The contents of this column reflect the letters we had received by the time we went to press, Sept. 2, 2009. Letters are limited to 300 words or fewer. All submissions must include the author's name and location. Opinions expressed are those of the authors.

Re: 'Must I Burn My Fingers to Prove My Independence?'

I love the article by Rebecca Kragnes, entitled "Must I Burn My Fingers To Prove My Independence?" In her next-to-last paragraph, she says, "Perhaps we don't need to see the offer of help as a sign we are being pitied or treated as second-class ..."

I have another thought, and will use my dad as an example. Sometimes someone would do something for Daddy, maybe give him a ride to work if his truck had broken down. He always did his best to get the friend to accept pay. But when he did something for someone else, say, mowed their yard, and they wanted to pay, he adamantly refused their money! So he had a double standard -- he wanted to pay someone for a good deed, but if he did a good deed, he wouldn't accept pay!

When I was sighted enough to drive, I'd take people places and do things for them, not wanting to be paid, though sometimes I might take a small amount, or allow them to treat me to a hamburger, hot dog, or barbecue, etc. I'd much rather spend the time eating a fast-food meal with a friend than merely accepting a couple of dollars!

Now that I don't have sufficient sight to drive, I do try to pay someone when they take me somewhere or do something that I might be unable to do. But if they refuse to accept pay, that's OK. I believe that in doing for others, we are only following the "Golden Rule." So if someone does something for me, then I am actually allowing them to obey God, in that we are to help others.

-- Netagene Kirkpatrick, Birmingham, Ala.

How Do We Do It?

On behalf of blind people, or others with physical disabilities who live on their own, I often wonder how we do it. I especially wonder how those of us who are on a fixed income or receive a government check manage to make ends meet, especially if the government check is all we get. I try to make ends meet without government assistance, but that's because I don't qualify. Aside from paying rent and all the utilities, there are other practical necessities that happen in life which, if I were only getting a government check, I probably would have difficulty with. Recently my bird needed to be seen by a doctor at an animal hospital, and the problem was so serious that they kept him overnight. It cost me nearly $300 for the entire process, not to mention an additional $25 to have the bird taken there by car. Needless to say, this was not in my budget. A week later, the bird had a follow-up visit, and I had to pay an additional $25 for transportation plus the doctor's visit which was approximately another $50. So I have spent $450 on a pet in the past week. To put it in perspective, the money I had to spend in order to keep my pet from being sick is two-thirds of a monthly SSI check for most blind people. Has anyone ever wondered how the government expects people on fixed incomes to take care of all their business like everyone else, given how much things cost? Some people may say, "Well, if you're on a fixed income, don't have a pet." Would these same people also ask us to stay home because transportation costs $25 per errand? Or would they also ask blind people not to have guide dogs because the dog is an added expense like a regular pet is? If we are supposed to lead independent lives like everyone else, then tell us how we can do everything the way we're supposed to within our budgets.

Last week I had a debate with someone on the phone who didn't think younger people with disabilities should receive discounts like seniors do. If a young person with a disability isn't working, and if his income is equal to or less than that of an elder, why shouldn't he get a discount? How is he supposed to live? Many blind people own guide dogs. How do you suppose a blind person with a guide dog pays his rent, his grocery bill, his utility bill, his laundry bill, his transportation costs and his guide dog bill on a mere $750 a month, if that's what the government allows him to have? Please tell me, because I really want to know.

I try very hard to keep up with my religious faith by attending church services, but how much money do I need to spend on transportation in order to please God? Again, for the average young person who isn't working or can't seem to find a job because his disability is the focal point of his problem, it is very, very hard to do all the things that everyone else has to do, given the financial picture.

I welcome your comments, as always. You may send them to [email protected].

-- Bob Branco, New Bedford, Mass.

Be Careful for What You Wish

I am writing this to express my view that as a group, the blind need to focus both internal communications and externally facing efforts to achieving three objectives. I believe that often these primary goals get lost in the distractions of everyday life. Here they are: develop functional artificial vision; develop self-driving transportation; ensure equal access to and use of educational opportunities. Some of you may say these are already priorities, but let me explain where Im coming from first.

If I wanted to know current status of the progress to working artificial vision where would I turn for an authoritative, complete, up-to-date compendium of information? If I wanted to know the latest on progress toward getting a car to drive me places, where would I find that? If I wanted to know the probability of receiving equal access to an educational opportunity, where would I get that easily?

I see the ACB does advocate for better ways to get from point A to point B, but it doesnt seem to be presented as a solid continually updated whole. I see ACB members working on instances of equal access to education, but there is so much to be done, no road map of efforts is available with progress information. I dont see ACB participating in encouraging development of artificial vision, but may have missed that somewhere. To me these are fundamental wishes, and we should not have to dig up information on regarding their history, current status, and plans for improvement.

I believe we need to know what has happened, what is happening, and what is planned to happen in the near term on these critical topics. Is anyone ready to take this role on?

-- Allen Hoffman, Fredericksburg, Va.

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