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Country of the Blind - A Gradual Loss of Vision

The Country of the Blind by Andrew Leland
The Country of the Blind by Andrew Leland

I’m Shane Timson in Colby, Kansas. The book that I chose to read for our summer reading is The Country of the Blind by Andrew Leland. This is his story from sight to blindness – and what he learned along the way. Andrew has a condition called retinitis pigmentosa or “R-P.´ It’s a disease that slowly destroys the retina over time. He first noticed this condition in his early 20s when he was in college studying journalism. At the time, it only affected him at night, but by the age of 30, he could no longer drive a car.

Questions began. What am I going to do? If I lose my eyesight, will I even be able to be a journalist?

He decided the best thing to do was to study blindness. He brings up some interesting things in the book. For example, blind schools. Almost every state in the country has a blind school. Most blind schools came around or they first started in the 1920s. They didn’t teach kids how to get an education. Instead, they taught the kids the basic skills that they would need to work in what they called the “blind trades.” Those were factory jobs like making pens or making mops or other things. They all lived in a dormitory.

Then later on, the blind school began to teach kids how to get an education in the sighted world, as they call it. He tells about the first time he went to a National Federation for the Blind meeting – how overwhelming it was to see everybody with white canes. He kept wondering whether somebody was going to plow into him if he didn’t keep moving.

Another interesting story was when he had to tell his son of his blindness. He knocked over a fork and his son asked, “Daddy, how come you didn’t see that fork?”

He answered, “Because Daddy has bad peepers.”

A few weeks later, his son told his friend, “We have to pick up these toys up my dad won’t trip on them because Daddy has ‘bad peepers.’”

He learned another technique. He was having problems getting in line for the train. Often times he would miss the train because he couldn’t see the line to tell when they were going. So, he learned a technique where he stands at the side of the platform. When the door opens, he goes right in. He says, you’re not cutting anybody off because you were not technically “in the line.”

We also learned kind of another sad fact in the book and that is that 70% of blind people are unemployed. Part of the reason is that people just don’t know how to deal with blind people.

I want to submit this. As I read this book, I was greatly humbled because I, too, am visually impaired. I’ve been blind since birth. My whole life I’ve been able to adapt to things. But seeing Andrew’s journey should teach us all a valuable lesson.

We all have a disability. Oh, yes. That disability is aging. We all know that the older we get, the slower we get; our bodies ache more; simple things you could have done ten or twenty years ago are much harder now. You may not ever lose your vision, but we all lose things as we get older. Let’s try to help people with disabilities and not judge them.

For the High Plains Public Radio Readers Book Club, I’m Shane Timson in Colby, Kansas.

Shane Timmons
Shane Timmons

Hi! I’m Shane Timson . I have been in radio since 1998. I work for NWKS Radio in Colby Kansas as well as KGCR local radio. You could say it’s very much my passion. When I’m not doing radio shows, I love to spend time with my wife and my two cats just enjoying life. I enjoy being part of the Radio Readers Book Club and sharing my comments about the books we read as well as making my own recommendations for the Summer Reading List.

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