Diane McGeorge was born in 1932 and grew up in Nebraska. She was blinded by meningitis at age two. She says that she was "slightly educated" at the Nebraska School for the Blind. Upon graduating she learned that no blind person--regardless of how well-qualified--has an easy time in the job market. She enrolled in a Denver business college to learn typing and transcribing before going on to the University of Colorado to train as a medical secretary, her profession for a number of years, with time away to raise her family.
McGeorge spent eight years as a full-time homemaker and mother, including stints as den mother, Sunday school teacher and P.T.A. officer. Throughout these years she was a passive member of the Federation. She served on committees and prepared refreshments, but she did not consider that she had any part in the struggle of the blind against discrimination. Her husband Ray was much more active in the Federation. She ignored or overlooked the instances when she had been turned down by landlords or barred from restaurants because of her dog guide, describing her actions as "looking on the bright side."
However, McGeorge attended the 1973 N.F.B. convention in New York City and discovered for herself the power and commitment that derive from shared experience and determination to alter the status quo. From that moment her life began to change. This is the way she tells it:
"One bitterly cold day in December, Ray and I stopped at a run-down coffee shop. It was the only warm place available, or we wouldn't have set foot in it. We did so, however, and when we did, the proprietor told us we couldn't bring my dog in. I was so furious I almost burst into tears. I walked out, but I thought and thought about that experience--and I said, deep in my heart, that nobody was ever going to make me feel that way again. I had been a coward to let it happen."
About six months later we attempted to go to a movie, and the manager said we couldn't bring the dog into the theater. I was well-acquainted with Colorado's White Cane Law, so we had what turned out to be a two-hour battle over the issue. I came away from there not feeling cowardly or guilty or as if I were not quite as good as the manager because he could see and I couldn't.
In 1976 Diane McGeorge assumed the state presidency of the N.F.B. of Colorado, and she has been returned to office in every election since. Under her leadership the N.F.B. of Colorado has become one of the strongest state affiliates in the Federation. Recently the N.F.B. of Colorado took a giant step forward in serving the blind of the state. In January of 1988 the Colorado Center for the Blind with Diane McGeorge as Executive Director opened its doors for business. Four students enrolled initially, and the numbers have been growing ever since. These students learn the skills of blindness from teachers who believe in the fundamental competence of the blind. But even more important, they learn positive attitudes about blindness.
In 1977 McGeorge was elected to the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind, and in 1984 she was chosen as the organization's First Vice President. In 1982 Diane and Ray McGeorge were presented with the Jacobus tenBroek Award for their work in improving the lives of the blind of the nation.
McGeorge says of her life since 1973,
"These years have been more stimulating and rewarding than any previous period in my life. I don't wish to imply that I was unhappy prior to my becoming active in the Federation--quite the contrary. I was busy, and the things I was doing were important. But they were not as important as the Federation's agenda. Each thing the N.F.B. does affects tens of thousands of people. Part of what I have learned is that what I do matters."
"I suppose," she says, "it is a commentary on the way I used to feel about myself; but until the last few years, it never occurred to me that anyone could do what I am now doing--let alone that I could. I would have been astonished to learn that thousands of blind people could and would work together to make real changes that affect all of us profoundly."
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