Imagine that you couldn’t see these words or hear them spoken. But you could still write, read and make friends. Imagine a life without the ability to express yourself through your voice, unable to convey your sorrows and delight that you can’t keep to yourself. But you could still receive education from a prestigious university, write nearly a dozen books and meet 12 US presidents. If you have the same sentiments as the overwhelming majority who think that it’s impossible, think again because Helen Keller will prove you wrong.
Helen Keller was less than 2 years old when she suddenly came down with a mysterious fever. It struck dramatically and left her unconscious. Although the fever went down just as suddenly, it mercilessly blinded her and robbed her of her valuable sense of hearing.
In 1886, her mother, inspired by the Charles Dickens’ American Notes of the successful education of another deaf and blind woman, dispatched young Helen to seek out an eye and ear specialist who eventually referred her to Anne Sullivan, a visually impaired herself, who would become her tutor. Sullivan helped Helen make tremendous progress in her ability to communicate. However, success took a lot of grit and determination as Helen would throw tantrums as a measure of her frustration and was even uncooperative with Sullivan who was devoting all her effort into teaching her all the while. Thanks to both parties’ diligence, Helen finally managed to communicate with others effectively.
For many, Helen’s story ends with the image of a young deafblind girl and her teacher Anne Sullivan at a water pump. However, that transforming moment for Helen signified only the beginning of her new life—a life dedicated to tireless advocacy and fearless activism that opened wide the doors of possibility for people with disabilities.
A woman outspoken in her principles, Helen Keller inspired changes in public attitudes towards the capabilities of people with visual impairments. As she pushed for revolutionary changes in the law, people with disabilities were able to transition into mainstream education and employment. Helen Keller inspired future generations of people with disabilities to live life to the fullest.
I admire Helen Keller for her courage to accept her disability and pick herself up. It’s true that she was once frustrated with herself, but it is also true that she eventually overcame her restrictions with the help of Anne Sullivan. I also take my hat off to her for contributing to the society and making a difference in this world despite her own handicap. If someone like Helen Keller is able to do this, why can’t we, able-bodied people, make contributions to the society too? Let us all take a leaf out of Helen’s book and live our lives with the knowledge that we have the power to make a difference.
– Trina Chong (1U)