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Read about Don Mahoney, a man who decided to keep his blindness a secret and did so for almost ten years.
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The COVID-19 has changed our lives dramatically. For The Blind History Lady, all personal appearances have been cancelled until further notice. However, I am still participating in phone presentations.
THOSE SOON TO BE IN OUR HISTORY
Charles “Charlie” S. Brown
Date of Death: August 1, 2021
CHARLES ST. CLAIR BROWN
ATTORNEY, PUBLIC SERVANT, DISABILITY RIGHTS ADVOCATE
Charles S. Brown, 76 of Winchester, VA, passed away Sunday, August 1, 2021 at Winchester Medical Center.
Charles (Charlie) Brown was born totally blind. Surgeons were able to save some vision, but he remained “legally blind” for life. Charlie and his younger brother James were raised in the Boston Suburbs. Until 8th grade, Charlie attended the Perkins School for the Blind and then became the first blind graduate of Wellesley High School in Wellesley, MA. He received an A.B. in American history from Harvard in 1967. While Charlie was at Harvard, his parents moved to the Chicago area. After Harvard, Charlie moved on to Northwestern Law School. He received a JD and passed the Illinois and Connecticut bars in 1970. In 1969 Charlie married Jacqueline Stone (Vassar, 1968) who was earning an MBA from Northwestern.
It was difficult in those days for blind lawyers to get jobs. Eventually, Charlie and Jacki were able to move to Washington, DC, where Charlie joined the Legislation and Legal Counsel Division of the U.S. Department of Labor Solicitor’s Office (DOL). He rose through the ranks to become Counsel for Special Legal Services. There, he was responsible for supervising and drafting of DOL proposed legislation, preparing and clearing DOL Congressional testimony and internal DOL directives, including Secretary’s Orders. His responsibilities also included serving as counsel to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and management of the DOL’s ethics and financial disclosure program. In this capacity, he worked on obtaining Senate confirmation of numerous DOL officials. In 1982 Charlies received the Departments’ Distinguished Career Service award.
In 1991 he was appointed Designated Agency Ethics Official at the National Science Foundation (NSF). Charlie was responsible for writing and implementing NSF regulations dealing with conflicts of interest, and financial disclosure requirements. Resolving conflict-of-interest issues was important for employees, visiting scientists, and numerous individuals, used as peer reviewers of NSF grant applications. Charlie played a major role in protecting the integrity of the NSF peer review process, which was often referred to as the “gold standard” of merit review within the science and engineering community. In 2006, he received the Foundation’s Gold Medal for his accomplishments.
After retiring from the Government in 2007, Charlie opened his own law practice in Washington, D.C.and later moved to Westminster-Canterbury in Winchester, VA. He specialized in disability rights, voting rights, and nonprofit administration matters. He became active in the American Bar Association (ABA), serving on its Commission on Disability Rights and its standing Committee on Election Law. He was also elected to the Council of the ABA’s Senior Lawyers Division. Other professional activities included serving as a founding board member of the Disability Rights Bar Association, as well as various offices in the National Association of Blind Lawyers.
Charlie was a long-time member of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). He served in various volunteer positions including: Virginia State President for 26 years, member of the National Board of Directors, and National Treasurer. In 2006, he received the Federation’s Jacobus tenBroek award. It is considered the highest form of achievement within the NFB and is not necessarily presented each year. Rather it is to be given only so often as a member has earned it.
Charlie and Jacki were longtime residents of Arlington, Virginia. Both were active in Kiwanis Club of Arlington, and both served terms as its President. Charlie also served on the Virginia Community Integration Advisory Commission for People with Disabilities (a.k.a. Virginia Olmstead Commission), and was President of the Virginia Business Opportunities for the Blind Inc. Charlie and Jacki were both active members of Rock Spring Congregational Church in Arlington, where they held various leadership positions. Charlie also served the wider Church as a member of the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, for which he served as Chair of its Policy and Planning Committee.
Charlie and Jacki raised two sons Richard and Stephen. Richard lives in Seattle, WA. Where he works as an ICANN specialist for Tucows, Inc. Stephen and his wife Michelle, live in Winchester, VA. Stephen is a teacher and coach with Fairfax County Public Schools. Stephen and Michelle are the parents of their two granddaughters, Hailey and Kelsye Brown.
Services for Charles will be held at 2 PM on Saturday, August 14, 2021 at Omps Funeral Home, 1600 Amherst St. Winchester, VA 22601 (540-662-6633). Due to COVID restrictions, please RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in Charlie’s memory may be made to: The National Federation of the Blind of Virginia (NFBV.org/give), 3230 Grove Ave, Richmond, VA 23221 or the Chaplaincy Fund (SVWC.org/donate-now), 300 Westminster-Canterbury Dr, Winchester, VA 22603.
Stephen O. Benson, age 78, of Chicago, died on March 22, 2020; beloved husband of Margaret M. nee Gull; loving father of Patrick Owen (Dulcinea Basile) Benson; cherished grandpa of Theodore Joseph and Winston James; loving brother of the late Theodate Audry Benson; dear brother-in-law of Mary Therese (Charles) McGaughan, Eileen Anne (Robert) Kleps, Kathleen (Mark) Vuolo, Thomas Francis (Timothy Flesch) Gull and the late Edmund A. Gull and Dolores (Paul) Nelson; fond uncle of Sean (Claudia Rosales) McGaughan, Stephen (Rebecca Oppenheim) Kleps, Christopher (Sarah Welsh) Kleps and Andrew (Kimberly Wild) Kleps, and Anthony and David Vuolo; great uncle of Mariana Therese McGaughan, and Lily, Daniel, John, and Eddie Kleps, and Kiernan and June Rock, and Rowan Perkins. Steve was a graduate of DePaul U. He taught Braille at Hines VA hospital. He worked in public relations for the Chicago Public Library at the Harold Washington branch. Steve was a leader in the National Federation of the Blind. Private interment was held in Queen of Heaven Cemetery on March 24, 2020. Memorial donations to VanderCook College of Music
Avraham Rabby, blind activist who fought to enter Foreign Service, dies at 77
By Bart Barnes
April 25, 2020 at 12:48 p.m. MDT
Avraham Rabby, a blind activist and management consultant who passed five State Department entrance examinations and in 1989 prevailed in a protracted dispute with the department over his qualifications to be a Foreign Service officer, died April 17 in a hospital near Tel Aviv. He was 77.
The cause was cancer, said a niece, Ofra Hod.
In 1990, Mr. Rabby began a 17-year Foreign Service career that would include posts in Europe, Africa, South America and South Asia. He was a “champion for the employment of the disabled at the State Department,” said Judith E. Heumann, special adviser for disability rights at the State Department during the administration of President Barack Obama.
Mr. Rabby, known to friends as Rami, was a native of Tel Aviv with honors degrees in French and Spanish from the University of Oxford in England and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Chicago. He became a U.S. citizen in 1980, worked as a management consultant for Citibank on issues of equal rights and opportunities for the blind, and tried unsuccessfully for almost a decade to join the Foreign Service.
“It is absolutely unconscionable that the rest of the government has shown itself to be able to employ blind people constructively,” he told the Associated Press in 1988. “The State Department is still in the 19th century.”
He passed written and oral examinations. The National Federation of the Blind, where he served as an officer, filed a lawsuit on his behalf. But the State Department rebuffed his entreaties, citing long-standing personnel policies.
“You don’t ask a blind person to drive a bus or be a bank teller,” George S. Vest, the State Department personnel director, said in 1988, according to the New York Times. “There are jobs which are dangerous or unsuitable for them. And in the Foreign Service, we’re full of jobs like that.”
There was a widely held conviction that to be effective, Foreign Service officers needed to be able to spot the subtleties of nonverbal body language: winks, nods, raised eyebrows, rolling of the eyes, smiles, frowns, shoulder shrugs.
“No international treaty has ever been decided on the basis of a wink or a nod,” Mr. Rabby told the Times.
“I necessarily listen more than a sighted person would,” he said. “If I’m walking along a street, I can tell there is a building next to me because of the echoes of my feet or my cane. A blind person sees the world differently from a sighted person. Our impressions are no less valid.”
In 1989, Edward J. Perkins, the new director general of the Foreign Service and a former ambassador to South Africa, broke with tradition and directed the hiring of Mr. Rabby. He told a congressional committee that the Foreign Service had decided it could make accommodations for the blind, “just as we do for sighted people, based on what they can accomplish.”
This action came weeks after the Senate had passed the Americans With Disabilities Act, which broadened civil rights already protected in earlier legislation.
Mr. Rabby attended his Foreign Service orientation with one other blind person, Maryanne Masterson, a 13-year State Department employee who had been working inthe visa services office and eventually held Foreign Service assignments in Asia, Europe and North America before retiring in 2012.
Masterson said she and Mr. Rabby remained friends throughout their careers. But they both encountered hostility from colleagues who “felt the Foreign Service should never have been opened to handicapped employees,” she said.
Mr. Rabby was posted to South Africa just after Nelson Mandela, the future president of the country, was being freed from prison. He served in Washington at the State Department’s Bureau of Human Rights. At the U.S. mission to the United Nations, he helped draft resolutions dealing with literacy, global health and disabled people.
His last Foreign Service posting was as political chief at the U.S. Embassy in Port-of-Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago, the dual-island Caribbean nation.
“I was his eyes,” Rhonda Singh, his reader and personal assistant in Port-of-Spain, wrote in an email. “He never allowed his disability to see the world deter him. ... He was proud to have served as an FSO diplomat for the USA ... to make persons who are challenged and visually impaired to improve their standard of life.”
Avraham Rabby was born in Tel Aviv on June 29, 1942, in what then was the British Mandate for Palestine. His father was a businessman, his mother a housewife. He suffered detached retinas in his eyes, causing him to lose his eyesight at the age of 8.
As a teenager, he went to a British boarding school for the blind, and then to Oxford. In 1969, received an MBA from the University of Chicago.
While living in Manhattan, he often liked to take visiting relatives from Israel on tandem bike tours — with Mr. Rabby pedaling in the rear seat, his visitors steering up front. He also was an enthusiastic coin collector who regularly attended numismatic conventions.
On his retirement, he moved from Washington back to Israel to be near his only survivor, a brother.