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Should Focus be Placed on Concrete Accessibility Issues or on an Abstract Fight Against Blindness Stereotypes?

September 18, 2009 • Darrell Shandrow Hilliker

Many in the blind community are enraged after discovering an article entitled How to Care for a Blind Person on a popular how-to Web site, but are the misconceptions and stereotypes found in such content the most important issues we should be addressing? Several blind people have spoken out on Twitter.

“We all have to set our priorities, we think that people need to know that blind people are not retarted invalids,” said Bat. “You can have access to every bit of tech, if people think you are an idiot how much luck do you think you will have?”

Bat continued: “Both (accessibility and perception) are equally important and must be addressed at the same time. Progress in one makes progress in the other easier.”

Ricky Enger said: “The concrete and the abstract are both important. But with concrete battles, seems you always have to start from the ground up. By addressing the underlying abstract concept, which is that we should truly be viewed as equals, the concrete issues take care of themselves. People then address accessibility issues because it makes sense, not because it’s been mandated. Example: we could advocate for access to Kindle all we want. But if people consciously or unconsciously believe that we are all low income and have caregivers, as portrayed in the eHow article, we’ll be perceived as an unimportant share of the market and not worth satisfying until failure to do so brings about legal action.”

“A great mentor of mine always taught me that perception was stronger than reality,” Ranger said. “Swinging at every pitch results in a lower batting average instead of waiting for the right pitch to hit.”

“I think the two are very different issues,” said Steve Sawczyn. “Why choose one or the other? Why not work on both fronts?”

Shannon C. said “Well, the stereotypes should be combatted before accessibility will become a greater issue.”

“No more jobs if the employers think we aren’t competent to hold them, no matter what the accessibility is,” said Buddy Brannan.

Chris Meredith said “I think the stereotypes should be fought concurrent with the concrete issues, because I think they feed on each other.”

“I think they (inaccessibility and stereotypes) are both important and need to be fought equally,” Amber W. said.

Let your voice be heard. Should we focus on combatting inaccessibility, battling stereotypes or both? We await your comments.

9 opinions on “Should Focus be Placed on Concrete Accessibility Issues or on an Abstract Fight Against Blindness Stereotypes?

  1. Darrell, I hesitate to get into this with you because of how strongly you sometimes react. But, I'm hard pressed to see how you call this journalism as you did in your twitter post announcing this blog posting.

    Posting a random sample of quotes you obtained from a twitter feed doesn't strike me as journalism. It strikes me as mostly just a random sampling of comments. And your lead sentence indicating "many" is lacking any kind of qualification to indicate how you can use such a term.

    Make no mistake, great if you want to collect this kind of info but since you seem to indicate you are trying to improve your formal journalistic skills, I'd take a hard look at what you call journalism versus just posting random quotes.

  2. Your feedback is well taken, but your anonymous post reduces your credibility and makes it appear more like a drive-by attack rather than a constructive attempt to help.

  3. See Darrell, this is exactly what I'm talking about. Attack the person is your response again. If you offer anonymous postings on your blog, why do you then insult people who opt to use that method of posting. Judge the content, not the method of posting.

    Given your insult of the anonymous method of posting, are you taking a pledge to always name any source you should use in an article.

  4. The naming of a source will be handled according to the arrangements made with that source. I would not typically quote anonymous sources, unless the info they provided could be confirmed by others and it was so earth-shattering or valuable as to be worth the risk of potentially decreased credibility.

    I stated an opinion about the way in which you delivered your feedback. It was not a personal insult. I happen to believe the sincerity of your feedback is in question so long as you choose to withhold your name. We obviously have different ways of doing business, and that's alright.

    I always have the energy, time and willingness to change the way I do things when I believe the feedback is delivered in a constructive manner. As it stands right now, it doesn't feel to me as though this constructive dialogue is your intent. Instead, it is largely taken as an attack from one of my several vigorous detractors in the blind community.

    In your first comment, you stated only what was wrong with the article without providing any suggestions for improvement. I don't consider that to be constructive. Would you like to provide some useful feedback? How would you handle the statement of "many" blind people? I can understand how that may seem presumptive.

    So long as you remain within acceptable standards of conduct, I will continue to post your comments without censorship, even when they're attacking and lacking in sincerity.

  5. I too am posting anonymously simply because it's a real pain to sign-in before posting something IMHO.

    darrell, normally I enjoy most of your material but I too felt the article was lacking in any focus or direction. I felt like I was reading my twitter history as opposed to an article. It's kind of lacking a position.

    Now as to the topic, for sure both are important and require attention. Because these are immediate issues and both need to be addressed at the same time; we shouldn't focus more on either.

    Nobody will hire someone they think is incompetent …
    …if they hire someone who they think is competent and than find that they can’t do the job because none of the systems are accessible than they will view that person as incompetent and not likely hire another blind person

  6. Feedback that the article lacks direction and focus is well-taken. My intent was simply to let the voices of a number of blind people be heard on this subject. I believe I have accomplished that goal. 🙂

    If you're posting anonymously because you don't want to sign into Google, that's quite understandable. Please consider including your name at the bottom of such posts when you don't intend them to be completely anonymous. Of course, I would not consider such a post to be anonymous even if Blogger labels it as such.

  7. Hi,
    If you look at the comments on the original article, you will notice that most people who posted didn't agree with it at all. Therefore, I'm convinced that public perception really isn't an issue–sure the article downtalks us, but sighted people didn't buy into it, mainly because most of them who posted have blind partners.

    That's not to say I agree with the article. Who ever thought putting a key in to a lock will be such a daunting taks as the author makes it out to be? Do you really think blind people can't feel sharpness? FYI, I wash dishes several times in my house and have never once been cut by a knife that is blade side up in the sink. What are they going to post next, "you must also keep spare diapers on hand in case the blind person can't find their way to the bathroom"? People, the movie "Blindness" was never a reality! But I think most people get that, so I'm not worried about the article. Besides, it looks exactly like some of the stuff that is posted about Islam on wikianswers.org–just someone who wants to take the opertunity to slam Islam or, in this case, blind people, and uses these sites to do just that. Yes, some people will give in to that sort of advice, but that's where our role as blind people comes in. As soon as they meet one of us and they say "hey, he opened a lock!" we've done our job. It won't help if NFB continues parading up and down streets, because I, and a lot of other people, don't care for that sort of radicalism.

  8. This is Trevor. . Here are my unabridged thoughts. While it is true that this article is written from a bit of an antiquated perspective, I think that most of us who are blind often forget about the gulf
    of fear that blindness represents to most sighted people in this world. Folks, they can't understand where we are coming from because it is unfathomable
    to them! We are often way too quick to judge their comments or actions towards us as ignorant or stupid. Of course I would like to be treated differently
    when I go into a store or restaurant. I would love to not have some person grab the other end of my cane as they hustle me across the wrong corner of an
    intersection. Yet these small incidents are not just confined to these mundane activities. Blindness is a primal fear for most of our world's population.
    I think it eclipses deafness, mental retardation, paralysis and even death. Many of our problems in society today do not have to do with educating the
    sighted world about our capabilities as much as helping sighted people confront the fear within themselves about this issue. That's a much tougher thing
    to fight because it doesn't have to do with us as much as it has to do with their own internal struggles. I've had conformation of this from countless sighted folks out there in the world. Don't believe me? Ask a random sample of people you might meet anywhere. For God's sake, let's have some compassion for
    these misguided, yet well meaning attempts to bridge the gap!

  9. I think you're doing a great job. I've sent the how to article to a couple of my friends and they were in shock.

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