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Mom's Apron Pockets

Elena Thomason founded Equal Access and Associates in 1992 and currently serves as their CEO. Elena was born blind and was diagnosed with Glaucoma with Cataracts when she was 5 weeks old.

When I was five weeks old, my mom noticed that my eyes just didn't look right to her. When she put me down on the bed to change my diaper, she realized that when the sun got in my eyes I didn't squint or cry. She thought it was a bit strange so she made an appointment for me to be seen by an eye doctor.

At that visit, she learned that I had glaucoma with cataracts and by the time I was two months old I started having eye surgeries. By the time I was eight, I'd had 13 surgeries. Although I had some vision and the surgeries helped in retaining what little vision I had, I eventually lost all my sight during the 13th surgery when I was eight.

Although I started school at a regular school with sighted children, when I was in first grade I was placed in a special class along with about 12 other sight-impaired children. I learned a lot in the special classroom but I learned a great deal more from my mom.

When mom cleaned house she always wore an apron. Most of the time, her apron pockets would be bulging with little things she picked up in the course of cleaning up.

When I got transferred to my Sight Saving class in first grade, I was not allowed to take a school bus with other children. At that time, the San Francisco School District was transporting their disabled children to and from school in cabs. Mom and I would stand out in front of our apartment building every school day morning waiting for my cab.

I always seemed to be bumping my head on mom's big bulging apron pockets. One day, while waiting, I put my hand into her pocket. That was when my imagination and education really began. I'd find all kinds of cool things in there. Some of them I knew, of course, like the rubber bands, toothpicks and tissues but some of them were totally new to me.












One day, I found a golf ball. I'd never seen or heard of a golf ball before, so I asked about it. Mom told me about the game of golf—how people loved going out to play it and how it was played on a special field called a golf course.

On another occasion my hand slid along side of a bobby pin. Because I could not see, I'd never seen ladies with bobby pins in their hair. And, I was only six and hadn't had the need yet to pin up my own hair. So, I asked what it was and what it was used for.

Mom told me how ladies would use the pins in their hair. Until then, I hadn't realized how different other people were. That was a whole new concept for me. I learned about plumbing when I found a washer. I learned about makeup when I discovered a tube of lipstick. It was so super exciting for this little blind girl!

I learned so very much about life on those school day mornings ruffling through mom's pockets. Sometimes my exploration in the pocket would end up taking me on a trip somewhere—maybe back to where my grandparents lived where I'd been before or, sometimes it took me to Europe where I found myself involved in WWII. That was the day I found part of a clip that had come off of a button my dad had bought while in Ireland while he was preparing to go into combat. I shall cherish these memories for a lifetime.

I realize this method of learning isn't exactly traditional, but to this day I still recall the things my mom taught me. Those bulging pockets will always be a part of some of my favorite memories. Thank you mom for taking the time to share.

~ Elena Thomason

Editor's note:

Here's a YouTube video that I made for Elena:

Elena Thomason pitches a project for the Homan Prize to produce a play that she wrote about Louis Braille, the inventor of the writing system for the blind.








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