keep up a career, but I do respect
women who can do that.”
Meanwhile, she was progres-
sively losing her eyesight, first the
peripheral vision and then her cen-
tral vision. She got a guide dog and
began listening to audiobooks.
“There are options,” she says.
“You need to have the energy to
deal with things at a higher level.
There are 57 million people with
disabilities in America today, and
they have the wherewithal to live
fully as part of the fabric of Ameri-
While staying home and raising
her kids became her primary
occupation, it did not prevent
her from participating in her
“As they grew, I became involved in so many school and local
committees,” she says.
Her first major involvement was
with Foundation Fighting Blindness
in 1996. She is now a member of its
board of directors and a national
trustee. The leading foundation
devoted to researching and identifying treatments and cures for
retinal degenerative diseases, it has
raised more than $400 million for
the treatment of retinal degenerative diseases, among them macular
degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa,
and Usher’s syndrome, she says.
Among its fundraisers and one
she has chaired numerous times
in the past is “Dining in the Dark.”
Held annually in about 10 different
communities around the nation, it
serves a meal in complete darkness. The wait staff is blind, and
servers tell their personal stories of
how they cope.
“People don’t know what
they’re getting to eat,” she says.
“You have to figure it out, how to
pour the wine and pass your bread
as a person who is [temporarily]
blind. It’s about discovering and
extending the threshold of capabil-
ity, and it’s really exhilarating.”
Capability is a concept she kept
coming back to when discussing
“It’s not about what people can
or can’t do,” she says. “It’s about
how they do it. It’s not disabili-
ty, but capability, that matters in
building productive lives.”
Another organization of which
Lehrer-Stein was a board mem-
ber for seven years was Medical
I appreciate a good argument and
different points of view, and coming
to a good resolution. There are
many ways for making progress in
the world, legislation, cooperation
and litigation. Litigation is very
powerful; the law is what we have
to rely on when society throws
roadblocks in the way.