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Let That Blind Man Work on My Truck

Editor's Note: The NFB in the U.S. has published a series known as the Kernel Books. Intended primarily for the sighted community, these books feature stories by ordinary blind women and men about their lives. In the book: Making Hay, Daryel White tells about his personal journey from helpless newly-blind individual to successfully employed blind autobody repair person. Sadly, the complications of diabetes, which cost him his eyesight, took his life a year ago. They will miss him at Marty's Body Works. The blind community will miss him, too. But his contribution to our faith in ourselves lives on. Here is what Daryel said about himself as reprinted from Making Hay:

I am proud to tell you a little about what I do to earn my daily bread. I'll begin by telling you where I was and how I got to where I am today.

I'm from St. Louis, Missouri. Approximately five years ago I lost my eyesight. For about six months, I sat and thought I was never going to amount to anything in life. A rehabilitation counsellor came to my home, and by the time he left I was even more convinced that I had no future. Then about six months later a rehabilitation teacher knocked on my door. I said, "Who are you?" It had been about six months since the rehabilitation counsellor had come, and here she was. She asked me a few questions, which I answered. She said to me, "What did your rehabilitation counsellor tell you?"

I said, "Well, he looked at me and said I wasn't going to do anything with my life but be what I call a housewife." At that time I didn't know any different. I had just lost my sight, and I thought maybe that that's all I could ever be. This bright young lady really impressed me when she first came into my home. She showed me how to do things that I didn't think I could do, but more than anything else, she told me something I could hardly believe: She said that I could do whatever I wanted to--that I could do what I had done before I became blind.

This lady's name was Patty Page. She introduced me to her brother, a man who has taken me as far as I can go in making my life better. His name is Homer Page, and he was President of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado and one of the Boulder County commissioners at the time. I went to meet him while he was visiting at his sister's home. I'll remember this till the day I die; we were sitting at his sister's table, and he asked me what I wanted in life. I told him that I wanted to do what I had been doing when I was sighted--have my own home, have my own job, and live as I was then. He looked at me and said, "You will have that."

I said "O.K." but in my mind I thought, "Well, this guy's really lost it. "He went over to the phone and made a call to a lady, who in my heart has really become like my mother.I first met her in Denver when I came off the plane from St. Louis. I could hardly even walk. I mean I had hold of this flight attendant like she was my saviour! When I got in to the gate area, this woman came up to me and said her name was Diane McGeorge. Then she took me with her--here I am, totally blind, and she says, "I'll take you to get your luggage." And she was totally blind. I thought to myself,"This lady's lost it too!" But I hung on to her because I was frightened.

We got the luggage and went to her home, and then I went to the apartments for students at the National Federation of the Blind's Colorado Center for the Blind. Diane McGeorge and Homer Page had managed to enroll me as a student at the Centre.From that moment on I began building my confidence. I learned how to travel. I had had a cane, but I couldn't even find my feet! The staff helped me with cane travel, Braille, and self-confidence. They also introduced me to the organization that is really my support and backbone today--the National Federation of the Blind.

I spent about ten months in Colorado, and toward the end I made some phone calls looking for a job. Even on the day I graduated from the Colorado Center, I made a couple of phone calls and got turned down. But eventually, I got lucky with Marty's Body Works, which is in St. Louis, Missouri. I do auto repair, paint cars, and put fenders and doors on. I even do welding.

Now I want to tell you a little story. When I came back from the Colorado Center for the Blind, my confidence level was taller than the highest building that was ever built, so my first job with the public's eye on me was a hard one. I went to work for Marty's Body Works two weeks after I got back from Denver, Colorado.

There's a man named Charlie Collins, who owns a big diesel shop in St. Louis. He wrecked his brand new pick-up truck in a front end collision. He had it towed to Marty's. He looked at Marty and he looked at me. Then he said, "I do not, do not want that blind man to work on my truck!" Marty looked at me and kind of smiled, and Charlie went on home.

Then Marty said, "Daryel, you're going to do that job." So I brought the truck in and did the job. I put it all together and painted it. I mean, I did a superb job. There was nothing wrong with that truck when I got done.

When Charlie came back to pick it up, Marty told him, "Charlie, I don't want you to pay for that job right now. I know how you are; I've done work for you before. You take the truck back to your shop. I want you to check it over just as close as you can for fender and hood gaps." (These gaps are the distance between the pieces of the car you build or rebuild.) He said, "I want you to bring it back tomorrow and tell me if you find anything wrong."

So Charlie took it to his shop, and he brought it back the next day.He said, "Marty, that's the most fantastic job I've ever seen!" Marty looked at him, and he looked at me. Then he told Charlie right there, "That is what a blind man can do."

Charlie owns two eighteen-wheelers over the road. About two weeks later he wrecked one of his eighteen-wheelers. He brought it back to Marty's, and do you know what his first words were? "Let that blind man work on my truck."