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February 25, 1973 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1973-02-25

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Number 77

Page Four

Sunday, February 25, 1973

The bl
with a firm handshake and in-
vites you into his apartment. He mo-
tions to a couch on your left and asks
you what you'd like to drink.
Vidrich is working toward his doc-
torate in the study of organ at the
School of Music. One of the first
things that strikes you is his mas-
sive collection of classical music, con-
sisting of some 1500 records lining
the far wall of his living room.
He, has a collection of some 20
pipes sitting on a nearby shelf and is
anxious to show you some of his fav-
"A priest in Yugoslavia gave me this
one when I played in his church over
the summer," he says as he handles a
white Meerschaum pipe finely carved
into the shape of a man's face. "I've
been told the eyes are very beauti-
fully done."
Vidrich's fingers aren't sensitive
enough to feel the tiny lines and in-
dentations that form the eyes. You
see, Arthur Vidrich is blind.
Throughout his life, people have
tried to tell Vidrich what he should
do and what he shouldn't, what he


student 's



in dependence

"Blindness can't be viewed as
black and white," he says. "There
are shades of gray . . . You know,
I'm somewhat annoyed by people who
point out the curbs without noticing
how much sight I have."
Even totally blind people are proud
of the degree of independence in mo-
bility that they have established.
John Halverson, a graduate student
in Economics, when asked what prob-
lems he had in adjusting to the Uni-
versity environment, almost snapped,
"With a proper training in cane
travel," he explains, "you should be
able to .easily learn any new environ-
ment.AI can find myiway around
Ann Arbor fine, and if I make a
wrong turn, I simply ask someone
where I am."
"But I don't want someone to grab
me and walk me across the street."
Perhaps this pride in one's own in-
dependence is epitomized in Peter
Grunwald's attitude. "I often refuse
help on principle," he says.
Grunwald has been blind since he
was six months old. He suffered from
retinal blastoma, a tumor in the re-
tina. This condition is usually treat-
ed by removal of the eyes and in-.
sertion of false eyes. The scars from

"Blindness is blackness," says Jim Walker,
"I resent a person who doen't take time to con-
sider that I am a human being first."

THE PUBLIC TENDS to stereotype
blind people. They think, "If he's
blind, how can he get around?" They
think, "I couldn't do this with my
eyes closed, how can he?"
That's what John Halverson says,
and he's probably not far from the
truth. Most sighted students probab-
ly can't understand how a blind per-
son could possibly complete a col-
lege education. How can he get to
classes each day? How can he take
notes? How can he get all the read-
ing done? How can he write all his
papers? Could you do that with your
eyes closed?
Well, a blind persons knows how
to move around with a cane or with
a dog. And he can takes notes in
braille. And he can listen to tape
recordings or books or have people
read to him in order to complete his
reading assignments.
to aid blind students in these ef-
forts during the past few years.
Charlene Coady, assistant director of
housina and now coordinator forthe
handicapped, has compiled a list of
students who are willing to read or
make tane recordings for blind stu-
dents. Blind students can secure the
list from her office and make their
own arrangements. A blind student
can also go to Coady's office and get
a fellow student to show them
around and orient them to the cam-
pus and the local shopping areas.
Coadv is also working with officials
in the Physical Properties depart-
ment to get some beneficial changes
made in 'the structure of Univer-
sity buildings. Embossed numerals
may be put on all rooms in Angell
Hall, for example, to help blind stu-
dents find their classrooms. Also,
with the help of Coadv, the libraries
have set aside rooms for blind stud-
ents to meet with their readers.
Most of the blind students on cam-
pus appreciate this aid, though they
say it is not absolutely essential to
their academic survival. Like Halver-
son says, a good training in cane
travel should allow a blind person to
easily adant to any new environment
by himself. When he first came to
the University in the fall of 1971, he
says, the orientation program run by
Coady's office was "a nice conven-
ience but not necessary."
Likewise, Claudia Combs, a blind
senior in the Residential College, re-
ferring to another aid to blind stu-
dents, says, "Braille numbers on the
elevators are nice, but not neces-
sary." "Raised numerals in Angell
Hall?" she asks. "Yeh, that would be
nice but it's not absolutely necessary.




Peter Gruntcald . . . "there is a stereotype of blind people"

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can do and what he can't. "People
tend to think, 'Oh, but you can't do
this because you can't see," he says.
"It's happened so many times before
and it will happen a lot more."
But Vidrich has consistently prov-
ed people wrong. After obtaining a
Bachelor's and a Master's degree in
music, he is determined to continue
his study until he can obtain the po-
sition of performer and instructor of
organ on a college level. "I have no
reason to believe that I won't get
what I want. I'm just determined."
Vidrich sits back with a pipe in his
mouth and speaks calmly and reso-
"I think that handicapped people
must be really happy in what they're
doing. We can't let people tell us what
to do ...blind people must be as in-
dependent as possible and must be an
integral part of society. We can't be
welfare cases all our lives."
Vidrich admits that he has had
very few problems adjusting to the
academic environment at Michigan.
"My major period of adjustment oc-
curred in my freshman year at Du-
quesne University," he remarks. He
had just completed 15 years of edu-
cation in a residential school for the
blind and was making his first ven-
tures into "sighted world," as he calls
"The hardest thing was to learn to
be aggressive. I sort of expected peo-
ple to come and help me, and that
was not the case at all. Sighted peo-
ple. don't know how to deal with
blind people; they're afraid they'll
say or do the wrong thing."
Vidrich stresses again and again
that blind people shouldn't be segre-
gated. They shouldn't be isolated
from the rest of society. "We want
to be normal people in this society,"
he urges, "but we want people to
know our limitations."
by many other blind people at
the University. Residential schools
for the blind are generally condemned
for perpetuating the stigma of help-
lessness attached to blind people.
Special programs for the blind are
often considered to be condescending.
The common refrain is, "We wish to
be viewed as normal people."
One former student of the - Uni-
versity went so far as to say, "Blind-
ness is blackness." Jim Walker, a De-
cember 1971 graduate of U-M. says.

the X-ray treatments he received as
a child mar his face.
"From my personal, emotional
hangup kind of reasons, I am super-
super independent. I'd rather do
anything myself than get help," he
He holds an intense dislike for
special programs for the blind. He
criticizes the "sheltered workshops"
established in Chicago, his home
town, where blind people are either
trained or employed full-time in low-
paid menial tasks. He holds an equal
disdain for residential schools for
the blind.
"There is a great stereotype of
blind people," Grunwald elaborates.
"Not only are they different, but they
are helpless and can't take care of
themselves. As long as blind students
are segregated in schools of their
own, it just serves to perpetuate that

tions for further services the Uni-
versity could offer. Combs suggests
that blind students be given priority
in registration, for example. Since
securing tapes of required texts can
be a very time-consuming process,
she says, it is important that a blind
student be sure he will have a place
in a class well ahead of time..
Halverson suggests that the Uni-
versity institutes a system of regis-
tration by mail, which he contends
would be of great value to all stu-
dents, not just blind students.
But these are mere suggestions,
and the students don't seem to be
very insistent on them. If anything,
the blind students seem anxious to
assert their independence from Uni-
versity assistance.
When Halverson was first asked
what he would like the University to
do for him and other blind students,
he immediately replied, "Nothing."
After a little consideration, he added,
"Well, not really."
Besides registration by mail and
priority for blind students in registra-
tion, though, Halverson could think
of no other desired forms of assist-
DEPENDENCE IS ONE of the worst
words in the vocabulary of most
blind students. As Jim Walker says,
"If a blind person is spoon-fed, he be-
comes helpless."
Walker says blind students must as-
sert themselves and must learn to deal
successfully with professors on an in-
dividual basis. "Professors are not as
inaccessible as they are thought to
be," he says.
Combs, commenting on her past ex-
perience, says, "I haven't gotten any-
thing from the University really - - -
I pride myself on being independent."
"Basically, I don't think it's the
University's responsibility to help us
out," she explains. "Like if somebody
can't get off his a-- and call a teach-
er to get a syllabus, that's his prob-
"I don't expect the world to change
for me," she continues. "I pride my-
self on using creativity to get around
a problem. I don't want people to ca-
ter to me."
ART VIDRICH STOPS for a moment
and looks back on his high
school days.
"I remember when they came to
the school to test us for our voca-
tional aptitudes," he says. He is re-
ferring to the Pennsylvania State Of-
fice for the Blind, which sunervises

person can accomplish. In addition to
being a hindrance to their personal
development, these attitudes are in-
The office paid for most of Vid-
rich's undergraduate and graduate
education, but has withdrawn fund-
ing this year.
"They don't feel that I need a doc-
torate, but I know I do if I want to
get a job on a college level," Vidrich
"Music is not something blind peo-
ple go into," Vidrich continues. "They
tried to push me into social work, but
I resisted." Social work is one of the
fields of study considered "accept-
able" by the state agency.
Blind (OSB), the corresponding
agency in Michigan has been similar-
ly criticized.
Jim Walker, former president of
the Washtenaw County Chapter of
the National Federation of the Blind

But Walker admits that the office
is not so condescending when it comes
to university students.
The office provides all in-state Uni-
versity students with money to cover
tuition, books and supplies, and read-
er services as long as the student
shows some specific vocational objec-
tive and shows that there is "a rea-
sonable expectation that the services
will make him fit for a profession,"
Gary Gaeth, the local caseworker,
Walker, when he originallyentered
the University, told the office he was
interested in the study of sociology
and intended to work in human rela-
tions when he graduated. The office
said that his plan was too general,
but he resisted the criticism.
Since that time, Walker says he has
experienced very little pressure. He
says he has heard stories of casework-
ers in other counties trying to exer-
cise control over the academic activi-

"From my personal, emotional hangup kind
of reasons, I am super-super independent. I'd

rat her (10(ianythig

my s elf

than get help,"

Peter Grim i ald explains.
ans aamassamasa ss smssa massssiismase ma assesesierswaso ,;

and now a member of a fact-finding
committee on state services, says that
OSB is "parental, patronizing, and
not very insightful."
This is probably less evident in its
treatment of university students than
in its vocational placement programs
for high school graduates.
"They have not gone past precon-
ceived notions," Walker says. "Their
placement programs are based on as-
sumptions that blind people can do
only certain kinds of tasks." Vending
stand operators, X-ray technicians,
and computer programmers are three
of the office's favorite occupations, he
'These are jobs that blind persons
have proved themselves in, so they

ties of their blind clients. "Some stu-
dents don't stand up for their rights
and their freedom of academic choice
nay be denied," he says.
JOHN HALVE=SON spent his under-
graduate years at the University
of California at Irvine. He relates an
interesting encounter yith a counse-
lor from the State Department of Vo-
cational Rehabilitation. "I got the
impression that she viewed her clients
as her children," he remarks.
The counselor had heard that some
of her clients were taking drugs of
some sort, Halverson relates. She
therefore tried to force all her clients
to fill out forms indicating whether
or not they had attended classes. She
wanted everyone to account for their
time. When Halverson refused to fill
out the form, "she made some sort
of remark that I didn't know what
was good for me," he says.
"All these groups and agencies are
condescending," Halverson asserts,
"but I just avoided them like the
** *
THE MAIN THING that blind stu-
dents renuest of the Tniversity



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