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Blind Take English as Route to Independence

August 03, 1986|MIKE WYMA | Wyma lives in Toluca Lake

"I had to work for more patience," O'Neil said, "and something else too. Unconsciously I'd thought that as they learned, their blindness would gradually get better. But of course it doesn't."

Students do not pay for instruction at the Institute, which is supported entirely by private donations. Among its projects to help foreign speakers, the center is recruiting volunteers to record audiocassettes in Spanish.

Punk Rockers

O'Neil, however, doesn't allow languages other than English to be spoken in class. One afternoon her advanced students discussed a subject even sighted English-speakers sometimes find hard to understand--punk rockers. O'Neil had asked what they are.

"They are a special group that wears their hair short at the top or on the center," Mostafa Nasserara said.

"Yes, but why?" O'Neil asked.

"Maybe they want to be against something," Tayebaty said.

"Yes," said Nasserara. "They want to break the customs. Maybe they are tired of following someone else's way."

Class ended a few minutes later. The students took their red-tipped canes from under the table and each slowly found their way out of the room. When one can't see, copying another's way is not an option.

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