The Early Years
My earliest childhood memories are amazing in detail and vivid clarity. They remain with me sixty years later. I was born on the Sandia military base in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I remember swimming in the base pool. I remember riding on the back of my dad’s motor scooter without shoes on. One time I scraped my ankle on a protrusion on the side of the scooter and had to have stitches. I remember the doctor working on my ankle with bandages and sewing up the cut. This all happened when I was three years old. I remember going with my dad to the military salvage yard where all manner of surplus electronics was available for fifteen cents a pound. I remember running through the permanent irrigation sprinklers that were in the yards of the base housing. I remember the time that my dad let me ride on a carriage assembly that was fixed to a spinning pipe garage door opener that he had designed for my grandparents’ garage.
My young formative years were the crucial instillation of a belief system which emphasized that I am a normal person with normal experiences and normal aspirations. I have no memory of ever being told that I am Blind, or that there were things that I couldn’t do. As I grew older I would play with other children my age and get into all kinds of scrapes and fun. We built tree houses, jumped off of the deck of our unfinished Minnesota house, and went sliding on sleds in the winter utilizing a trail that started in the woods and crossed two roads before ending up in another section of woods. None of the children that I played with had any caution or attempted to protect me from anything that they weren’t involved in themselves.
The Intersection of False Reality with True Reality
In second grade I encountered my first experience with blatant discrimination. My second grade teacher totally ignored me for the first week of class. I learned later that the teacher made a statement that “I will not teach a Blind person.” At the time, I recall being taken out of the public school and sent to live with my grandparents so that I could attend a school in Minneapolis where there was a special education program.
Even though I had been learning Braille in first grade (taught by my mother), I never viewed myself as different or being excluded in the classroom. I read aloud when called upon to do so, wrote my assignments in Braille when asked to write and did all the activities required of a first grader.
This is a key life lesson reinforced by the values of children at play. The interruption that placed me on a path of searching for equality was initiated by the actions of an individual whose life experience was most likely reinforced through fear. This individual possessed extreme power to effect my life at that time, the consequences were rippling and extreme. For no rational reason, I was
• uprooted from my parents and sibling,
• sent to live 80 miles from home,
• blocked from keeping up friendships that I had established,
• made to experience feelings of unworthiness.
My grandparents meant well, but they were not my parents. This truth coupled with the fact that my grandparents had so much fear of me interacting with other people that they protected me from playing with children. I went from growing up with my peers to living with two people who were in a totally different life experience.
It was so wonderful two years later when a special education program was started in my home- town (largely due to the efforts of my parents.) As I grew to adulthood, I began to become more resilient and achieve the former confidence that I had developed as a young child. I learned my strengths and weaknesses and began to find my place in society. The key for me was being inte- grated and mainstreamed into society. There was no separation. I was held to the same standards of my peers.
The Goal Path
After forty years of marriage, adopting four children, several computer jobs, and lots of school years, I am ready to settle down and execute on some life goals. The foundation is in place. I have a superb business partner who complements my weaknesses with strengths in so many areas. I have a passion for breaking down the barriers that keep Blind people from living the lives we want. I have the knowledge that computer science, software development, technology, science, mathematics and physics are areas that Blind people can excel in given the proper foundation and support. I have a passion about preserving the skill of Braille so that all Blind people who cannot read print can be equally avid readers as any sighted person. I have the foundation and knowledge that Blind people can read print and diagrams through the use of technology. I have the strong belief that the sighted and Blind working together create a most powerful collaboration. I have the will and the desire to move the needle positive on the 80% unemployment rate for Blind persons.
Through the formation and building of businesses both for profit and nonprofit I intend to build a foundation that will enable the opportunities for Blind people to excel in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). I have one scholastic piece that I need to complete which is an MBA so that I have the foundation to achieve the business planning and management aspects of creating and building multiple business efforts. I am currently involved in the building of a for-profit and two nonprofit businesses.
Squaring The Circle
It is a truism that one cannot solve squaring the circle geometrically. In other words, in order to have the same area of a given circle be available in a square of that circle, one must change the impossible to possible. When the outline of the circle is created, the inner space must be filled with all the activities that will make the circle complete. My life goal is to make the impossible possible and thus rewrite the beliefs that stand in the way of possibility.