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Archive for Thursday, May 29, 2008

Blind New York governor embraces his disability

May 29, 2008

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— As a young man, David Paterson never looked for dropped change because he didn't want people to see a blind man crawling on the floor for nickels and dimes. He didn't use a white cane, either: It would make him a target in his New York City neighborhood.

But now he's 54, and in a dizzying rush of events just two months ago, David Paterson became governor of New York. His blindness became national news.

"The concentration that I have had to engage to make this adjustment sometimes feels overwhelming," Paterson told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

In his first extensive comments about his disability, Paterson, who took the job March 17, also speaks with pride about how his unlikely ascension has taught him to embrace his disability and may help others be more comfortable with theirs. He rose from the lieutenant governor's office when Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned amid a prostitution scandal.

Paterson lost sight in his left eye and much of the sight in his right because of an infection as an infant. He can see shapes, and usually recognizes people as they approach, but he can read for just a few minutes at a time and must hold text close to his face.

Another New York governor, fellow Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt, once hid his polio by using secret doors and hallways in the Capitol. But Paterson is up front about being legally blind.

When he was a state senator, it was almost imperceptible. He couldn't rely on teleprompters for speeches, so he memorized them.

"He and I would often debate each other on the floor of the Senate and his ability for recall, and for not using Braille or notes, was always astonishing to me," said Sen. Thomas Libous, an upstate Republican from Broome County. "You didn't even know he was disabled."

Memorizing speeches became harder when he became lieutenant governor and had to deliver two or three addresses a week. As governor, he does two or three every day.

He can't read voluminous reports, can't immediately recognize the dozens of top aides he inherited, can't even watch a teleconference.

Two weeks ago, his new job forced him to decide whether to confront his disability as never before.

At a news conference, with cameras clicking away, he hunched over with his nose practically touching a bill as he searched for the line where he would sign his name. The photo took up much of a page in the next day's edition of The New York Times.

"A number of people were actually upset that I was exposed that way by the picture," Paterson said. "But I felt very good about the picture because when I was younger, if I dropped change, I would never pick it up. I wouldn't even attempt to because I had a problem with people watching me crawling on the floor, looking for change.

"Only in the last few years of my life am I comfortable having people see me display that I have a disability," said the lawyer from Harlem.

Comments

bearded_gnome 5 years, 10 months ago

that joke I first heard 30 years ago, from a blind guy. he was on-air talent at radio station I was working for. have heard that joke two or three other times.

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bearded_gnome 5 years, 10 months ago

well, apparently got redded out because of slang term for topless bar! oh well, I'm glad they're there enforcing standards. Staph and boozo, you're the ones who here have identified his party affiliation! and Staph, he had other eye problems at age 3. recently he had to be hospitalized for sudden acute angle glaucoma, practically emergency. glaucoma is indeed very painful. and, in case you missed it in covering up for your democrat he has admitted to using cocaine! so, call me the names you wish, facts are stubborn aren't they! no where did I say I wished him ill, nowhere did I relish the pain he was in, like some of your fellows have of say Tony snow and his cancer. all I'm pointing out is that there may be a preventable cause for his acute angle glaucoma. and, once again I repeat, typing extra slow: never did I mention he is a democrat, you identified him so. in the previous article, ditto. and, as before, one of my purposes in posting (since you seem to be mind readers to know my motives) is to identify what a payton place the new york governor's mansion has become*! so, apparently because * he is a democrat, one cannot point out such things? you must live in a bubble world.

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Ronda Miller 5 years, 10 months ago

As John Lennon so wonderfully stated, "There's one thing you can't hide, its when you're crippled inside." Bravo to him that he has grown enough and gained enough self confidence that he is able to accept himself. It takes self acceptance before we can expect other people to accept us.We all have diabilities and limitations of some type or another whether they be emotional, mental, physical, or social. We are all doing the best we can with what we have and we are all a work in progress.gnome, I think multi was referring to the joke - or why you got red eyed! Doesn't that just irk ya?

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 10 months ago

Come on, staff, he's democrat. That makes him fair game for juvenile attacks by BG.

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staff04 5 years, 10 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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bearded_gnome 5 years, 10 months ago

multi:Is that what is was, I was wondering LOL.---???

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bearded_gnome 5 years, 10 months ago

btw, the above joke, blind people do find it funny. ***I can understand why he wanted to hide his disability, once people know you have a disability, whether that's mental or physical, they will question aboutyour abilities, they will not see you as a whole person, rather a person who is diseased and wanted to get away from you as fast as they can because theymight catch whatever you have. What some people don't understand is that people who has a disability are the ones who are the hardworking, caring ones.I have known doctors, lawyers and many others who has a disability and they are just as normal as everyone else.--TMCyou are absolutely correct. unfortunately there are lots of people who are fearful, or find that someone with a disability triggers feelings of vulnerability in themselves which they don't like. some races are particularly bad about shunning blind/disabled. however, being in such a public position and with the vision loss, he can't really pass, and trying to pass c communicates to some that he himself is ashamed of being blind, or being perceived as being disabled. rammi, loosen up you'll have more fun.

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Multidisciplinary 5 years, 10 months ago

Is that what is was, I was wondering LOL.

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bearded_gnome 5 years, 10 months ago

ok,I'll try with cleaner language...a blind guy walks into a topless bar. one of the exotic dancers sees him with his cane and goes up to him and asays "you're blind, we can't serve you here." the blind man replies "I do read braille."

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le 5 years, 10 months ago

I see said the Blind man to the Deaf man!

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rammy 5 years, 10 months ago

Hey comedians, stick to your day job.............nevermind, you probably dont have one..

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bearded_gnome 5 years, 10 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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Confrontation 5 years, 10 months ago

Imagine his explanation when he gets caught cheating on his spouse. "Seriously, I thought it was her!"

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themiddlechild 5 years, 10 months ago

I can understand why he wanted to hide his disability, once people know you have a disability, whether that's mental or physical, they will question about your abilities, they will not see you as a whole person, rather a person who is diseased and wanted to get away from you as fast as they can because they might catch whatever you have. What some people don't understand is that people who has a disability are the ones who are the hardworking, caring ones. I have known doctors, lawyers and many others who has a disability and they are just as normal as everyone else.

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bearded_gnome 5 years, 10 months ago

"Only in the last few years of my life am I comfortable having people see me display that I have a disability," said the lawyer from Harlem.okay, but is he using a cane now? sounds like he tried very hard to "pass" as sighted, nondisabled. it is a shame that it took this to finally force him to quit trying to pass. he would be better off if he had embraced his blindness when he was young. he seems to have a complex about being a blind person looking around on the ground for change. people with contacts sometimes have to crawl around feeling for contacts. if he had not spent so much time trying to pass, he'd be a better cane user today. he'd have the coping skills down now that he needs, instead of putting his nose to a bill he needed to sign, he could have a signature guide made to follow with his fingers. or, have the bills made with lines embossed. ***also, at risk of triggering some nimrod, I'm going to mention again:nasal use of cocaine can trigger the governor's particular form of glaucoma. medical research.

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