DISABILITIES WEEK 90
By Daniel J. Vance
Peggy Pinder Elliot, of Grinnell, Iowa, is a Yale Law grad, attorney, four-term city councilwoman, former Iowa state senate candidate and in 1976 at age 23 was a Republican National Convention delegate seconding Bob Dole's nomination as vice president.
Forget she's blind. It doesn't matter.
"One misconception about blind people is that they can't practice law, politics or counseling because the work requires 'reading' and visually assessing people," said Pinder Elliot, 51, recently over the telephone from her law office. "But when trying cases as a prosecutor out of law school, I could tell when people weren't being honest by (listening to) the tone of their voice, the words they used and vocal rhythms. [Reading people] isn't just visual."
Three things she remembered about the national convention: the hot "floor" temperature generated by television lights and thousands of people; the sheer number of reporters, which to her only intensified the event's importance; and when seconding Bob Dole's nomination, the positive response of the audience. "The delegates worked hard getting there," Pinder Elliot said. "They had hopes and dreams for their nation and party and weren't there for themselves. As for Bob Dole, he sometimes seemed craggy and grouchy, but inwardly was a very warm man."
Pinder Elliot in the mid-'60s became blind from an eye condition. For more than 20 years now she has been a National Federation of the Blind board director and National Federation of the Blind of Iowa president.
Any advice for blind persons seeking political office?
She said, "My top ten list includes pay your dues, pay your dues, pay your dues, etc. They won't elect you because you're blind. You need to join clubs, volunteer, become part of your community. When you first begin actively participating in community life some people will say you can't do it. Prove them wrong. If you think you're a full first-class citizen, then prove it."
"I've read that 80 percent of what most people learn comes through their eyes, but that doesn't mean I am restricted to 20 percent of life," she said. "I have true, alternative means of discerning the world around me."
Once a person becoming blind learns new skills such as Braille and relaxes by putting life in perspective, blindness can be "reduced to only being a nuisance in life," she said.
In other words, it's okay to be blind.