When I was in high school, I had a teacher’s aid named Gloria. Gloria came to the United States a long time ago from Burma. She’s a Karen, a member of an ethnic group that has been fighting for independence for more than 58 years. The Karen are officially represented by an organization known as the Karen National Union. Unfortunately, according to the news reported on the Karen’s web site, it would seem their struggle is not currently meeting with much success.
So, by now, I’m sure you are all asking yourselves, “why in the world is Darrell prattling on about some obscure ethnic struggle for independence”? Don’t worry. I’m just setting up the stage for the rest of the discussion. It will become more relevant in very short order.
The Karens are not impartial when it comes to their independence. They believe it should be granted, that it is their right to fight for it, and some are willing to give their very lives for the cause. Others believe it is better to cooperate with existing governments in the region. They are branded by the independence fighters as traitors who have sold out their people. One part of the Karen National Union’s operations involves their web site, where news relating to their struggle is distributed for all to read. When you visit their web site, it quickly becomes obvious that they have a clear agenda. There are no statements of balance or impartiality.
The Blind Access Journal is a similar web site, though the struggle is obviously quite different. In our case, the struggle is for the blind community to be granted equal accessibility, alternative transportation options and all opportunities otherwise granted the sighted on the basis of their being physically able to see. Similar to the Karens, we also have an agenda. Though not stated as a political platform or similar document, any reasonable reader could be expected to understand that the Blind Access Journal, and, thus, its publisher, Darrell Shandrow, is an advocate or evangelist for accessibility. This means, by nature, that I am not objective. I am not going to act as though discrimination, inaccessibility or lapses of accountability in the products and services provided to us are at all acceptable by any stretch of the imagination. I am not only going to report such issues, but also work strenuously to have them rectified in a manner that benefits the blind community. My very close friend and colleague, Jeff Bishop, states the differences between opinion and balanced journalism quite clearly with respect to blogging about issues in the blindness assistive technology field.
As part of my evangelism, the most recent assistive technology issue about which I have been writing is the trademark infringement lawsuit filed by Freedom Scientific against Serotek. It should be quite clear to everyone that I have strong feelings concerning what was done and the potential ramifications not only for a small player in the field, but for the entire blind community. Being the undisputed leader in the market, Freedom Scientific has the ability to significantly benefit or severely harm the ability of all blind and visually impaired people to use technology as a vehicle to equally participate in society. By taking this action, I unequivocally believe that Freedom Scientific may set into motion a series of events that could result in the loss of innovative new technologies we need to develop and grow in the blind community right now. The company holds sway over the entire blind community, be it individuals, organizations or dealers of assistive technology products. This is unavoidable, given Freedom Scientific’s overwhelming market share. Unfortunately, when that influence is put to negative ends, the results can be absolutely disastrous not only for companies, but also for real people and their families. For example, the RAM and RIM products now offered by Serotek represent a huge potential to push open many doors to employment previously closed by the need for remote access to computers owned by sighted people. If Freedom Scientific does end up litterally suing Serotek out of business, the results could mean real consequences for real people in the blind community up to and including the inability to acquire new jobs or even the loss of existing employment!
Earlier today I asked someone, who must currently remaine nameless, a simple question about the reasons for the Freedom Scientific versus Serotek lawsuit. The resulting conversation involved their expressing concerns about the quality of my “journalism” and the possibility of that person contacting people who might decide to curtail my participation in certain activities I currently enjoy and which, I hope, benefit the blind community. It is for this reason that I must make one thing extremely clear: I am NOT a balanced, impartial “journalist”. I am, instead, an accessibility ADVOCATE or EVANGELIST who is promoting equal participation on the part of the blind and visually impaired in the world around us. Though I have not and never will intentionally mislead anyone, I do not feel obligated nor possess the necessary resources to fully research everything I write on this blog. I am also not required to present everything in a “balanced” or “objective” manner. For that matter, even the paid “journalists” don’t always get this right, and that is their job. Just read and compare mainstream media sources like the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal or the Weekly Standard, or watch CNN and Fox News for an hour each to understand my point. This is not the “fair and balanced” Fox News Channel!
I hope this post has helped all of you clearly understand the fact that I am not a professional “journalist”, I am not always going to be objective and that I do most certainly have an agenda to look out for all of you, my brothers and sisters in the blind community! Your e-mails and comments are quite welcome and encouraged!