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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
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.
Donald C. Capps
1928 – 2019
Donald C. Capps, 91, passed away from a short illness on November 6, 2019. Born on August 30, 1928, he was the 11th and last surviving child of the late Julius Walter Capps and Minnie Viola Snipes Capps. Due to vision problems, he attended the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind. He later transferred to Mullins High School and graduated in 1946. Capps enrolled in Draughon’s Business College in Columbia and, after graduation, joined Colonial Life and Accident Insurance Company. He remained with Colonial Life for almost 40 years until his retirement.
Capps married the late Betty Capps in 1949 and they remained happily married until her death in 2018. Don and Betty had two children, the late Helen Elizabeth Capps Holdcraft and Donald Craig Capps. In addition to his son, Craig, Capps is survived by three grandchildren, Aaron Holdcraft, Michael Holdcraft, Laura Holdcraft Setters and four great grandchildren, Brooke Holdcraft, Mason Setters, Elizabeth Setters and Juliet Setters. He is also survived by Laura’s husband, David Setters, and Aaron’s wife, Jaimie Unitus Holdcraft, as well as numerous nieces and nephews.
Capps was a member of Kilbourne Park Baptist Church for 65 years. At various times over the years, Don served as a Deacon at the Church and Chairman of the Finance Committee. Don and Betty attended church faithfully until failing health prevented their attendance.
Along with his wife, Betty, Don was a dedicated member of the National Federation of the Blind and worked tirelessly for 65 years to improve the quality of life for blind persons in South Carolina and throughout the United States and world. As part of his advocacy work, Don and Betty traveled to all 50 states and several foreign countries. He served as President of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina for over 30 years and as an officer of the National Federation of the Blind for over 50 years. In addition, he was a United States delegate to the International Federation of the Blind and attended conventions in Egypt, Spain and Australia. Don served on the Board of Directors for the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind from 1981 to 2005. One of his proudest achievements was his role in the creation of the Rocky Bottom Retreat and Conference Center of the Blind in the mountains of Pickens County.
Don and Betty’s volunteer work for the blind was the result of their compassion, desire to improve the quality of life for blind persons and their deep Christian faith. Although he did not do this advocacy work for recognition or awards, Don received many awards over the years, including the following: Honorary Doctorate in Public Service from the University of South Carolina in 2001, Handicapped Person of the Year by both the City of Columbia and the State of
South Carolina in 1965 and Outstanding Leader in Education Award given by the National
School Public Relations Association in 1994. Along with his beloved Betty, they received the Order of the Palmetto in 2000, the highest honor bestowed by the State of South Carolina. In addition, Don and Betty were honored in 2001 by the South Carolina General Assembly with the adoption of a concurrent resolution by the House of Representatives and the Senate for their service to the blind of South Carolina.
Don’s funeral will be held at 2 o’clock, Monday, November 11, 2019 at Kilbourne Park Baptist Church, 4205 Kilbourne Park Road, Columbia with the Reverend Terry Smoak officiating. The family will receive friends at the church prior to the service, beginning at 12:30 in the Annie Green Building. Burial will be held at 2 o’clock, Tuesday, November 12, 2019 at Red Hill Memorial Gardens, 1932 Old Stage Road, Mullins, SC. Shives Funeral Home, Trenholm Road Chapel, is assisting the family.
In lieu of flowers, living memorials may be made to the Federation Center of the Blind, 119 South Kilbourne Road, Columbia, SC 29205.
Memories and condolences may be shared at ShivesFuneralHome.com.
Published in Anderson Independent-Mail from Nov. 7 to Nov. 8, 2019