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The Volunteer Nature of Accessibility Advocacy and Virtually All Blind Community Participation

October 11, 2006 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

The following article is a modified version of a letter I wrote to someone in response to a recent unfortunate incident involving the demands we sometimes receive from others with respect to providing assistance. Though we all wish we could, we are just not able to do everything right now, on demand in exactly the time frames wanted by others in the blind community. I would be interested in any comments from the readership.

We have day jobs, family obligations and many other items on our plates that constrain our abilities to help everyone in the blind community
as much as we might like. Though we are certainly willing to do our best to help everyone who asks, we are not obligated. All our efforts in the blind community are voluntary. We are not paid to do accessibility advocacy, broadcast on ACB Radio, run our blogs and podcasts or provide anyone with technical support assistance. In fact, our volunteer participation in the blind community is a money loser for us. Audio production equipment, computers, Internet connectivity, software, web hosting and all the other things that go into our volunteer work cost money that is almost never recovered. Even more importantly, our volunteer efforts cost time we could otherwise be spending with our families or in paid consulting work. Though we are willing to help if we can, it is inappropriate and rude for anyone to demand that we do so in any particular case. Further, we are not the only resources at your disposal. Please feel free to subscribe to BlindTech and other relevant mailing lists to ask your questions in a more appropriate tone that will encourage your blind brothers and sisters to help you.

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4 opinions on “The Volunteer Nature of Accessibility Advocacy and Virtually All Blind Community Participation

  1. Very well said. While I’m not put in the same challenging position as you and others are as frequently, I can understand the frustration you describe. I really don’t know how you and others do all that you do. It’s not an easy task. I appreciate your work in all of these advocacy and tech areas.

    Setting boundaries is incredibly important. It is good to see this said in a public forum. It is all to easy for each of us to rely on others’ work. Not everyone is going to agree all of the time, but on many access issues, we should stand firmly together. Otherwise, especially with the internet, it is too easy for people who don’t want to listen to us (for whatever reason), to hit “delete”.

    I hope this made sense, and now I need to run before I sound more like the social work major I’m turning into (smile).

  2. Hi Nickie,

    Thanks for writing. After I posted this entry on the blog, I was worried I might come across as a jerk. I certainly don’t intend to do any thing of the sort. I know I must set reasonable boundaries, but I certainly do not want to alienate anyone, either. I guess I’ll just have to continue doing my very best to strike this important balance.

  3. I don’t think you came across as a jerk. Trust me, I could point to a few entries of my own where I *did* come off as a jerk.

    Setting boundaries helps guard against the problem of burnout. Trust me, when you are burnt out, you really would come off in a way not intended.

    I’ve been there, done that and it wasn’t pretty. I can’t speak for other readers, but your article was read in the manner in which it was intended, at least from my perspective.

  4. I don’t think you came across as a jerk either. I find it unfortunate that someone prevoked needing to write this, but it was well said in my opinion. People need to appreciate all of what you do and appreciate the value of it being done because you want to.

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