Savannah lawmaker says Blind Bill protects right to parent

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – It’s called the Blind Bill and it promises to stop discrimination against the visually impaired in terms of parenting, guardianship, custody, adoption or being a foster parent.

“It was just blatant discrimination,” says State Representative Carl Gilliard (Democrat from Garden City.)

Gilliard sponsored the bill and says there have been a lot of “stereotypes and when you have a blind citizen they’re just as intelligent and capable as any other person, just the sight is not there,” he told us. 

He says it sets out rules for DHS (Department of Human Services) which provides more fairness for blind persons.

“They cannot be discriminated against, if their physical and mental health is up to par just like a regular parent, they should be able to parent,” said Gilliard.

Gilliard said he heard story after story about the struggles of blind persons, including the story of one visually impaired mom from Savannah who lost custody of her children after someone reportedly complained that her blindness prevented her from parenting in an appropriate manner. 

Gilliard says because blind persons often get some type of government assistance, they may face more scrutiny if a parenting complaint is made.  

Brenda Walker who lost her sight three years ago is the guardian to three grandchildren.  She told me about her struggle to relearn skills like cooking or walking with a cane but said her “grandkids gave her motivation.”

“I wanted to keep going for them,” she said.

Walker told us their household is normal in the sense that it’s a mad dash every morning to get the children up and dressed and fed breakfast and then to make sure they are on the bus for school.  She doesn’t feel being visually impaired makes her any less able to parent.   

“If somebody came and said we’re going to have to take your children or anything like that I would be like Oh I don’t think I could deal with that, they’re my life,” said Walker. 

“I’m glad this bill passed and hopefully, there are people out there who will recognize it can be done, you can keep your children,” she said. “Don’t let anybody tell You that they can take your children away.”

Gilliard says that agencies have until the end of the year to get these new rules in place. 

Gilliard called this one of the most important bills of this year’s legislative session. “There are 202,000 blind citizens in Georgia so this is what we deem as Georgia’s bill,” he said. 
 

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