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for the Blind

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Letter to Will Rogers from Helen Keller (November 28, 1934)



November 28, 1934.

Dear Will Rogers:

Here I come with another request. You should not be a prince of such irresistible charm if you wish to avoid beggars with a cause up their sleeve. The last time "I held you up," I came away with my hands full of riches. However, it was not material wealth I wanted, it was your wizard voice. It is that I am after now. Like the gardener who, even after the most refreshing shower, says, "It ought to rain a bit more," so with me, I am always asking for more.

The American Foundation for the Blind has produced and perfected what is called the Talking-book. These books are reproduced on a machine which is a combination phonograph and radio. A book of about ninety thousand words can be recorded on a dozen discs, thus bringing to the blind the pleasure and satisfaction of reading by ear any time they choose, without having to use the tedious method of finger-reading, or to wait upon the convenience of others to read aloud to them. In addition to the talking-book they will have a radio.

These machines are sold to the sightless at actual cost. The Library of Congress is having a number of records produced which it will loan through its various branch libraries for the blind.

But unfortunately the vast majority of the blind cannot afford the machines. During the last few years the British Broadcasting Company has on Christmas afternoon each year made an appeal for funds to purchase radios for the blind of Great Britain, and over the period more than twenty thousand radios have been furnished. It has been suggested that a similar appeal in this country about Christmas-time might secure an equally good result for talking-book machines.

The Columbia Broadcasting Company has been approached in this matter, and will be glad to cooperate and give us time over their system. My job is to persuade outstanding radio personalities to make the appeal. Will you not be one?

Rest assured that no precedent will be established if you grant this request, since the blind are recognized as a class apart from all other handicapped groups. Be it said to the honor of humanity that no one would begrudge the blind a special service.

I am writing this letter from the Doctor's Hospital where I am staying near my dear teacher who is ill. She who has for nearly fifty years been my eyes and ears is now quite in the dark herself, but her physician is hopeful of being able to give her back a little sight.

With cordial personal greetings and every good wish from us both, I am

Sincerely yours,

P.S. I am making a similar request to Edwin C. Hill and Alexander Woollcott. Day and time will be arranged if my three friends, or even one, grant my request.

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