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Adjusting to Blindness:

Interview with Dr. Dean Tuttle, former Professor in the Special Education Department at the University of Northern Colorado

Interview:

What prompted you to become involved in the field of Special Education, particularly in working with the blind and visually impaired?

<Dr. Tuttle> I think I need to go back and let you know that when I was in college, I had a math major and physics minor, and my intent was to be a math teacher. I completed that, and got a job teaching math and science in New Jersey. I happened to be assigned to a school where there was a resource room teacher and a classroom for the visually impaired. One of my 7th grade students, by the name of Debbie, was totally blind. At the time she would bring into the classroom for computation either a Taylor slate or a Cubarithm Slate, which are pretty obsolete today. In my mind I thought, "my goodness, there must be a better way." I think that prompted my interest in adaptations for the blind, as far as math computation was concerned.

At the same time, I was losing my vision, and it was increasingly difficult for me to grade papers, especially the papers written in pencil. You don't ask math students in junior high to do math papers in pen, so I did use a reader to grade papers. That became cumbersome and awkward. I ended up going to the New Jersey Commission for the Blind to find out about options, and that is where I met Josephine Taylor, who is one of the "greats" in our field. She said by all means she would encourage me to get a Masters in Special Education, education of visually handicapped. She also recommended San Francisco State College, and a person named Georgie Lee Abel, who in the early 60's, was just establishing that program. Later, I found out they were close friends. It was under Georgie Lee Abel that I received a Masters and became more interested in the broad area of the education of the visually handicapped.

What is the cause of your own visual impairment? How was it diagnosed, and how did the progressive loss unfold??

<Dr. Tuttle> I have Retinitis Pigmentosa, and it is a genetic condition. I have to give you a little background with this one. I have two sisters and a brother. My brother is five years older, one sister is two years older, and one sister is two years younger. I grew up in Belgian Congo, since my parents were medical missionaries. They felt that schooling in Congo was not favorable, at the time when my older brother was ready for school, so he was left with my maternal grandparents in Minnesota on a farm. The rest of us kids in the family attended a school that had been established in Congo for missionaries’ children. We were able to attend that school, even though it was a thousand miles away from our parents. The reason I bring that up, is that when David was around 14, he found that he was having some difficulty with night blindness and tunnel vision. My grandparents took him to Rochester, Minnesota, where the head ophthalmologist at Mayo Clinic had been a classmate of my dad’s at the University of Minnesota Medical School. He discovered that my brother had Retinitis Pigmentosa, and suggested by letter to my father, that he might want to have the other three children tested. He indicated what to look for. My dad checked all of our eyes, but he didn’t say anything. It wasn’t until two or three days later, that I went with my mother to the railroad station to greet some visitors that were coming, and my mom asked me to come into the waiting room, and said, “I’ve got something to tell you.” When she started talking about my eyes, using very technical words, I couldn’t figure out why she was talking about this. She tried to explain to me that they had discovered Retinitis Pigmentosa in my brother, and that, when my dad had looked into my eyes, he had seen the same symptoms or signs. Their best guess was that by the time I was thirty-five, I would be totally blind. I was nine at the time, and I responded by saying, “OK mom, can I go back and play?” for thirty-five, to me, was an eternity away! It didn’t affect me at the time. I think, as I look back on it now, that it was a weighty thing on my mother and dad, but it didn’t have the same impact on me. They did not discover RP in either of my two sisters, so they are guessing that it is a recessive sex-linked kind of a gene. Women are the carriers, and men are the affected ones. So that is the background on how I found out I would be losing my vision.

You asked about the early signs. I mentioned that I went to a residential school for missionary kids where there were fifty of us in the school, from fourth grade through high school. All of the kids were kind of like brothers and sisters, just like a large family. One night when I was about eleven, we were out playing in the moonlight, and as I ran behind a palm tree, in its shadow, I ran right into Don Brown, and just knocked him over. He looked up at me and said, “What’s the matter with you, can’t you see?” I could not see him at night, in the shadow like that. It was the first time I discovered that people could do things visually that I couldn't. The next thing that I noticed, was when we would go on long hikes into the countryside on weekends, we would go to places where there would be a stream, and the other kids would hop from rock to rock, to cross the stream. Because my tunnel vision would not allow me to anticipate the next rock in order to jump to it, my mode was to jump to a rock, stop, find the next one and then jump. It was something the other kids could do that I couldn’t do. The other thing that I also found out, about the same time when I was around 11 or 12, when we were going out to play baseball. I was no good in the outfield, because I couldn’t see the ball when it was hit, or track the ball as it came out to the outfield. So I was always playing the infield. To describe my vision briefly, I had 20/20 vision in the center part of my vision, but my peripheral vision was gradually closing in. When I was 22, I was legally blind and had to give up driving. That was probably the most difficult thing that I had to do in terms of adjusting to a visual impairment. By the time I was 27 years of age I was totally blind.

At 22, where were you in your life?

<Dr. Tuttle> I was in New Jersey teaching junior high school.

And at 27?

<Dr. Tuttle> I was in California, and had just completed my Masters and began my teaching work outside of Sacramento, as an itinerant teacher.

With your brother then, was his experience much different from yours? As you said, he was in Minnesota…

<Dr. Tuttle> Interesting question. My grandparents on my mother’s side were second-generation farmers, and their parents had homesteaded. So, these people were pioneer stock, very independent individuals. Although my grandfather was a little more accepting, I never heard the word “blind” in my grandmother’s presence. I interpreted it that she must have felt it was a shameful thing that she had someone in her family that was blind. So when you don’t talk about something, as a kid growing up, you get the impression that the unmentionable is bad. Since David grew up in this atmosphere, I think that David felt that to be blind was bad, “I am losing my vision, so therefore I must be bad, or second class citizen, or inferior.” He had a much more difficult time as an adult, adjusting, accepting, and adapting. In fact, he would look to me for adaptations and techniques. Our loss of vision followed similar timetables.

So, your parents must have been more accepting, in terms of your environment, etc.

<Dr. Tuttle> They were at least talking about blindness, and at least not in a negative sense, rather as a matter of fact. However, they had no idea of services or resources. I was 18, and didn’t have any blind mentors or peers.

What brought you here to UNC, and how did that process come about?

<Dr. Tuttle> Following the completion of a Masters in Special Education at San Francisco State University, I was a combination resource/itinerant teacher in the San Juan School District, outside of Sacramento. I was based at an elementary school, where we served several kids in a resource room setting, and then we also had several junior and senior high school students scattered around the district.

By this time, I was in my late 20’s, and I had given up driving. As an itinerant teacher, transportation was the most difficult thing that I had to arrange for, week by week. I found people to be very accommodating, in the sense that I would find people who were going to a particular part of town, and they were more than happy to give me a ride. There was no public transportation, so there was no option for a bus or taxi.

When I was completing my fourth year with San Juan School District, representatives from the California School for the Blind called and asked if I would consider applying for the job as principal. Subsequently in 1966, I was invited to become the principal of that school, then located in Berkeley, but now in Freemont. I had a question about my ability to function as an administrator, scheduling classes for 33 teachers throughout the day, in a school with 157 students. By this time, I was using Braille and was using a dog guide for mobility purposes. Another issue that concerned me was the deaf/blind department with thirty students, other students who were non-verbal, and some even non-ambulatory. My question was how was I, as a blind person, going to manage observing classes, observing playgrounds, and just handling some of the supervision responsibilities? As it turned out, you learn to delegate certain things, and with other responsibilities, I found ways of managing. Braille took on new significance for me because I was relying totally on Braille for scheduling, time sequencing, and personal notes. I had already received a Masters in Educational Administration from Columbia University, in New York City, so I was comfortable with the theoretical part.

In my desire to keep up with the new theories, new techniques, and new ideas in educational administration, I went to the University of California in Berkeley, to sign up for some courses in their excellent educational program. They informed me that they wouldn’t allow students to just take course work; you had to be admitted into a program. So without really any interest in a doctoral program, I applied for the doctoral program in order to be able to take the administration courses.

In the fall of 1970, when I was completing my course work at Berkley and working on my dissertation, I got a telephone call from Grace Napier. I should have known who she is, but sad to say, I didn’t at that time. She asked if we would like to think about coming to Greeley to the University of Northern Colorado, and again, sad to say, I had never heard of the University of Northern Colorado, or Greeley! Initially, as I look back on it, I think I was probably a little guarded in my answer. They did fly me out to Greeley, I did interview for the job, liked the area, liked the program, liked the possibilities and so, I did accept the invitation. So that’s how I came to UNC.

What special interests did you develop while here at UNC?

<Dr. Tuttle> Obviously, the initial interest that brought me here was teacher training, and more broadly, leadership training in Special Education. To be honest with you, when I had arrived, I had not taught at the college level, though I had lectured in several classes. But I had never been in the role of professor, didn’t know whether I would be any good at it, or if I would enjoy it. As it turned out, I enjoyed the interaction with the students, the intellectual stimulation, and we were able to develop some ideas. The leadership training is what brought me here.

Another interest that was latent, and yet came out in time, was the psychosocial needs of blind children. This was begun in my Masters program with Georgie Lee Abel, who also was very interested in this field. She was also the one who introduced me to Beatrice Wright and her book, “Physical Disabilities: a Psychological Approach.” It was the second area of interest, psychosocial needs of visually impaired children, that did intrigue me a lot, and it’s an area that continues to interest me.

Another area of interest for me was technology, in the broadest sense, and the adaptations needed for visually impaired and blind folks. My primary interests early on were math adaptations--are we stuck with the Taylor Slate, or are there other things that we can do?

Another area of interest that intrigued me was recreational opportunities for the blind. One of the reasons for this, was that growing up in Congo and enjoying the outdoors so much, we did a lot of hiking, biking, camping, hunting, fishing, and all those kinds of things. In my mind I was curious about what adaptations are needed for the blind. Another thing that we did at the school for missionary kids was to play a lot of table games. At that time I could see all right, so I could participate, but in the back of my mind, I wondered about adaptations for the blind.

I am just curious, what are some of the board games that you have found to be adaptable?

<Dr. Tuttle> A lot of board games, such as monopoly, checkers, Parcheesi, and card games are easily adapted, using a Braillewriter. Some of them are commercially available.

What types of adaptations do you think blind people can use for hiking and outdoor recreation, getting out there with dog, cane, or human guide?

<Dr. Tuttle > We, as a family, were fortunate enough to obtain a piece of property up in the mountains, at Crystal Lakes. We had five acres next to the national forest. At that time, in the late 1970’s, I was using a cane to navigate the wild animal trails and some jeep trails near our cabin. Although I had used a cane for 18 years, using a cane alone in a national forest on deer trails was impossible! I would have to go with someone else or with a group. That was enjoyable, but it wasn’t an activity I could do alone. That prompted me to go back and get my second dog guide. At first, I was skeptical regarding the dog’s ability to be more helpful on outdoor hikes. Starting at the cabin, I would take Warren and go to the edge of the national forest, and say, “Warren, let’s go back to the cabin.” I was trying to instill into him the word “cabin.” Then, I would go about a hundred yards further, then say, “let’s go back to the CABIN.” He would faithfully get me back to the cabin. Progressively, we would get further and further away, until finally, we were going on two to five mile hikes alone in the national forest. The terrain was very hilly and rocky, with a lot of pine and aspen trees, with overhead branches as well as the fallen logs. Warren was able to very successfully guide me.

Guide dogs aren’t typically trained for that type of activity, so he had to be a special dog, to be able to enjoy it, and be smart enough to learn to guide on hiking trails.

<Dr. Tuttle> Interestingly enough, they did ask before I left the Seeing Eye, if there was anything I was going to be encountering in my home setting, that we haven’t experienced. I did say, hiking, etc. So they did provide just one lesson, for a day, in a state park with Warren.

In terms of your academic interests, you are considered one of the leaders in the area of psychosocial needs of the blind, and you and your wife (Naomi) have written a book on the subject. Could you tell me how this came about?

<Dr. Tuttle> As I mentioned, in my Masters program, Georgie Lee Abel, who was also interested in this area, pointed me to several authors. One of these was Thomas Cutsforth, and the other was Beatrice Wright. After I got here to UNC, I continued to have that as an interest. As I shared that interest with some faculty in the rehab department, they asked me if I would be interested in teaching a course in the Psychological Aspects of Disability for them in the Rehab Counseling Program. I was very interested, and taught that course for about five years. It was during that time that I developed a spin off of Beatrice Wright, but clarifying some of my own ideas. When I was granted a year’s sabbatical, I chose to go to Florida State University for two reasons. One was to peruse some research questions that I had, and the other was to further refine some of my thoughts on psychosocial needs of blind persons. It was in the back of my mind that perhaps I could put together an article, but after Naomi and I worked a while on this, doing some research and interviewing people, it grew larger than an article. I thought maybe a three-chapter monograph or something like that, but it grew into the book, “Self-Esteem and Adjusting with Blindness”.

When I stop and reflect back on my doctoral program, I never intended to get a Doctorate, and I never intended to write a book. I guess what I am expressing is the idea that I was at the right place at the right time. I believe that God had a way of arranging these things and working them out. I don’t take credit for that. It is just the way it evolved, the way it turned out.

You mentioned your book, what is its premise?

<Dr. Tuttle> People without vision are, first of all, normal people, operating under abnormal conditions. Adjusting can be defined as someone responding to life’s demands with all the qualities that they have, their personality, attributes, strengths, talents, etc. It is no different from anyone else responding to demands and needs in their lives. The only difference is that I am responding to life’s demands with the added, if you will, complication, or added condition of a disability, this being blindness. A person without sight is a normal person responding to the normal demands of life under abnormal conditions. Much depends on the situation that you are in, the support system that surrounds you, the adaptive resources, technology that is available to you, etc.

Another thing I want to mention, regarding the book, is that I recognize from working with the blind, interviewing blind persons, and reading their biographies, is that there are three different distinct crises or obstacles that blind persons meet. First of all, the congenitally blind person, early on, doesn’t know any difference between themselves and other people. It is not until they get in school that it is impressed upon them that they are different, that they do not see as well as their peers. For some, this realization is a sudden crisis, but for most it is a gradual understanding of their vision loss, and more in a social setting. For an adult who becomes blind, the loss they have to contend with is an obvious, sudden change, and they come to this with pre-blindness feelings and attitudes toward blind people. There is a third crisis, which is the social stigma of blindness. In our society, many people feel that you are a lesser person if you are blind, a person apart, and they treat you that way. I tried, in the book, to illustrate how people respond to those situations in different ways.

Could you talk a bit more about differences and similarities in psychosocial adjustment, between congenitally and adventitiously blind people?

<Dr. Tuttle> One of my notions is that adjusting is a lifelong process--you never arrive at a point where you say “I have adjusted,”--because you are always facing new demands, new situations. You are right, the congenitally blind child usually comes to a point where they begin to realize that there are some things that they are not able to participate in, baseball is an example for some kids. There are some things where they are excluded, and how do they handle that? There are other things where they could have participated full well, and yet nobody knew the adaptations, or the playmates were unwilling or not accepting of the situation. Those are the issues, and although the needs of a six-year-old are quite different from those of a 13-year-old or 17-year-old, they often revisit the same kinds of difficulties at different levels.

For the adult who has just recently lost their vision, I find that they’re often more completely demoralized. They are thrown into a situation where they feel they are unable to do anything they used to be able to do. Things are out of control. They are no longer the “master of their ship.” Of course, that is natural until they develop those adaptive techniques, and learn those coping skills that would enable them to move on. That initial loss of control, “I can’t do anything,” is common for newly blinded adults. It is not that common for congenitally blind, who grow up thinking, “This is normal. I can do anything.” These are some of the differences between congenitally blind children and adventitiously blind adults.

You also mentioned the similarities, in terms of revisiting? …

<Dr. Tuttle> Both congenitally and adventitiously blind persons can learn skills and techniques for functioning in one given situation, but then they may need to move on to either a new job, new church, new social settings, so some of those old questions they thought they had resolved and buried, can come to the front again.

In the context of people adjusting with their blindness, teachers and rehabilitation workers often encounter blind individuals at opposite ends of the continuum, either the super-dependent blind person, or the super-independent blind person. Do you have any suggestions for the professionals?

<Dr. Tuttle> That is a tough one. To get into it, I need to tell you a story, but I won’t use any names. In the 1970’s, I was teaching a fairly large Introduction to Special Education class here at UNC with about 230 people in the class. I was talking about assistance offered and received, and how sometimes sighted people feel awkward about coming up and asking, “Is there anything I can do for you?” I was trying to explain that you don’t want to be patronizing or condescending, but you also don’t want to be cold or calloused, just be matter-of-fact. Approach the person, give them your name, and just say, “Is there any way I can be of help to you?” I let them out of class, and one student came to me two days later in class and said, “Dr. Tuttle, that didn’t work at all! I no sooner got out of class and went out to the parking lot outside of McKee Hall, where there was a blind student who was tangled up among the parked cars. I did exactly what you said, and the person laid me out, saying ‘You sighted people are all alike! You think we need help. Just get out of my life and let me do it on my own.’” So, is that a super-independent blind person? Well, yes. I had to assure this student that he did what he needed to do. It was just that this person was at a place psychologically, where he was unable to respond to the question in a civil way. So yes, there are people who represent both ends of that continuum. There are others that are super-dependent, who won’t get out of their chair, let alone do things for others. Perhaps, if they weren’t blind, their personality traits would be such that they liked to be waited on, liked the attention of others doing things for them. I don’t know that it is all a function of the blindness, but certainly when blindness comes, it exacerbates a preexisting trait. This can be a problem at both ends of the spectrum.

I would say, for both of these groups, work on encouraging self-awareness, encouraging them to look at themselves to analyze their strengths and abilities. What do they like to do? What are their interests? What do they want to pursue? What are the kinds of things they enjoy doing, or have done in the past week or month? What has their family done that they have found especially enjoyable? Through these kinds of questions, you uncover some things that they have been involved in or are personally interested in. Then you start pursuing these things and hopefully they will lead to other interests. Are there some stepping-stones to other activities and ventures? I am thinking of analyzing one’s abilities, and what would it take in terms of developing some abilities or adaptations or techniques to be able to do something of interest?

Let’s say someone who enjoys being in a rocking chair, someone super-dependent, expresses an interest in fishing. Ask them what they would have to find out about fishing, go down the line of, what are the tasks required? Then go along with a fisherman and see what they do, and what would you have to learn to do? Then arrange for us to go fishing together. It is a motivation, to build a fire under them, to develop an interest in doing something.

You end up with a fruitless venture if you try to impose something from “your point of view.” Especially with a child, allow them to explore a lot of different things, to determine whether they like something or not. But after having them go down that exploration road, we need to respect that person’s expressions of interest.

On the side of the super-independent person, that is a tough one. I just talked to someone a couple days ago about this problem. It happened to be a seventh grader. He didn’t want to recognize that he was going to alter his life because of a visual impairment, and just wanted to continue to do things like he had always done. Perhaps he was a little unrealistic as far as not facing the consequences of losing some vision. He had the attitude that nothing in his life was going to be influenced by visual impairment. How do you handle that? I hate to be tough-nosed about this, but I think in some situations you have to allow them to experience some bumps along the road, even some failures. He or she may try stuff and may find out, “Oh, I am not going to be able to do that.” I think often teachers, rehab counselors, or parents want to protect their children from failures. For the super-independent person, you have to let them try and perhaps experience failure. From that experience, they may say, “Maybe I do need to learn an adaptive technique, such as learning how to use a cane or learning Braille.” So with a super-independent person, you still explore strengths and weaknesses, you still have them explore for themselves what their interests are, what they want to pursue, and then help them along the way to accomplish them.

How would this independence-dependence continuum impact a school-age student?

<Dr. Tuttle> I remember a first grader whom I worked with, who tended to be on the dependent end of the continuum. There were a couple of other kids in the class who enjoyed “mothering,” taking this kid under their wings and just mothering her to death. In my opinion, this wasn’t good either because it encourages unnatural co-dependencies. You do have to try to break that up and redirect the child’s energies into a broader social environment and a more realistic interaction with other kids.

We also see this among adults. Unfortunately, what I have seen among adults who are starved for social contact, they will seek help inappropriately. We all need help from time to time, but these people seek help as a means of maintaining their only social contacts. Then they become mixed up, “my friends are my helpers and my helpers are my friends.” That is not necessarily true. It can be true, but it doesn’t have to be true.

With the one scenario, where the helper is the only social contact, you try to get them to become involved in social activities that involve a lot of people, for example after-school events, extra-curricular activities, and community opportunities. Through these activities, you enlarge the circle of people with whom they have social contact. If they aren’t out and about and involved, the circle of people they have social contact with is much more limited.

At the other end of the continuum, you have the super-independent person pushing people away. For a period of time, some people are satisfied with being lone rangers, with being alone. I think sooner or later, that loneliness does become a problem. I am not sure that individuals are willing to do anything about it until they see the need. I can’t say to them, “You need to be involved in…” in order to increase social contact. They may be quite satisfied with their life as it is. When they begin expressing a need for reaching out, then we can begin talking about some of these things. Ultimately, I think, this is a personal issue and we need to allow the children and adults we work with to make their own choices and live with the consequences of those choices. If they choose something that you and I wouldn’t necessarily agree with, we need to respect that choice and let them experience the consequences of those choices. If, later on, they want to do something different, and they come back and alter the choice, that is fine. I think far too many times, choices are made for visually impaired children and adults, and they feel like puppets living a life over which they have no control.

What do you think about role models?

<Dr. Tuttle> Again, back to my own personal life, when I began to lose my vision in high school, I had no role models. Even in college, I didn’t meet one blind person. The very first blind person I met was in New Jersey, in my first teaching job. My principal happened to be blind. What a role model for me! He was a very capable man, not only in education, but he was an accomplished violinist, who played with the New Jersey philharmonic orchestra, and started and managed a credit union. Here was a man who was capable of a lot of areas and didn’t let blindness stand in the way. For me to have him as my first role model was powerful. It set the stage for a lot of things for me.

Do people need role models? Absolutely. Can role models serve both as positive role models and others serve as negative role models? Sure, and we can learn from both. I think it helps shape our own awareness and perceptions, our own direction for our own lives. Often children who are being served in itinerant positions may be the only blind kid in that school. Or we work with adults in rural communities where they are the only blind person in that entire community. How do you get role models to these people? I think anything you can do to have an activity where you can invite several families with blind children, or several adults together to do an activity. It doesn’t have to be very often, but it helps to occasionally rub shoulders with others who have a visual impairment.

Another way to reach some individuals is to offer children or adults biographies or autobiographies of blind persons. They can read the experiences of other people, and they can vicariously experience some of those things. We shouldn’t leave it at that, but discuss the book with the student or blind adult afterward: “What did you think? Did you identify with any of it, etc.?” Role models are important and every opportunity should be pursued to cultivate them.

Comparing blind people does happen, and of course, it’s unfair. It has to do with the infrequency that the “public” encounters blind people. They meet one blind person, and sometimes will generalize from that meeting of one blind person to all other blind people. That is unfair, but I do understand how it happens. Yet I think we, as blind people, need to learn how to handle that. We need to understand why it happens, to help this person move on from stereotyping to recognizing the individual as a person with a lot of different interests in the world.

Back to your book, what were some of the results for you, or outcomes of having written it?

<Dr. Tuttle> Some very, (I guess to me), surprising ones. It was well received, so as a result, a lot of opportunities came for speaking at workshops and conferences, not only around this country, but also internationally. That has been gratifying. At first, I questioned whether or not some of the things Naomi and I talked about in our book, which was written obviously from the context of the United States, would be applicable at all to blind people in foreign countries. Yet, although there are some differences, a lot of those personal and social issues are the same issues that everybody deals with.

Another thing that came up as a result of writing the book, is that I was asked by the administration of the Hadley School for the Blind, to write a course based on the book. The course was being targeted to adults. Hadley is a school with 10,000 students worldwide, where all the courses are taken by correspondence and all of the courses are free to blind people, to parents or family members, and to professionals working with blind persons. I developed a study guide with ten lessons to accompany the text. It applies the principles to the students’ own lives or those with whom a person is working. It is heavily introspective, and they go through self-analysis and problem solving. Many have said this has been very helpful to them, not only in the area of blindness, but also applying the concepts to any loss. What I have found from talking to rehab folks and to some of the people who have completed the Hadley course, is that some are taking the course one step further. They are using the course as a basis for discussions in self-help groups, becoming aware of what the problems are, and what some of the solutions are. That has been fun to watch develop.

To dovetail on a previous topic we covered briefly earlier, where has your interest in adaptive technology taken you?

<Dr. Tuttle> I am a gadget kind of guy. I enjoy different stuff to work with my hands, anything like that. In the old days, reel-to-reel tape recorders fascinated me, now it is burning CD’s! The Taylor Slate and the Cubarithm Slate got me interested first in the Chinese Abacus, then using the Japanese Abacus. Children need to know how to do the basic math via Braille writer or paper and pencil. When they understand the process, after they learn the principles of computation, then introduce the talking calculator and allow them the privilege of the shortcut.

Another thing that I was interested in early on was the Digicassette. It was an early computerized note taker with a Braille display. It was soon after that that the Apple II E’s came out with the Echo speech synthesizer. The long and the short of it was that in 1983, we did offer a summer course in the use of the Apple II E and its adaptations for the blind. It was very well attended.

I am often asked what I do with the old when new technologies come along. I seldom give up anything. I usually use new technology with the old, thus giving me more options to accomplish a variety of tasks.

After your career here at UNC, what do you find you are doing in your retirement?

<Dr. Tuttle > I am not one to sit in my rocking chair doing nothing. I have had a chance to still get out and do some speaking. I do some consulting regarding course development for the Hadley School for the Blind. I am also involved in another national committee that was put together to establish a blindness Hall of Fame, honoring leaders and legends in the blindness field. Hall of Fame: Leaders and Legends of the Blindness Field I just got back last weekend from Louisville. We had the privilege of inducting 30 people into this Hall of Fame, people like my mentors, my heroes, Georgie Lee Abel, Berthold Lowenfeld, and Sam Ashcroft. Ten of these people are still living and they were there. It was a fun time of celebrating people who had given their lives to our field. The pleasure for me is helping to establish the guidelines, the process of nominating, screening, and selecting the people who would be involved in the hall of fame. That has been rewarding for me.

The other thing I mentioned was CD’s! I am burning CD’s from old LPs, cassette and open reel tapes that I saved. Working in my workshop is probably my most enjoyable activity right now. I have as a hobby making wooden puzzles and games that are tactual. I have created about 35 different puzzles and a few other small games. People ask me if I sell them, and I respond that I don’t sell them. If I started selling them, it would become a business and no longer an enjoyable hobby. I give them away, and when they are gone, they are gone.

When working in your workshop, or for blind students who might perhaps be interested in woodworking themselves, what about safety issues, and adaptive techniques?

<Dr. Tuttle> I do work with power tools, a radial arm saw, wood lathe, surface planer, drill press, chop saw, and several others. I don’t have any adaptations as far as my power tools go. The only adaptation I use is a clickrule, which will allow me to measure within 1/16 of an inch, so I can use that to make my cuts. You just make sure you know where the cutting blade is, and where your fingers are.

As we were preparing for this interview, you mentioned that you are working on a tribute to your parents?

<Dr. Tuttle > As I mentioned, they were medical missionaries in Congo, and they are both deceased now, but I think part of it has to do with wanting to make sure that our kids and grandkids understand the legacy that has been left to them by my parents. So we pulled together a bunch of pictures of five generations of family and are organizing it in two media, video, and print format.

I know you have received several awards throughout your career. Which of them mean the most to you?

<Dr. Tuttle> They all came as a surprise to me. I will mention three of them. One is the award given by AER. It was recognition by my peers for publishing. The second, was offered by the Council for Exceptional Children, Division for the Visually Handicapped, and they gave me an award for outstanding contribution to our field. Again, to be recognized by my peers is very meaningful. The one that surprised me the most and is probably the most prestigious, was the award given by the American Foundation for the Blind. Each year they choose one professional from the nation to whom to give this award. In the year 2000, I was named the outstanding professional of the year. All of these are undeserved, but gratefully accepted.

Any other comments you’d like to share before we close?

<Dr. Tuttle> Obviously, anyone can say, when they look back on their lives, that there are key people who are a support and help and obviously, without Naomi’s help, support and encouragement, I couldn’t have done what I have been able to do. My other mentors I have mentioned and the many colleagues and students that I have worked with through the years have all influenced me. No man stands alone.

 

 

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