My god. Can anyone else spot the problem with this situation?
EDIT: I am posting the whole story here so you don't have to register to read it.
Drowning highlights old debate among blind
Terry Collins, Star Tribune
Published July 22, 2003
The drowning of a 7-year-old blind girl at a Lake Calhoun beach has focused public attention on a decades-old debate within the blind community:
How do blind people striving to live independently, balance those desires with their need for help in a world where most people can see?
Brianna Joy Nelson of Grant, Mich., drowned Friday while on an outing with a group of campers from Blind Inc., a Minneapolis company that helps blind children learn life skills from adults who, like them, are blind.
Three blind counselors accompanied eight blind children to the beach for a swim.
"This is magnified because there was a tragedy in such a public place," said Joyce Scanlan, executive director of Blind Inc. "Unfortunately, these types of accidents do happen, and when they do, it's easy to blame blind people."
While several groups agree that a blind person should be allowed to be as self-sufficient as possible, their philosophies vary, and they seldom reach consensus on the proper balance.
The girl's drowning has highlighted the deep-rooted differences, especially between Minnesota's largest support groups for the visually impaired, the American Council of the Blind of Minnesota (ACB) and the National Federation of the Blind, Twin Cities chapter (NFB).
"What you've all discovered is nothing new," said Ken Rodgers, Minnesota president of the Council of the Blind, who thinks that more sighted supervision was needed for the swim outing. "Not all blind people think the same way."
Chuck Hamilton, acting director for the Minnesota State Services for the Blind, works regularly with both groups and is well aware of their differences. Both stress independence in education, employment and living arrangements, he said.
Whereas the Council of the Blind might seek more assistance from sighted people, Hamilton said, the National Federation of the Blind encourages blind people to stretch their independence level to the highest degree.
"I believe there has been criticism because people think the blind ought to be viewed in the same way because of their condition," he said. "In Minnesota, there is a long track record of them not working together.
Hamilton added: "I personally would like to see them work together more on common issues, but they need to reserve the right to see things differently."
Ruth Lundquist, president of 160-member United Blind of Minnesota, an advocacy group based in Minneapolis, agrees. The local groups parallel their national counterparts on differences that have persisted for more than 40 years, she said.
She said she believes that as the Council of the Blind works for the rights of blind people, the group strongly encourages seeking help when needed. Meanwhile, she said she thinks that the National Federation sometimes has a "cavalier attitude that blindness is a nuisance and not a disability.
"That's true to an extent, but while we believe we can do certain things, I'm not going to tell you I can go out and drive," Lundquist said.
Yet, the ceiling to what a blind person can do "is much higher" than even 10 years ago, Hamilton said. Given the right training, there are not a lot of things the visually impaired can't do, he said, rattling off examples of accountants, attorneys and doctors who are blind.
He said there are an estimated 60,000 to 80,000 blind and visually impaired people living in Minnesota, most over the age of 65.
"We think with education and opportunity, the sky's the limit," he said.
That is the approach the National Federation of the Blind follows, said Judy Sanders, a secretary for the 500-member local chapter. Sanders said comments by Rodgers could, in a strange way, actually be doing "us a favor because maybe we can educate more people."
Rodgers, of the Council of the Blind, said his 150-member group has no problems using voice-modulated computers, canes, Braille and guide dogs to mitigate the effects of blindness.
Neither does it have problems with asking for help.
"It sounds very altruistic to say that we're blind people, and we don't need help," Rodgers said. "Well, I'm sorry, but sometimes you do."
And he still stands firm that on Friday, Blind Inc., a subsidiary of the National Federation of the Blind, needed more help. He said he is convinced that Blind Inc. and the National Federation think blindness is a trait and "believe that to a fault.
"But we all have our limitations. Three blind counselors taking care of eight small children. You do the math," Rodgers said. "We're not helpless, but we're not afraid to ask for help.
"I make no apologies that if one person's life is saved because they used one of these tools, including asking for help sometimes, then I think it's worth it."
Scanlan, who maintains that her group was not negligent in the drowning, said she feels that Rodgers is reinforcing old images of the blind. Blind people ought to be able to choose their lifestyle, without the need of constant help, she said.
"Yes, we need some help. But in the daily course of life, we believe a blind person can be competent and live full lives," Scanlan said. "We know that society has a custodialized, paternalistic view. We're trying to break that stereotype."
But it isn't easy, she said.
"The problem is you're not going to resolve it overnight, you explain and keep explaining. You're not going to change everyone's beliefs, especially like those of Mr. Rodgers," Scanlan said. "You're not going to do that in one week.
"It's an ongoing process."
Not everyone is equal. Some people are smarter. Some people are better looking. Some people are born into good or bad families. Some people have natural athletic talent. And, unfairly, some people are handicapped.
When are we going to stop lying to ourselves that equal protections under the law somehow equates to some sense of cosmic fairness?