(Editor's Note: This letter was originally sent to the St. Petersburg Times, May 2, 2005.)
Recently, we had the opportunity to read an article appearing in the St. Petersburg Times dated March 7, 2005. The article was entitled "An Extreme Show Of Support." According to your article, ABC staff is building a home for James Dolan, a man blinded during a robbery.
We cannot help but feel that your article does not provide a complete or accurate picture of blind persons. For example, in your article, you did not mention any other disabilities that Mr. Dolan may have as a result of his injury. As individuals personally living with blindness, we find ourselves wondering why a blind person would need larger doorways. If Mr. Dolan were in a wheelchair, that addition to his new home would make more sense to us. Normally, blind persons simply do not need enlarged doorways in order to walk through them.
In our opinion, ABC television's attempt at goodwill is misplaced. Mr. Dolan could use the money being spent on this beautiful home for vocational training that would allow him to return to his role as a productive member of his community, and the primary provider for his family. It is very clear to us that Mr. Dolan is new to blindness. From our own experience, we feel it would be very important and beneficial for Mr. Dolan to receive proper training in the non-visual alternative skills of blindness. Such skills would include training in home management, learning to travel independently in virtually any environment, computer skills, and braille to enable him to communicate effectively both in his personal life, and on the job.
Accepting blindness is the first step to being a contributing member of society. Most often, in the beginning, people confronting blindness find themselves uncertain and discouraged about the future. We would hope that Mr. Dolan would strive to have a functional life in his community, rather than one of isolation and dependence.
Your article expressed opinions that seem to imply that Mr. Dolan is not going to be an independent and contributing member of his family and community during his lifetime. Without proper training, this may very well be true. The dollars spent on this home, with its many bells and whistles, are not the answer for living a full life. Without training, Mr. Dolan has simply no chance for living the life of freedom and independence he deserves.
We are all clients of the Nebraska Orientation Center for the Blind, and our training has enhanced and changed our lives in a very positive way. Each of us is preparing to return to a full life, contributing to our families, holding down a job, and helping to make a difference in our communities. We want the same opportunities for Mr. Dolan, and all other blind people. We cannot help but feel that ABC's misguided efforts to help Mr. Dolan will, in the long run, have the very opposite result, not simply for him, but for many other blind people who are seeking the opportunity to lead normal, productive lives.
We believe that ABC's reality show does not portray the reality of the blind. With the opportunity to develop a positive philosophy of blindness, and proper training in the many alternative techniques for the blind, Mr. Dolan could be living in a modest home with his family, commuting to work every day, and enjoying the same sense of freedom and fulfillment as his neighbors, blind or sighted. It is our sincere hope that your newspaper will be fair and provide your readers with a different point of view. Please take the time to view the enclosed video, which shows the impact of training on the lives of blind individuals, who are fully involved in their communities.
-- Joy E. Bolin, Angie Larson, Jeremy Richey, Allison Kuchar, Terry Heany, Aldon Thieszen, Alan Wheeler, Bonnie Ainsworth, Hector Miranda, Shaun Lange, Mary Johnson, and Dave Wallick, Nebraska Orientation Center for the Blind, Lincoln, Neb.
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