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Fall 2002 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

Doing Common Things in an Uncommon Way

By Terry Murphy, Executive Director, Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind)

It's hard to believe that four years have gone by since I was first asked to contribute to See/Hear each quarter. As I am writing this article, we are once again in the beginning stages of the biennial appropriations process. Number crunching and negotiating performance goals with the Governor's Office and Legislative Budget Board are starting to dominate my thoughts and plans because my primary responsibility as executive director is to secure an adequate budget for services to blind Texans.

Because there are already signs that this could be the tightest budget year in over a decade, the stress is already building in state health and human services agencies. That's why it was so great today to get a few e-mails from staff to break into all the administrative matters and bring balance to my thoughts. The first was from a blind children's specialist who shared a picture she'd taken of a young consumer perched on his tricycle that had been specially outfitted for his mobility needs. Dad, little sister, and the specialist were alongside for his inaugural confidence-building excursion down the rural neighborhood sidewalk he could not see clearly. The second was from our staff in Lubbock, reporting on the results of our collaborative camping project with several Education Service Centers and TSBVI Outreach. Twenty-nine youngsters spent five days hiking and camping. When asked what they were most proud of, remarks included: "making new friends," "learning to pitch a tent," "making it all the way on the long hike," "finding the bathroom by myself."

The next e-mail was from an instructor at CCRC. She was relaying her experiences with six center consumers ranging in ages from 19 to 40 who had gone "rock climbing" the evening before in a local gym. Two of the six were totally blind; four had a little vision. Challenged by the two to see who could get to the top first, the other four donned blindfolds and climbed to the top of at least one 15-foot wall, exhibiting their willingness and growing confidence to tackle new skills. They had a lot of fun testing their strength, balance, trust, and endurance.

That information alone was enough to make me wish I'd been there climbing with them, away from budgets and meetings, but what followed in her e-mail inspired me even more to fight for adequate funds to continue at full tilt our confidence building activities I wrote about in my first See/Hear article four years ago. When the six consumers arrived at the gym, there were many other people there. As the six began their team climbing, some teenagers in the community began to ask them questions. They asked about their blindness, about the blindfolds some of them had with them, and about Criss Cole. Each of our six consumers cheerfully answered their questions and then challenged the kids in this particular group to try climbing with a blindfold to "see what it's like." The kids and young adults around spent the evening exploring the rock wall wearing blindfolds and talking with our consumers. The guy leading the training and working the desk even tried it.

Legislators have a tough job ahead of them this coming session. I wish all of them could have experienced the face on that youngster trying out his wheels for the first time, the excitement of those young blind and visually impaired campers assembling tents, and the pleasure the rock climbers had in sharing their skills at the gym. This is what confidence-building services are about - discovering new ways to accomplish goals without vision and gaining the confidence to encourage others. There's no better substitute than experiencing first-hand the stories these kids and adults have to tell about themselves.

Have a wonderful fall, and remember: "When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world." - George Washington Carver


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Last Revision: August 29, 2003