From Adele Duffield

You could say that my eyes are the windows to my world. The one which I see, blinkered or clear, every day when I wake up and open my eyes, my day-time world comes to life. There is of course a life I see with my eyes closed, but I wonder if I would see the same world if I had never seen through vision itself, as we know it.

How, for instance, might a blind person see the world when they had lost their sight, as opposed to one who was blind from birth and had never experienced vision, colour and sight? Would there be the recognition of shapes and dreams behind closed eyelids? Would there be a constant fear of the dark? Perhaps the fear of darkness that we have built up through nurtured conditioning is somehow missing for the blind, when always darkness is the only view from the windows of their eyes. Perhaps darkness to those blind from birth is not fearful.

I watched a programme on TV about Icons of the last Century and was in awe of Helen Keller and what she did for her cause on disability. She was not only blind but profoundly deaf. Try to imagine that, for just a few moments. I twist in anguish internally at the thought of life without sound or vision. Yet she bore a smile and devoted her time to presenting her cause to those great men of her time who listened and acted. I remember studying Helen Keller at primary school and always knew she did tremendous work for the blind in education and provision of books and services in braille, but I had forgotten that she was also deaf.

I wonder what the windows of her mind showed her about our world, when that world could only be conveyed by the touch of hand signaling from her lifelong friend. How did she interpret those signs using her imagination, and what pictures did she create to keep her communication with the outside world understandable and meaningful to so many people, particularly those of great influence? When blind and deaf children at that time were being kept locked away in isolation in ‘care’ provision, their world was a silent, dark space in which they must have felt desperately frightened and alone. Lost souls with no windows to the outside world, trapped within the walls of their own body and mind.

I can only wonder.

And, it is little wonder then, that Helen Keller stands as one of the true icons of the last Century. An activist for the causes of the few, to have a voice against the many, fighting for the plight of the disabled in a positive way, showing that life defies disability. With the right services and attitude to her life, she led the way for others to follow. She was a true inspiration for every disability foundation and principled leader or voice since her time. She fought for the cause and pursuit of dignity and equality for disabilities, both hidden and visible.