Shortly after birth, David contracted a serious ear infection that spread to his optic nerve. The resulting damage left the newborn with no sight in his left eye and limited vision in his right. His loss of sight became an impediment to his early education in the New York City public school system, which insisted Paterson needed to be placed in special classes. "People are fond of saying of people with disabilities that they are just like everybody else," Paterson told the Associated Press in 2002. "But that's just something to say to make them feel better. When you have a disability you are not like everyone else. You are uniquely defined by a lack of vision."