As it has for many, the meaning of the 4th of July has changed tremendously for me from the time I was a nerdy kid in San Jose to a writer in San Francisco. Images of barbecues and city parks have been replaced by feelings of patriotism when I listen for the mechanical bird to sing at an intersection when crossing a major street. Ironically, the biggest change in the definition of Independence Day occurred when I lost my sight. Within days of going blind, I was contacted by social workers and representatives from city programs and non-profits that were eager to help out. As I assimilated into my world of darkness, the Department of Rehabilitation purchased blind technology that otherwise I would have not been able to afford on my own.
Aside from direct support from state and federal agencies, I feel grateful that there are laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that make things accessible to me. With it, I am able to go to school, work, and travel independently with my guide dog Madge. For over a century it’s been said by many prominent figures that you can judge a society by how it treats its more vulnerable members. My experience in America was that I felt supported when I became blind, and it was because of the aid I received that I was able to learn to do everything again independently.
Fireworks are still enjoyable to me because of the intense sound each one amplifies in the sky. I envision different shades of lights dancing above – sometimes forming flowers, stars, and even animals; each popping burst making me feel deeply patriotic.
***Belo Cipriani is a freelance writer, speaker, and the author of Blind: A Memoir. Learn more at www.blindamemoir.com.
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