Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – Come Together

My acquaintance with the New York Lighthouse for the Blind began in 1984. Prior to that, I had little contact with other people who were blind and visually impaired. What a revelation it was to meet individuals who understood my visual limitations. I took voice lessons, performed in the opera workshop, sang in the chorus, acted in plays, played in a band, and attended parties. I learned that blind people are as talented or untalented as anyone else. Mostly, I gained valuable lessons and information about belonging to a group of like members.

As an assistive technology instructor for over 16 years, one of the key elements I’ve noticed time and again is the power and positive impact of persons who are blind and visually impaired coming together to find that they are not alone. Too often, we hear stories of blind people being the only ones in their communities and woefully unaware of services and technologies that could enhance their lives and offer greater independence. In addition to learning Microsoft’s Office products, our classes bring people together to share their life experiences and tips. Thus, they become teachers as well as students. It’s been a heart-warming thing to observe. The fact that they wait in our corridor before entering the classroom has played a large role in encouraging these relationships. I have heard much boisterous laughter–so much so, that sometimes we have to ask them to quiet down just a bit.

Maria and I are a part of a Contemporary Pop band that meets once a week. It just occurred to me that we, too, have learned about playing well with others. Our band is very democratic in that at the beginning of each semester members offer tunes they’d like to learn and rehearse to be played for whatever performance might be on our musical landscape. It’s made for quite a merry mix. Long may this practice continue for it keeps the members feeling that we have contributed to the overall success of the group.

It is astonishing to believe that our InfoShare group has been meeting for about five years now. A passing suggestion was made that a group be formed to discuss aspects of information, including topics on careers, technology, transportation, the arts, and advocacy. We’ve had guest speakers and have gone on several field trips to museums to experience their accessible exhibits. On a side note, it was also rewarding to meet members after our Triad NYC show.

Participation in our various groups has created and sealed lifelong friendships, and I would not trade them for anything on this earth as they have sustained and supported me through the good, the bad and the utterly ridiculous.

What groups are you a part of? Let us hear about it in the Reader’s Forum.

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