Visually impaired professor advocates for the disabled

Professor William Dailey, who is visually impaired, addresses a class on
some of the misconceptions that people often have about those with
Johnathan Wilbanks / The Collegian

William Dailey is walking down a packed hallway through throngs of people with his faithful dog Farley, a black lab that helps him navigate the busy campus of Fresno State. Dailey, a professor of gerontology, is visually impaired.

Dailey has often been asked, “Why do you use a dog?” He explains that Farley can see and think and help him avoid danger. The dog has been trained to disobey commands if Dailey’s life is in danger.

Dailey has experienced discrimination firsthand and is an advocate for the disabled. He knows what it’s like to be discriminated upon because he has a guide dog.

“You’re always going to experience discrimination. Even though we have the law of the land in place, including the Americans with Disabilities law, you’re not going to change prejudice,” Dailey said. He has been able to tell when prospective employers did not hire him because of his disability.

Dailey was born prematurely at only three pounds and two ounces. His retinas were damaged because he was placed in a high-dosage oxygen tent that was not properly circulated. He lost 80 percent of his vision in his 30s, but is still partially sighted.

“As you get older, the crevices in the retinas just get wider, and then that takes away more vision.” “You have higher risk of detached retinas and glaucoma and diabetes,” Dailey said.

He is legally blind in one eye, and considered partially sighted in the other. Dailey is not legally permitted to operate a motor vehicle, but is denied disability benefits because he is not completely blind. He drove as a child because he had 3,000 acres of space on his grandfather’s farm in Pennsylvania.

“I’ve never had a car, so I’ve always had to rely on alternative transportation. I use public transportation as much as I can, but I also have to rely on my wife because public transit doesn’t always work out.”

An object 20 feet away appears as if it is 300 feet away to Dailey.  “I have to read all large print,” Dailey said.

In the fifth grade he was sent to an institution for the blind, which was devastating for him. He had to learn Braille and practiced being blind-folded. Teachers had few expectations of him through high school, and his parents moved to California because the schools practiced inclusion, meaning students with disabilities were not isolated into separate classes.

For leisure, Dailey learned to play golf and bowl. He has a great time participating in physical activity, but in a different way than most.

To Dailey, bowling is a game of colors. “I just throw the ball, because from my point of view I just see white, so my goal is to knock down the white. So if I get a strike I know I knocked them all down.”

The university helps to pay for some of the technology he uses to assist him in teaching. One mechanical reader he uses to read books and other everyday items can cost as much as $10,000.

While obtaining his doctoral degree from Fielding Graduate University School of Educational Leadership, Dailey faced many challenges.

“I’d been a professor for 12 years, and I didn’t always have technology,” Dailey said. “It took me twice as long to read the books as my colleagues because I didn’t have large print.”

In addition to being on the Fresno State faculty, he also teaches at Fresno City College.

When out with friends, he uses a device called an “Amigo” to read restaurant menus. The device is about the size of a VHS tape. It can change the print, color and background of what is being read. “My friends love it because a lot of them can’t see well in the restaurant, and they just use my Amigo.”

Dailey remains positive about his disability, and it’s clear that despite whatever obstacles have gotten in his way, he has tackled them head-on.

“It’s just an adjustment to a disability in the workplace,” Dailey said.


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