One of our member, Krissy, sent this to us. A truly amazing piece by Harold Krents.
Harold Krents, a graduate of Harvard Law School, practiced law in Washington, D.C. Blind from birth, he was a strong advocate for the rights of the handicapped. He speaks about the everyday prejudices faced by a blind person.
Darkness at Noon
By Harold Krents
Blind from birth, I have never had the opportunity to see myself and have been completely dependent on the image I create in the eye of the observer. To date it has not been narcissistic. There are those who assume that since I can’t see, I obviously also cannot hear. Very often people will converse with me at the top of their lungs, enunciating each word very carefully. Conversely, people will also often whisper, assuming that since my eyes don’t work, my ears don’t either.
For example, when I go to the airport and ask the ticket agent for assistance to the plane, he or she will invariably pick up the phone, call a ground hostess, and whisper: “Hi, Jane, we’ve got a 76 here.” I have concluded that the word blind is not used, for one of two reasons: Either they fear that if the dread word is spoken, the ticket agent’s retina will immediately detach, or they are reluctant to inform me of my condition, of which I may not have been previously aware. On the other hand, others know that of course I can hear, but believe that I can’t talk. Often, therefore, when my wife and I go out to dinner, a waiter or waitress will ask Kit if “he would like a drink” to which I respond that “indeed he would.” This point was graphically driven home to me while we were in England. I had been given a year’s leave of absence from my Washington law firm to study for a diploma in law at Oxford University. During the year I became ill and was hospitalized. Immediately after admission, I was wheeled down to the X-ray room. Just at the door sat an elderly woman—elderly I would judge from the sound of her voice. “What is his name?” the woman asked the orderly who had been wheeling me. “What’s your name?” the orderly repeated to me. “Harold Krents,” I replied. “Harold Krents,” he repeated. “When was he born?” “When were you born?” “November 5, 1944,” I responded. “November 5, 1944,” the orderly intoned. This procedure continued for approximately five minutes, at which point even my saint like disposition deserted me. “Look,” I finally blurted out, “this is absolutely ridiculous. Okay, granted I can’t see, but it’s got to have become pretty clear to both of you that I don’t need an interpreter.” “He says he doesn’t need an interpreter,” the orderly reported to the woman.
The toughest misconception of all is the view that because I can’t see, I can’t work. I was turned down by over forty law firms because of my blindness, even though my qualifications included a cum laude3 degree from Harvard College and a good ranking in my Harvard Law School class. The attempt to find employment, the continuous frustration of being told that it was impossible for a blind person to practice law, the rejection letters, based not on my lack of ability but rather on my disability, will always remain one of the most disillusioning experiences of my life. Fortunately, this view of limitation and exclusion is beginning to change. On April 16,  the Department of Labour issued regulations that mandate equal-employment opportunities for the handicapped.
By and large, the business community’s response to offering employment to the disabled has been enthusiastic. I therefore look forward to the day, with the expectation that it is certain to come, when employers will view their handicapped workers as a little child did me years ago when my family still lived in Scarsdale. I was playing basketball with my father in our back yard according to procedures we had developed. My father would stand beneath the hoop, shout, and I would shoot over his head at the basket attached to our garage. Our next-door neighbour, aged five, wandered over into our yard with a playmate. “He’s blind,” our neighbour whispered to her friend in a voice that could be heard distinctly by Dad and me. Dad shot and missed; I did the same. Dad hit the rim; I missed entirely; Dad shot and missed the garage entirely. “Which one is blind?” whispered back the little friend.
I would hope that in the near future, when a plant manager is touring the factory with the foreman and comes upon a handicapped and a non-handicapped person working together, his comment after watching them work will be, “Which one is disabled?”
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