in Boston. (Upon his retirement in 2009, the school was renamed the William W. Henderson Inclusion Elementary School in his honor.)
"The Blind Advantage" chronicles how Henderson, his staff, and the community transformed a typical elementary school. At the Henderson School, approximately one-third of the students have intellectual, physical, or cognitive disabilities. Henderson envisioned a school that would challenge all students to do their best, whether that entailed reaching an academic goal or a goal on an individualized education plan. In the book, Henderson talks about ways his disabled and non-disabled students were able to assist each other. He told his students, "We all need help sometimes. But we also all have a responsibility to be helpful." As a result of this successful model of inclusiveness and collaboration, he says, "Our school became one of the best schools academically."
"The Blind Advantage" is written with candor, sensitivity, and humor. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll be inspired as you read Henderson's story and the experiences of his students.
I live in the Boston area, and I've had the pleasure of knowing Bill Henderson for several years. I'm delighted to tell you that Bill will be joining us in Louisville! He's eager to discuss his book, education in the 21st century, and anything else that might come up. I hope to see many of you on Wednesday, July 11, at 3 p.m. for the 2012 edition of One Book, One ACB.
Here are the details about the book. "The Blind Advantage: How Going Blind Made Me a Stronger Principal and How Including Children With Disabilities Made Our School Better for Everyone" by Dr. William W. Henderson is available as BRM1454 (braille or Web-Braille) and DBM1266 (cartridge or digital download). The book was produced by the Perkins Braille and Talking Book Library. Your NLS cooperating library can get it for you through interlibrary loan.