"Just Because He Can't See Doesn't Mean He Can't Think"

At a Glance: 

HKI-Niger's Jeff Ratcliffe recalls an encounter with two security guards that enabled him to influence their limited views about blind individuals and their potential for success. 

I carried out a field visit to observe first-hand the work that the HKI-Niger staff had been conducting.  One of HKI-Niger’s offices is located in Zinder – a large town some 895 kilometers from Niamey, Niger’s capital. As I was checking into my hotel I spotted a young man sitting with security personnel. It was clear that he was blind. I asked the guards why he was there and they explained that they were trying to give him food and take care of him. I told them that it is important for him to go to school so that he could one day work in an office, like HKI. The guards looked at me as if I had lost my mind. One guard, being brave, challenged my assertion. “Work in an office?  How can he work in an office, he can’t see.” I informed both guards that yes, he may be blind, but many people who can’t see are able to work in offices, and that there are machines that make their work possible. I told them, “just because he can’t see doesn't mean he can’t think”. I had been traveling with documents that give detail about Helen Keller's life, as I always do when I visit the field, so I reached into my bag and gave them the documents to read. After reading about Helen Keller's accomplishments, I was able to observe a new appreciation from the guards for the young man, who they understood could be a productive member of society despite his disability.