by Helen Selsdon
The American Foundation for the Blind is delighted to share this movie clip of Helen Keller in her home in Westport, Connecticut. Filmed in the 1950s, it beautifully captures Helen’s instinctive appreciation of the world around her and her wholehearted joy of living. This is one of 10 clips that will be uploaded to the newly digitized Helen Keller Archival Collection. These clips, newly cleaned, are now also described and captioned for blind and hearing impaired viewers.
Male audio description: A tree grows near a large, white house with many windows. Next, Helen exits through a door on the second floor.
Female narrator: First concern of the day is always the weather: to know how to dress for the morning walk with her dog Etu.
Male audio description: Helen holds a hand rail as she walks onto a sunny terrace.
Female narrator: Clear but cold.
Male audio description: Her fingers flicker softly in the air.
Female narrator: She checks with her braille thermometer.
Male audio description: She feels the round object mounted outside the door.
Female narrator: She is right.
Male audio description: She lightly touches surfaces to guide herself back inside.
Female narrator: In her dressing, Helen is completely independent. She knows her clothes and where to find them. Even to a stray belt.
Male audio description: Helen wears a robe as she stands at her closet and retrieves clothes. Now, her large German shepherd waits inside and gently paws the door to outside. Helen carries her clothing draped across her arm. She stops at a bookshelf full of small figurines. She touches one, examining the doll, and smiles. Later, Helen wears a winter jacket and opens the front door. The dog runs outside excitedly. She holds a handrail to find her way down four steps. Her gray hair is pinned back, neatly.
Female narrator: Every morning Helen goes for a walk along a thousand foot handrail built by a loving friend to guide her. A thousand feet where she is alone and free.
Male audio description: She constantly touches the wooden railing as she walks.
Female narrator: The walk seldom varies but for Helen it is always full of small, unexpected events.
Male audio description: Helen strolls across the dirt path constantly smiling. She moves slowly beside the railing. Suddenly, a fallen branch blocks her way. She stops and feels it. Helen grabs the long branch and delicately moves it over, to the other side of the railing. She then carries on with her walk in the sunshine. Tall trees and leafy plants grow along the path.
Female narrator: Helen has known from childhood what those with sight cannot realize: that one does not need eyes to see the world.
Male audio description: She stretches her arms away from the railing, and reaches out. She finds a bush and touches it with both hands.
by Helen Selsdon
Helen Keller and Polly Thomson with amputees in wheelchairs at McCloskey General Hospital, Temple, Texas, 1944
On Veterans Day, the American Foundation for the Blind honors all those who have fought in America's wars.
Helen Keller was, and remains, a source of inspiration and solace for so many. During her lifetime thousands of veterans were inspired by her courage. We are particularly proud of the role Helen Keller played as a leading advocate for the men injured and maimed during World War I, World War II and the Korean War. Between 1944 and 1946 alone, Keller visited over 90 military hospitals. What she saw motivated her to become a powerful advocate for wounded servicemen. She successfully lobbied state and federal agencies demanding that rehabilitation centers be created and accommodations implemented for those who fought on behalf of the military.
On Veterans Day we are proud to share two beautiful letters, newly digitized, that shed light on the servicemen who fought for the United States. In the first letter a severely injured veteran thanks Helen for her enduring optimism. Helen's reply is as moving as the letter she received.
We salute all those who fought on behalf of this nation, and we are sure that forty-seven years after her death, Helen Keller would do so too.
Letter from Hoyt Hombrick to Helen Keller, 1946
April 22, 1946
Dear Miss Keller,
About 25 months ago my spine was severed at mid-back on the Anzio Beach-head.
I have just finished reading your book, "The Story of My Life." It was so much inspiration to me that I wanted to write and tell you so.
Your zest for life in your handicapped condition is a challenge to me as well as the remarkable accomplishments. Indeed, you have overcome your handicaps and received more from life than many who were not so handicapped.
My life has been enriched from reading of how much you appreciated the beauties of nature and loved all that is good.
Also I would like to say that I think Miss Sullivan had a great part in helping you to attain so much.
Draft of letter from Helen Keller to Hoyt Hombrick
Dear xxxxx... Honbrick,
Your letter was forwarded to me here in Oakland, one of the many cities where I have been visiting Government hospitals. The message warms me just as if we had met, and you had clasped my hand. Most humbly and tenderly I think of your dearness in encouraging me when I feel that a far heavier handicap has been laid upon you, and how bravely you are turning your thoughts to books and the soothing harmonies of nature.
Since you so touchingly mention my story, I feel wonderfully rewarded for having written it. If it contains even one comforting thought for you, I am ready for any effort to sow seeds that may sweeten affliction’s [sic.] with blossoms of light. It is an incalculable debt we owe you and all the men who who [sic.] through heroic sacrifice fashioned each rung of agony into a ladder on which humanity may ascend to world freedom and xxxxxx peace. We cannot pay even a small part of it, except with our remembering love, and by keeping faith with you in a ceaseless struggle xxxxxx incarnate in ourselves everywhere the principles and practices of democracy.
Sympathy gives me eyes for the weariness that besets you, but I am sure you will never surrender. Whatever you can gather of beauty or inspiration or accomplishment will release a quickening ray for your life-horizon and strengthen your will to wring compensations from fettering circumstances.
Embracing you in spirit, and grateful for a letter I shall cherish among my challenges to higher endeavor, I am,
Affectionately your friend,
- Find services near you, for people who are blind or visually impaired
- Learn about a free, accessible app from the American Foundation for the Blind for people who are losing their vision.
- Information for veterans coping with vision loss
- Sign up with AFB for more helpful information and tips for everyday living
by Vivienne Heston-Demirel
Meet Poonam Agrawal, 16, a junior at Cypress Ridge High School in Houston, Texas.
At a recent community health fair, Poonam printed out some information from AFB’s website and set up a collection box to encourage donations.
“I’m so glad to advocate for AFB and raise awareness about vision loss and all that AFB does to help people with blindness and low vision,” she said.
Poonam found out about AFB when she was researching Helen Keller, who has been a life-long inspiration. Keller’s forty-year history of working for AFB influenced her choice for fundraising.
Thank you, Poonam! To join her, visit: www.afb.org/donate.
by AFB Staff
Patrick Dunphy is unafraid of challenges.
Recently recovering from retinal surgery, he plans to run the New York City Marathon this November while raising funds for AFB.
"I like how AFB encourages people with vision loss to stretch and challenge themselves to aim higher," he said.
Dunphy, 32, is Assistant Principal and head of the Social Studies department at Francis Lewis High School in Fresh Meadows (Queens, NY). He has a lot in common with his hero, Theodore Roosevelt.
Like the 26th U.S. president, he likes to persevere and, will run the marathon in November, despite recent eye surgery.
"Teddy Roosevelt's doctors told him to slow down saying, you won’t live past 60, to which Roosevelt replied that if he couldn’t live the way he wanted, he wasn't interested in living past 60," Dunphy said. "That kind of determination is why I named my son Theodore."
Diagnosed as a teenager with Stickler's Syndrome, an autoimmune disease, Dunphy has not let it get in the way of setting lofty goals for himself.
"I am not sure how long I have before my vision gets worse or disappears altogether. That’s why it is really important that I run the marathon this year," he said.
Dunphy demonstrates to his students by example that positive thinking is a prerequisite for success.
He qualified for the New York City marathon by participating in the 9+1 program which demands running in 9 qualifying events plus volunteering at one other event.
Asked about his most exciting experience to date, he mentions spotting Yoko Ono in Central Park while volunteering at the 2014 60K race for ultra marathoners.
Dunphy lives in Carle Place, L.I., with his wife Stefanie, a math teacher, and their son Theodore, 3.
The couple met at St. John's University where Patrick's father is an administrator (Patrick J. Dunphy, Director of Planning and Fiscal Affairs).
"Stefanie was my math tutor at St. John's. I needed a lot of help since math is not my forte, and, thanks to Stefanie, I passed," he said.
Dunphy's strengths are in making the study of history and politics exciting and relevant to his students by drawing parallels between current events and what happened in the past.
He grew up in Carle Place and has settled on Long Island staying close to his extended family. Dunphy's wife and cousin are both runners and often join him when he races. His cousin Michael Sciortino will run alongside him in this year's marathon.
Dunphy discovered running in 8th grade and joined the track team in high school as a distance runner.
At age 16, he first noticed that something was wrong with his left eye.
"I waited a long time before asking for help and by the time I got to the doctor's office, I could no longer see the large E in the eye chart," he said.
Genetic testing revealed that he had Stickler's, like his father and sister, but he was the only one in his immediate family to suffer visual impairments.
For assistive technology, he uses an iPad that he adjusts for font size and contrast turning to Voiceover on days when he can't rely on his vision at all.
To support Patrick's run, go to: www.afb.org/patrickruns. Donors are encouraged to give at least $1 per mile, or $26.20.
by Helen Selsdon
Welcome to this, the seventh day of our 8-day #BeAMiracleworker campaign. We have now raised $22,819, which is fantastic! But we have only one day left to reach our goal of $25,000. Please donate now and be a miracle worker. And don’t forget to follow the campaign’s progress on Facebook.
A "Who’s Who" of the 19th and 20th Centuries
"Some people are foolish enough to imagine that wealth and power and fame satisfy our hearts: but they never do, unless they are used to create and distribute happiness in the world."
From Alexander Graham Bell to Laurence Olivier - the Helen Keller Archival Collection includes materials from luminaries spanning two centuries. Correspondence from nine U.S. presidents, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy, as well as leading figures such as Maria Montessori, Pearl S. Buck, Albert Einstein, and Coretta Scott King - all are in the collection. Beyond these famous figures, the collection also contains voluminous correspondence from men, women, and children, sighted and not, who corresponded with Keller from around the globe and whose stories have never been told.
The Helen Keller Digitization Project is about an iconic American figure, but it is also about much more than that; it is about the world in which Keller participated and the people and broader social developments she influenced and continues to influence today. It is a unique collection that deserves to be preserved in its entirety for future generations.
Like the Helen Keller: The Official Fan Page on Facebook for more inspirational photos, quotes, and letters, and use the #beamiracleworker hashtag on Twitter to raise awareness of our efforts to save the Helen Keller Archives.
Image: Photograph of Eleanor Roosevelt with Helen Keller at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, 1948. Helen places the fingers of her left hand on Eleanor's lips to "read" what she is saying.
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