Friday, March 14, 2008

David Paterson of New york

I'm fascinated by how David Paterson is going to do as the new governor of New York. I had never heard of the guy before the Spitzer governorship exploded, and I find that not only will he be only the third black governor since Reconstruction nationwide, but the first blind person in such a high office.

I think I'm a bit more interested in blind issues than most sighted people. My mother (hi, Mom!) was a teacher at a state run school for blind adults, teaching them the skills to live independently, among other things. She taught cooking, and a kitchen is a classic example of something which is easy for the sighted and a daunting obstacle for the blind. Since you can't read labels, your shelves and refrigerator had damn well better be organized. And a hot stove is a scary thing.

Paterson is not totally blind. He has enough vision in one eye to get about without a cane or a dog, and can recognize people close up. He also says he can read somewhat, obviously with magnification equipment. And he has a lovely sense of humor, evidenced in the New York Times's coverage of his first press conference as governor-to-be:
And when asked whether he, like Mr. Spitzer, had ever patronized a prostitute, Mr. Paterson could not suppress his trademark dagger wit.

He paused, gave a sly smile, and answered, “Only the lobbyists.”

Then there is this piece in the Times. The author, who like Paterson is functionally but not totally blind, writes about how blind people compensate for their disability. You have to develop a sharp and detailed memory, you have to get very good at "reading" the character of the people you talk to, and you have to be very, very patient. Also, I think, you tend to get underestimated, as people tend to think unconsciously that anyone who needs a little help just to get around in the world can't be all that bright.

A governor with these qualities is nobody to take lightly. Watch out, Albany.

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