by Sandra Sermons, Chair, International Relations Committee
As a consummate world traveler, I am constantly comparing the differences in countries. It is those observations which serve as the impetus for this month’s theme. For example, back in 1992, I was living in the Czech Republic. Here in the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act was in its infancy, and we were having difficulty getting drivers to announce the stops. Meanwhile, in a country that was considered by some to be backward because of its membership in the Eastern Bloc, every stop on the bus, tram, and Metro was announced. In addition, their bill denominations could easily be determined simply by using a piece of plastic costing less than 5 cents.
Here in this country, we have certain protocols with respect to which items in a museum’s exhibits may be touched. However, in Paris, I was able to touch almost everything. This included many items in Victor Hugo’s house, including the inkwell of Alexander Dumas. I might add that this was done without gloves.
My point is simply this: in developed nations, the prevailing myth is that people who are blind live in a utopia. After all, we have the equipment, the services … Yet the reality is that our unemployment rate is 70%, despite major legislation and a rehabilitation system which has spent billions of dollars. In developing countries, where there are limited resources, the indomitable spirit still lives. Not only that, people who are blind or have low vision have still found ways to not just exist but to live, thrive, and persevere. So, come with me on this journey. Please remember to bring an open mind with you, and tell me what you think.