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"Colors and Fog": What It Means to Be Blind

"Colors and Fog": What It Means to Be Blind

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

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Hello, Governor! Source: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Source: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

The state of New York gets a new governor today, and Gov. David Paterson is legally blind:

When David Paterson takes the oath of office in Albany on Monday, he will not only become the third African-American governor since Reconstruction, he will also be the first legally blind chief state executive. I think it's a safe bet that Governor Paterson's visual impairment will be harder for the public to understand than his race.

That's how Stephen Kuusisto began his op-ed in The New York Times on Friday. And it's a subject he knows personally... He's blind himself.

I'm guessing there are some who wonder whether a blind man is up to the job of governing the Empire State. Even though there are 10 million blind or visually impaired Americans, many people have never seen one of them in a job of such responsibility — or in any professional role at all. Even though it has been close to 20 years since the adoption of the Americans With Disabilities Act, the unemployment rate for the blind is estimated to be 70 percent. In this era of superb computer screen-reading software and talking P.D.A. devices, when many blind Americans are college graduates, this statistic implies that the public still doesn't fully understand how talented visually impaired professionals are.

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We'll talk with Stephen Kuusisto on the Opinion Page today, about the things he can and can't see, and the things the rest of us miss in life, but many blind people pick up.