Blind World Magazine

"I don't want to be an object of pity. I want people to know that I'm a normal person who is blind."

November 17, 2005.

CONGERS Edith Kling is grateful to the people offering to walk her guide dog because of her dispute with her condominium board, but the blind woman said it was essential that she care for the dog herself.

Kling, 76, is battling the board of her Northgate Commons condominium complex to walk her dog without restrictions. But the board has so far refused permission.

Shirley Kelly said she was outraged that neighbors would try to limit where Kling could walk Frances, a 4-year-old yellow Labrador.

"Her dog is her life. The dog is her eyes. She's suffering enough, for crying out loud," said Kelly, a resident of Haverstraw. "I would walk with her and pick up after her dog, rain or snow."

The board of the 26-unit complex on Old Lake Road has asked Kling to ensure that Frances doesn't urinate or defecate along the roads and common grounds in the complex. Though Kling picks up after her dog, some neighbors complain that she is not always able to clean up entirely because she cannot see.

Though Northgate's rules require owners to walk their dogs outside the complex, the board has made an accommodation for Kling and earmarked a single parking spot that abuts her condominium as the designated relief site for her dog. Management has informed her that she will be fined if she violates the dog-walking rules.

The president of the condominiums' five-member board, Jeffrey Ellis, did not return calls for comment yesterday.

Laura Hourican, a dog groomer from Tappan, said she was willing to help Kling walk her dog.

"It seems like such a simple thing to help someone," Hourican said.

But Kling said it was important that she be the one to walk Frances.

"I think it's really nice of people. I appreciate that, but I cannot accept their offer," Kling said. "It's really important that I can walk (Frances) because she has to know that all her gratification comes from me. If she doesn't take care of me, then she won't have anyone to take care of her."

Unlike pets, guide dogs are trained to work for blind people. They have to undergo a two-year training program and pass several tests to qualify as a guide dog.

Frances and Kling underwent training at a Guiding Eyes for the Blind school. As part of the training, Kling learned to pick up after her dog.

Kling has refused to comply with the board's directive that she use the parking space to walk her dog. She says she doesn't want to limit her movements as long as she picks up after her dog.

"There are things I have had to give up" after turning blind, said Kling, a feisty 5-foot, 115-pound woman who fled Nazi Germany as a 10-year-old in 1939. "So I don't need people to tell me what I can and cannot do. I don't want to be restricted further."

Since Kling lost her sight to a degenerative eye disease five years ago, she hasn't been able to watch television, read books, go to museums or shows, take long walks or swim.

"I do try to lead as normal life as possible," she said. "I don't want to be an object of pity. I want people to know that I'm a normal person who is blind. I ask for only a little concession."

End of article.

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