Thursday, March 13, 2008

New NY governor says discimination against him came because of disability more than race

In a NYT profile of the new governor of New York, who will start the job March 17, David Paterson, who is legally blind from an eye infection as a child, said: “Internally, I probably felt myself more discriminated against as a disabled person. And when I would experience discrimination from another African-American, I would go ballistic. I thought black people were supposed to understand.”

Paterson also said his disability taught him "to be a little more pragmatic about life.”

The NYT article really explores some of Paterson's history as a disabled person, explaining: "Because the public schools in New York City could not guarantee him an education without placing him in special education classes, his parents bought a house in Hempstead, on Long Island, where he became the first legally disabled person to attend the district’s public schools. He did well enough to be admitted to Columbia University — he graduated in 1977 with a degree in history — and Hofstra Law School."

The article says his visual impairment has helped him become a good listener. His aides report things to him in lengthy voice mail messages, and for speeches, he memorizes the text.

Paterson says sometimes people attribute more sight to his abilities than he actually has. "When I say I saw something, it’s more like I sensed it,” he said in a recent interview. “I think people’s perception of me sometimes is that I see more than I actually do.”

The NYT says as lieutenant governor, Paterson has focused on topics such as stem-cell research, domestic violence and better opportunities for women and minorities in business.