Denny Daughters, Teenage Shopkeeper, Is a Soft Touch When It Comes to Helping Blind Customers

updated 10/12/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/12/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

As manager of his own business, Denny Daughters is a hands-on kind of guy. That, of course, explains the sign in his Castro Valley, Calif., shop advising patrons to "please touch" the merchandise. After all, figures Denny, 13, what better way for blind people—like himself—to get a feel for what they're buying?

Denny's Please Touch opened three years ago, inspired by the troubles Denny had been having as a shopper. Store owners objected when he handled their wares. "It was totally embarrassing to have everyone stare at us as if we had committed a robbery," says his mother, Melody, a 44-year-old sculptor. "We wanted to have a place where kids could come and nobody would say, 'Don't touch.' "

Denny, the legal owner and operator of his shop, thanks to financial backing from his mother and stepfather, caters to both seeing and sightless customers with an inventory that includes braille playing cards, braille Scrabble and Monopoly games, talking clocks, volleyballs that beep in midflight and other goods usually available only by catalog. He works in the shop a couple of hours after school each day and takes home $10 a week in salary. "I think blind kids are amazed that this store is here for them," says Denny. "I try to give them emotional support. I try to help the little guys around."

One of twins born three months prematurely (his brother died after 10 days), Denny weighed two pounds at birth, had open-heart surgery in his second week of life and lost his sight during his three months in an incubator. Despite doctors' predictions that he'd be a near invalid, he now swims, skis, rides a bike by himself (his mother rides behind calling directions), plays piano, attends a regular school and writes his term papers on a special computer. With blindness, "you just have to adjust a little bit," says Denny. "It's not that amazing."

From Our Partners