Data for stories for the Blind History Lady have come from many sources, Census data, news, periodicals and magazine articles, interviews, files from blind consumer organizations, government records, books, and much more. Facts have been double checked as much as possible. I have tried to remove the emotional reaction to blindness and take into consideration the times that the subjects lived in as much as the source of the information.
Much of the history of the blind has been lost to us due to lack of storage, floods, fires and a lack of descendants to keep alive the memories, talents and accomplishments of their blind ancestors to lead normal, everyday lives. A larger portion of blind persons, discouraged to have children of their own, left fewer today to tell their story. The many blind persons who lived and died in poverty, often not even leaving a marked grave to visit, have passed without leaving a trace in this world to follow.
I have endeavored to find out as much as possible regarding the lives of the traceable blind people of my stories, know how they lived and the sometimes, extraordinary efforts it took to make it in the world as an ordinary citizen. The obstacles that they overcame, many times were very different than the sighted world around them recognized. Few realized that they, the sighted were placing barriers through their efforts to help the blind.
Currently, Peggy Chong serves on the State Rehabilitation Council for the Commission for the Blind of New Mexico, on the board of the ADA Advisory Committee for the City of Albuquerque and writes the history column for Dialogue Magazine, “The Way We Were”.
She has been an active part of the blind community for more than forty years. Determined to imbue the service delivery system for the blind with a more positive and forward-looking philosophy, Peggy joined with other blind people in Minneapolis, Minnesota to establish Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND, Inc.), a training center for the blind designed to encourage its students to achieve self-sufficient and productive lives. In 1985, Peggy Chong accepted the position of President of the Board of BLIND, Inc., a position she held for ten years. During that time, she worked with many students of all ages and varying levels of vision, encouraging them to learn the alternative nonvisual techniques of blindness and fueling their imaginations to dream of a life where each of them could live and work in their communities on a basis of equality with their sighted peers. She also helped many of them to make intelligent decisions about their vision–when it would be helpful and when it would hinder progress toward independence.
After moving to Baltimore Maryland in 1997, Peggy secured a position with BISM (Blind Industries and Services of Maryland) as an outreach/instructor. In 1998, Peggy left BISM accepting a position with the Job Opportunities for the Blind program at the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore, Maryland. For more than a year, she led a succession of intensive two-week training sessions designed to teach computer and other important job-readiness skills to blind individuals seeking employment. She also worked individually with each job candidate to refine the job search according to the unique needs of each, and she worked with numerous employers to ensure that the characteristic of blindness was accurately perceived and the blind job applicant treated fairly. When a job was offered to any of her students, she provided assistance before and after securing the job to ensure that each of them had the tools needed to succeed in the new position. Sometimes this involved connecting her student with other blind persons doing that same job somewhere in the United States. At other times, she provided information and advice about new, non-traditional techniques that could be used to perform the job successfully.
Later, Peggy served for three years as the National Program Manager for NFB-NEWSLINE®, out of the Baltimore, MD office of the National Federation of the Blind. In this position, she formed valuable relationships with national and local newspapers, community-based service delivery organizations and rehabilitation programs, and literally thousands of blind men and women–many of them newly-blind–across the country.
After moving to Iowa in 2002, she became a private contractor providing consulting services and employment training to governmental agencies and nonprofit organizations. Her work involved the dissemination of job-search, résumé creation and distribution services designed to help individuals–with or without disabilities–to secure competitive employment. She also taught independent travel to the Blind. She also served as the NFB-NEWSLINE Coordinator for the state of Iowa for several years.
In Iowa, Peggy led the Saturday School program for blind children for almost ten years. Each month she designed programs that provided real-life, hands-on programs for the blind children and their families. Programs included a trip to the airport to “see” the travel process. The children were able to walk through security and actually touch everything, even the security devices that the sighted see but the blind were never able to touch because of security reasons.
When the blind children were old enough where requirements for other organizations in which they were participating required community service, a series of Saturday School practice sessions preceded a soup supper for guests. The blind children learned how to walk into new settings, offer to help with confidence in every task and learned the techniques to execute them without worrying their service leaders.
Because of her curiosity, she has been able to help set up support networks for other blind persons. She had provided ideas and suggestions to build a different approach or alternative view on problems, challenges and dreams for the future for many blind persons.
For more than forty years, Peggy has been active in a variety of community organizations: the National Federation of the Blind, the American Cancer society, the Hawthorn Area Community Council, the Cooperating Fund Drive, Iowa and Albuquerque Genealogical Societies, Friends of the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Iowa Shares and Oasis of Albuquerque.