Karen and I write to inspire everyone to think outside the box for the achievement of our full participation in society.
What is our ultimate objective? What do we as blind people want to achieve? How do we reach our goals? These are just a few questions we as blind individuals, as a minority group should be asking.
We need and want to be accepted in society as full and equal participants. Like other minorities, we are not always granted the same opportunities as the sighted, thus we are not currently equal, fully productive members of society through no fault of our own. We should not be complacent, just accepting the “way things are”.
It is possible and necessary to have more access to information, increase our transportation options and improve Societies attitudes about blindness and our capabilities. Meeting this challenge is not possible until each and every one of us stands together, united and on the same page as to our ultimate objectives. Full productive participation in society will not truly be a reality until we all come to an agreement on the identification of the critical specific barriers we face, how to resolve each one and what steps we will take to reach our goals. Until we can do this, we will remain divided and largely ineffective as a blind community. United we stand, divided we fall! Instead of passing judgment, being critical of another, STOP! LOOK and LISTEN! We all need to be more open minded, to attempt to understand another fellow human being’s perspective. Do not assume that, because you are not experiencing something, whatever it may be, that it is not reality for someone else. As they say, don’t judge until you have walked a mile in the other person’s shoes.
Although it is helpful to understand another’s experiences and perceptions of the world, it is most important to do what is right. If, for example, 75 percent of the Blind are unemployed while our sighted peers experience only a 6 percent unemployment rate, then, this low socioeconomic status for the blind is unacceptable and we must take serious steps to make it right. If the sighted have access to all available information, whether it be in print, on a computer screen, the internet, on television or anywhere else in the world and we are limited as to what is available to us, then, this too is not acceptable! We live in the information age where knowledge is power. We must do everything possible to insure our ability to obtain and use all available information the sighted take for granted. If one has mastered all the alternative techniques of blindness, she still does not ultimately have true and complete independence if she must frequently depend on a sighted reader to perform critical tasks on the job, use inaccessible digital home appliances to perform basic tasks such as cook dinner, read personal mail or read and find products in a store. We remain limited, usually not due to our physical lack of eye sight but due to needless artificial barriers, and, therefore, have fewer opportunities compared to the sighted. Needless to say, we, then, are not equal. We live in the 21 st century! Though we have made significant progress in many areas, we have a long road ahead before we will reach our ultimate objective of full and complete participation in society with our blindness representing an absolute minimum impact on our lives.
Thanks to the work of the National Federation of the Blind, social attitudes about blindness are improving. Many opportunities now exist that were totally out of the question for a blind person just 65 years ago. Many employers are actually interested in considering us as serious candidates to fill critical positions within their agencies, companies and organizations. The internet and other technologies are wonderful avenues to gain knowledge, skills and opportunities. Assistive technology products such as JAWS screen reading software, PAC Mates, Alva Braille displays, talking microwaves, talking caller id’s, DVS videos, Newsline and bookshare are just a small sample of the technologies that help to enable us to participate in education, employment, home management and leisure activities. Let’s not stop here! Our current progress must represent stepping stones to do much better now and in the future, to give us hope and determination to continue to raise awareness within the majority sighted world of the need for accessibility, to develop and produce more functional, high quality assistive technology products and services that will interact with mainstream technology, enabling us to have even more opportunities and fewer limitations.
As stated in Take A Risk, take a chance to make things better! If you have an idea that might make it possible for us all to achieve our goal of greater accessibility, increased transportation options or overall improved social attitudes about blindness, then, speak out! Express your thoughts here or anywhere else in the blind community. This is America, the land of opportunity; we have the freedom to speak our minds. Exercise your first amendment rights! AS Thomas Edison said, its “99 percent inspiration and 1 percent perspiration”. Without people like Edison, Bell, and Marconi, it would not be possible for us all to be writing in this forum. It takes an individual whom is inquisitive, has inspiration and a willingness to improve the world. So, do not step on the toes of a fellow blind person; do not let him stand alone in the dark and isolated. Instead, let’s march together, united in mind and purpose. For if we do this, we will, one day, achieve our ultimate objective!