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Thursday Letters: Name Supreme Court justice who looks forward

Lest we forget, our nation’s so-called Founding Fathers were predominately white men of property who owned slaves and denied women the right to vote. These facts are not meant to condemn them, but to place them in their time in history.

They managed to create an outstanding framework for constitutional government, one that has been flexible enough to guide our nation through many difficult times. The Constitution has seen new amendments and has had old ones repealed. It seems counterproductive to seat anyone on the Supreme Court who would think it appropriate to opinion in the mind-set of customs from a time long past — a time to which we should never return.

John F. Dzurak Jr. Homewood

SEND LETTERS TO: letters@suntimes.com. Please include your neighborhood or hometown and a phone number for verification purposes.

Kirk takes morally right stand

Now the Sun-Times is calling on Sen. Mark Kirk to join the fray with respect to replacing Judge Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. While you point out that any decision he makes will be the wrong one, maybe by not taking an early stand, it could be the right one. By doing the morally right thing, waiting at least until the man is buried, maybe Kirk gains a few moderate fans. Life doesn’t have to be all politics for a politician, and Kirk’s stand is the morally right one. Is he calculating his next move as you claim? Only he knows. But Democratic contenders Andrea Zopp and Rep. Tammy Duckworth already chomping at the bit at this latest bit of campaign rhetoric. I really hate elections in Illinois. The wolves all come out of their sheep’s clothing and start tearing into each other. All but one, that is.

Scot Sinclair, Gurnee

Stevie Wonder champions the blind

It was with great interest that my colleagues and I “watched” Stevie Wonder’s remarks about accessibility on the Grammy Awards show last night. I write “watched” in quotes because I am a blind braille instructor at Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired, the largest provider of distance education for people who are blind and visually impaired worldwide. It was wonderful that Mr. Wonder brought awareness to the issue of accessibility for persons with disabilities in such a public forum.

My colleagues and I agree with Mr. Wonder that as a nation, we could go further to assist people with disabilities. Enacted in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was designed to provide reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities in the workplace and accessibility in public areas. Ways that accessibility could still be improved today include auditory traffic controls, so that pedestrians who are blind or visually impaired can know when the traffic is in our favor to cross the street. However, we have made great strides for people who are blind since the ADA was first enacted.

Before the ADA was enacted, a person who was blind could not walk up to the door of a restroom and know if it was for men, women or a janitor’s closet. Before the ADA, a person who is blind or visually impaired would have no idea what elevator floor was being pushed; we had to wait for someone to press the button and only hope the first stop was our floor or that someone on the elevator would be able to tell us the floor number where the elevator had stopped. Before the ADA, you had to guess at your hotel room number to identify the room; now, in most places in the U.S., you can reach out and feel the room number. Today, you can even enter a Denny’s a TGI Fridays or an Olive Garden and read a braille menu yourself!

This brings me to my last point about braille, the other issue Mr. Wonder mentioned in last night’s pre-award winner announcement. Despite great advances in adaptive technology, such as screen reading software, braille literacy continues to be critical to an individual’s independence. With the knowledge of braille, a person could label a food container, play a game of cards, write a phone number or grocery list and not have to rely upon expensive technology. Technology is wonderful and helpful; braille greatly enhances people’s options.

As a totally blind professional woman, I am able to keep phone numbers and other information for my students in braille; as an active member of my community, I can take notes at a meeting or perform with my choir using braille lyric sheets; and as a mom and grandmother, I read books to my children and now to my grandchildren.

Thank you, Mr. Wonder for opening up the dialogue on this important literacy issue.

Sharon Howerton, Braille Instructor, Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Winnetka