Thursday, May 29, 2008

Gov. Paterson opens up about his disability

NY Gov. David Paterson

In his first extensive comments about his disability, NY Gov. David Paterson, who is legally blind, tells The AP that "his unlikely ascension has taught him to embrace his disability." He also hopes being a high-profile blind person will other disabled people becomes more comfortable with their own disabilities.

"The concentration that I have had to engage to make this adjustment sometimes feels overwhelming," Paterson told The Associated Press on May 28.

Two weeks ago, his disability was on public display when at a news conference, with cameras shooting away, he pressed his face close to the bill he was to sign as he searched for the signature line. The New York Times ran the photo very large in the next day’s edition.

"A number of people were actually upset that I was exposed that way by the picture," Paterson said. "But I felt very good about the picture because when I was younger, if I dropped change, I would never pick it up. I wouldn’t even attempt to, because I had a problem with people watching me crawling on the floor, looking for change.

"Only in the last few years of my life am I comfortable having people see me display that I have a disability," Paterson said.

The blindness community is also welcoming his openness about his disability.

"It’s always encouraging to see someone like David Paterson succeed because he does give blind people, who maybe didn’t have exposure to successful blind people, some hope going forward," said Chris Danielsen of the National Federation of the Blind.

Paterson says, "I had been, on occasion, accused of trying to hide my own disability. But now, to be able to be myself and have it known ... I think there are a lot of people who have a lot of different problems who feel more empowered. If that’s the case, I’m feeling pretty good about that aspect of the job."