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Tearing Down the "No Blind People Allowed" Signs

October 23, 2005 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

In the beginning of any accessibility advocacy process, inaccessibility is usually a result of ignorance of our needs. Once the blind community has taken a concerted and reasonable effort to educate, and the inaccessibility continues without positive action, then the issue becomes something entirely different. In exactly the same way the Civil Rights Movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. successfully fought segregation of African-Americans in the 1950’s and 1960’s, I have every intention of insisting on the accessibility we must have in order to participate in society on terms of equality with our sighted peers. We the blind are at a turning point in the state of the widespread development and implementation of technology in all areas of life. The use of technology has become an absolute requirement for such critical life activities as education, employment and even leisure. The consequences for the blind are extreme and immediate, potentially resulting in our being completely locked out of almost all such life activities. Each day, the technology industry is creating and selling more and more hardware and software without making any consideration of the equal access needs of people with disabilities. It is critical that we understand that each unaddressed issue of inaccessibility amounts simply to the deployment of a “No Blind People Allowed” sign! We must take all necessary steps to insure that new “No Blind People Allowed” signs are not put in our paths as additional obstacles to our ability to participate and, just as critically, we must work tirelessly to tear down each existing sign that currently reminds us of all the ways in which the technology industry does not welcome us as the first class citizens and fully living and breathing human beings that we are, possessing all the same rights and obligations as our sighted counterparts.

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