Indiana man works to raise awareness of the blind

By By JOE HORNADAY

McCORDSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Still hard at it in his job search, Zack Lee has found a new and constructive way to spend his time: working to make life better for the blind.

Lee joined the Anderson chapter of the National Federation of the Blind in November and was voted in as secretary Monday, Feb. 4. The Anderson group is a relatively new part of the organization, and Lee had always been aware of the NFB but did not feel compelled to join. When Lee began looking at participating in beep baseball, a variation on the game for the blind, he got more interested.

Now, he's using his time to advocate on behalf of the blind.

Zack was born with optic nerve hypoplasia, a congenital condition where the optic nerve has not developed properly and prevents adequate visual information from reaching the brain. So he knows the hardships and trials that blind people face on a daily basis.

"As far as people with disabilities go, visually impaired are very low on the totem pole. I don't know why. So we have to do everything we possibly can to raise awareness," Lee told the Daily Reporter in Greenfield (http://bit.ly/131FGRO ).

That's where the NFB comes in.

"Basically, what we do is raise awareness about people with visual impairments. The big thing we're trying to do right now is pass some legislation that quite frankly gives blind people more rights, in a way," Lee said.

The group's four major resolutions include a prohibition of social workers and health professionals taking children away from blind parents just because of the fact that they are blind.

"That has become a problem," Lee said.

He pointed to a case in Missouri where a social worker took a child away from blind parents and they were not in contact for several weeks.

The NFB also wants public libraries to offer e-books and e-readers that can serve up audio to the blind. Lee said the blind would not be the only ones to benefit from that kind of legislation: people suffering from brain issues such as cerebral palsy, or something similar, who might have trouble turning book pages, could also be helped.

Post-secondary education institutions need to provide proper resources to students, according to Lee. And that is the third part of the NFB's current mission. If a blind person wants to become a teacher, the proper materials are not always available in large print or Braille.

"That eventually could affect someone's tenure or career," Lee said. "In college, not having the proper resources can affect someone's learning. Someone might not be able to graduate without the proper resources."

The fourth push by Lee and the NFB makes use of the Randolph-Sheppard Act, a federal law from 1936 that mandates a priority to blind people to operate vending facilities on federal property. Lee said that even though it is law, the practice has diminished.

"The problem is now there's a lot of buildings that negotiate with sighted vendors and basically the visually impaired vendors are getting ignored. They know this is supposed to happen but no one is doing anything about it," Lee said. "These are legislations that would not cost the state a dime."

Lee is working hard to find a job, and he is optimistic that his association with the NFB and the new campaign could eventually present him with new opportunities, including a career.

"This could possibly lead to some things," Lee said.

More information about the National Federation of the Blind can be found on the web at www.nfb.org.

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Information from: (Greenfield) Daily Reporter, http://www.greenfieldreporter.com

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