Leah Francis : Finding the Way contents

Going Home

I AM PROUD

When I returned from America I joined teachers, parents and other blind people in a struggle to change the agreement between the Royal NSW Institution for Deaf and Blind Children and the Department of Education to close the NSW School for Blind Children and reopen it as a combined school for deaf and blind children on property owned by the Royal NSW Institution for Deaf and Blind Children. I had observed in America that blind children benefit from attending ordinary classes in ordinary schools.

Based on my own success in high school and on my studies in the US, I forcefully persuaded Rotarians, church groups and others I spoke to, that blind children benefit from going to ordinary classes in ordinary schools rather than to special schools.

I wrote letters to newspapers and to people in "high" places and joined deputations to members of parliament.

The Institute for Deaf and Blind children also tried to use me as a tool for fund-raising.

I am proud of the occasions when I had strength to resist this publicity.

My fiance (who was blind) and I were offered complementary seats in a box to see the film Julius Caesar. We were to be photographed reading the play in braille as the film proceeded.

Supported by my fiance I refused to be photographed reading the play in the dark. Blind people would be unlikely to watch a film while reading the play in braille.

In 1960, during celebrations of Coral Sea Week, the Institution for Deaf and Blind Children were asked to join US seamen on the Eric Bohme television show.

This was yet another money-raising stunt.

As soon as I was introduced on the show I mentioned my studies in the US, praised the country and its education system (ignoring the short-comings) and asked the seamen if they knew how blind children were educated in their country.

Of course they did not, so I told them all about "integration" into ordinary schools, monopolising the interview and allowing no interruptions.

Finally Eric Bohme realized I was undermining the Institution's fund-raising campaign, terminated the programme before the scheduled time. I tried to continue the discussion with him but he repeated "I agree with everything you say," and without a gracious word, left the studio, taking the seamen with him.

This has been my only appearance on television.

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