I was extremely fortunate in my youth. One of the towns I grew up in had one of the largest schools for the deaf, as well as one of the largest schools for the blind, in the southern hemisphere. Interaction with the deaf, and also the blind children was common. We played sports against the school for the deaf and interacted out of school with them and the children from the school for the blind in activities such as Sunday school and various extracurricular activities such as Eisteddfods, chess clubs etc.
I remember especially playing chess against David, a blind, deaf and dumb machinist who made baskets. He had already left school and was part of that excellent school for the blind’s post-school employment program.
It was a profound experience for me. He had been taught to speak, which is astonishing in itself. He “heard” me by placing his palm and fingers along my jaw and his thumb on my lips. The chess pieces had pegs at the bottom of them with holes in the squares. Needless to say, touch is a move was not part of out matches.
He made me acutely aware of the fact that so called handicapped, is merely a perception, and led me to extrapolate that we are in fact all handicapped in one way or another. It’s merely a matter of degree and Perspective. David had no self-pity, regret or any other negative attitude towards his “handicap.” He was thrilled to be alive. Every time I see a bird flying or fish swimming, I’m reminded of one of my numerous handicaps.
But that interaction with my blind, deaf and dumb chess playing friend, made it abundantly clear that what we regard as handicaps are in no way limitations, merely challenges and alternate Ways-of-Being. None are inherently better than any others. Thank you David, wherever you may be, for these profoundly consequential Understandings. <3
Excerpted From: The Young Young Man’s Story
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