By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI
“I am too positive to be doubtful, too optimistic to be fearful, and too determined to be defeated”—Helen Keller.
On July 28, I shall attend the 6th annual concert organised by T&T’s Blind Welfare Association, in collaboration with Naparima College, San Fernando. The event will feature blind and visually impaired artistes.
The last time I attended one of the association’s concerts I left full of admiration for the many gifts that the artistes shared with us. I commend the association members for their sterling work as advocates for the blind and visually impaired.
In February 2019, I noted that The Office of the President is embarking on several initiatives with regard to vision impairment. I commend the President for her commitment to this worthy cause.
As a young teacher, I noticed one day that the mother of one of my students had bruises along the left side of her face. She had fallen down the stairs in her home again and the bruises were the result of carpet burns. I accompanied her to an optometrist who diagnosed glaucoma.
With treatment, she did not lose her vision. Studies show that early detection and treatment of glaucoma, before it causes major vision loss, is the best way to control it.
Some persons are born blind or lose their sight during their lifetime e.g. Homer, Milton, Louis Braille, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Andrea Bocelli, Jose Feliciano, and former UK MP/Cabinet Minister David Blunkett.
Helen Keller (1880–1968), an American author, activist and lecturer was the first deaf/blind person to graduate from college. “Helen Keller’s life demonstrates dramatically what great resources of character and will and intellect may live in a human being beyond the faculties of sight and sound” (Dr Kenneth Jernigan, 1973).
Mark A Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, USA, reminded us in 2018 that: “Blindness has almost always been understood to be a characteristic that distinguishes one as lacking ability. Throughout the centuries the fear of darkness shaped the myths about blindness that were shared through oral storytelling and later retold in written works…
“While some of us may use visual techniques now and then, as blind people we recognize that vision is not a requirement for success in the world. Blindness is our primary distinction, and it gives us authenticity and power, but when we choose to determine our own direction and speak for ourselves, it transforms into synergy…We have rejected society’s second-class accommodations. We have never sought greater advantages than our sighted peers, but we have insisted upon equality of opportunity and freedom from artificial barriers…blindness does not define us or our future.”
Here in T&T, I wish to celebrate the life of Deacon Mikkel Trestrail, who is soon to be ordained to the priesthood. Mikkel was one of CCSJ’s parish coordinators. He is a founding member and Vice-Moderator of the Companions of the Transfigured Christ Community. Watch him on CCSJ’s Ask Why programme on Tuesday, July 23, 8–9 p.m. on TCN, Channel 10. The theme will be: Promoting a healthy sense of leisure.
Mikkel says: “Based on my experience of living with my disability, I can say that persons need a lot of support in order to better accept any disability. I received a lot of support and acceptance from my family, friends and teachers. They helped me to see my personhood. Blindness could not take that away.
“Meeting other persons who were blind or visually impaired also played an important role in my acceptance. Most of all my relationship with God continues to be the foundation for my hope and joy in life, and the joy that serving others brings is the true font of happiness for anyone.
“Access to proper support, education and employment are major issues facing persons who are blind and visually impaired. There are many persons who are blind and qualified but they are unable to secure jobs. This lack of opportunity can prevent some from pursuing education.
“Technology has really helped to make life and working easier for the blind. Some of these include the JAWS and NVDA Screen readers that allow the blind to use the computer independently, Openbook and Kurzweil software that allow blind persons to scan books and have them read to them, several apps for android and iPhone, also open up several opportunities for independence and productivity, and many others. Life is possible after blindness, so please don’t let anyone fall behind because of visual impairment.”