early and often

So, What About the Blind Thing?


Photo: Getty Images

So far, David Paterson’s blindness has really only cropped up as an aside in news stories about New York’s soon-to-be governor. They’re all, “he’s 53 and he’s an adjunct at Columbia and he lives in Harlem and he is African-American and oh, yeah, also he is legally blind.” If anyone has had any questions about a how blind man will do a job that involves a lot of, you know, reading papers and signing papers and looking at people in the eye as you shake their hand, they have only squeaked out as innuendo. “Well, being governor of the state of New York is a big job!” is something we’ve heard a lot on the news when people are talking about Paterson. “He’s going to need some assistance!” But as the idea of New York getting its first blind governor becomes a reality, the Times, the Journal and the Poughkeepsie Journal have stepped up, the Times frankly asking: “How Will a Blind Man Lead a State?”

• When he was 3 months old, Paterson developed an ear infection that spread to his optic nerve, the Journal says, leaving him with no vision in his left eye, and 20/400 vision in his right eye. Meaning he can see at twenty feet what someone with perfect eyesight could see at 400 feet, the Poughkeepsie Journal says. Also meaning that he can in fact see that his wife is pretty hot.
• According to The Wall Street Journal, he can read for brief stretches by holding a paper very close to his face.
• He refused to learn Braille as a child and has never used a seeing-eye dog or a cane.
• He’s not above asking for help when he needs it. “I don’t act the way I did when I was 17, like I can do everything myself, because I realized the minute I do that, no one helps me,” he said.
• Aides brief him by leaving lengthy voice-mail messages, and he memorizes his speeches.
• His impaired vision has helped make him a good listener.
• He uses deductive reasoning. “When I say I saw something, it’s more like I sensed it,” he told the Times last year. “So when I said that we were on a plane with the Clintons, and we’re all eating pizza, I knew that I was eating pizza and I knew they took pizza off the tray, so I assume they’re eating it.”
• He ran a marathon and is an avid basketball player. Once he was playing with Mario Cuomo: “David was on the other side,” Cuomo told the Times. “I said: ‘What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be blind.’ He said, ‘I’m guarding you.’ Just what I wanted: a blind guy to guard me. The second time down the court, he stole the ball.”

And that, folks, is how a blind man can govern the state.

How a Blind Man Will Lead a State [Well/NYT]
David Paterson, NY’s First Blind Governor [Health Blog/WSJ]
Both sides of aisle see Paterson as uniter, not divider [Poughkeepsie Journal]

So, What About the Blind Thing?