Monday, July 13, 2009

Longtime Advocate for Blind Dies at 61

After Harold Snider was forced out of his third-grade classes because he was blind, his parents sued Duval County in Florida, and Harold became the first blind child in the county to graduate from public school. He went on to become a leading advocate for people with disabilites. Snider died June 26 at his home in Rockville, Md., after a heart attack.

In the 1970s, he became the first blind employee of the Smithsonian Institution, where he coordinated programs for people with disabilities for the National Air and Space Museum. "You can't look at the spacecraft, so you touch it, or you hold a model of it or a raised line picture of it," he explained. "You can't see an airplane, so you hear its engine roar."

Snider worked on disability issues for the Republican National Committee, and in 1990President George H.W. Bush appointed him as deputy executive director of the National Council on Disability. He helped draft the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. He also worked with the National Federation of the Blind to develop NFB-Newsline, an audible newspaper and magazine service that allows people to hear the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, and other newspapers at no cost.

According to an obituary in the Washington Post, Snider "said he was sometimes asked how blind people performed tasks such as crossing the street, cutting a sandwich or, as the more curious would ponder, having sex. 'I tell them I do it like everybody else. In the dark.'"
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