Guest speaker raises Scouts' awareness of disabilities

SARANAC Alan Bechard spent several hours at Saranac Town Hall Jan. 19, raising the Saranac Cub Scouts awareness of living with a disability. Mr. Bechard knows all about living with a disability. He has been legally blind since age four as a result of a bout with spinal meningitis, and has spent his career working for the North Country Center for Independence. He also knows all about Boy Scouts. He has been volunteering for the group for 40 years in a variety of leadership positions. Currently, he is a unit commissioner and a member of the Boy Scouts Adirondack District Advancement Committee. Mr. Bechard asked the boys if they had ever met anyone who was blind none of the boys had. He then told his captivated audience all about braille and how it is used. He brought a stack of cards with the name of each Scout printed on it in braille for them to take home. Mr. Bechard then talked to the boys about mobility and organizations and tools to help the disabled in the Clinton County area. He showed them how he used his cane for walking and explained to them the importance of organization in a blind person's home. Keeping everything in a specific place allows him to move freely around his home safely and to find what he needs quickly and easily. He stressed the importance of never moving things in a blind persons home without their permission, explaining how doing so would not only create difficulties for them, but dangers as well. Mr. Bechard believes it is important for the disabled to take advantage of available resources to be as independent as possible. For the past 12 years, he has been the coordinator of the North East Radio Reading Service which allows the blind to read the Press Republican, Strictly Business, Adirondack Life, Adirondack Explorer and a variety of novels. He coordinates 35 volunteers who read to the blind at the Mountain Lakes PBS studio. Somewhere between 250 and 300 people listen to the service, Mr. Bechard said. Some places have multiple people listening to one receiver like at Valehaven and Pine Harbor. Receivers for the service can be obtained through the Clinton Essex Franklin Library System. The Cub Scouts listened attentively and werent the least bit shy about asking questions. The next time they are asked if they have ever met a blind person they will be able to answer in the affirmative. Thanks to Alan Bechard, not only did they acquire a new awareness of the disabled, but a deep respect for them as well.

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