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!
I am posting a bit late again but I can’t help myself. I totally agree. At a meeting I had not too long ago with my now former VR counselor and his supervisor, I was discussing the mission and objective of Center for Independent Futures, which is a relatively new organization that creates living options for people with disabilities. The organization is very community-oriented and community-driven, and I am happy to report that I live in one of the buildings owned by them. Back to the meeting. The supervisor, who had previously worked as my counselor, immediately launched into a whole long discussion about how if I wanted to get anywhere in life, what I needed was a job. This is in part very true, but how she said it I felt was very demeaning. I had asked for some formal O&M instruction, which I still have not had after living here for a year and three days. She again said that, in order for me to get anything, including O&M, I needed a paying job–one which paid good money. This person had previously put me down for making the choice to try apartment living, so the confrontation at the meeting came as no surprise to me. My counselor and I had remained silent throughout most of the meeting. I’m going to be honest with you, I think that for the most part VR workers are in it for the money and nothing else. They will do anything and everything to get it too, including cutting people down for thinking outside the box. There are of course those minor acceptions. For example, the counselor I mentioned seemed to really care and to want the best possible outcomes for his clients. He had only been on the job for about half a year when he picked up my case. My mom and I both agree that he was the best VR counselor I ever had. But as my mom found out a few weeks ago, he got transferred to an office in a different county. I had no idea of this, and neither did my mom. We have since attempted numerous times to contact people and find out what will happen next. A couple days ago an answer finally came. My mom talked to someone at a downtown VR office, and this person said that she was our contact person until further notice. She also said she’d be calling back after she talked with my last counselor to find out what’s going on. Hopefully she will actually do what she said she would a couple of days ago. I can’t say enough good things about Center for Independent Futures. One of the many good things they do is get input from their clients, but they actually act on the feedback and make the necessary adjustments, albeit rather slowly. I have met some great people here, and I am part of an active community that doesn’t frown upon my input. There have been times when I’ve been stuck in the apartment with nothing to do, and I don’t doubt there will be more times like this. But I have also been involved in some fun events here. I’m looking forward to participating in more of these. In short none of these people seek to question my abilities, and they don’t put me down. If everyone had the mindset of an organization like Center for Independent Futures, progress would most certainly be made. But until that happens, we the blind will, by in large, be caught under the trap of those who fail to think outside the box. I don’t want to offend anyone, but some of these people are visually impaired themselves.
I have decided to give an update. It is not much of an update, but nevertheless here it is. I think I am calling it quits with rehab. This decision isn’t yet quite official, but I’m relatively sure that’s what I want to do. I am wondering if any mainstream blogs exist in cyberspace which deal with these types of issues, i.e., state voc/rehab agencies and the like. This is an issue which desperately needs to be addressed somehow, and the current method of addressing it is not working. There are a number of us, myself included, who are being left out in the cold with respect to our VR cases. When I called my state Client Assistance Program this morning, I was told that in order to receive services from CAP, one has to have an open VR case. After making that call, I called one of the offices of my new VR counselor. The person with whom I spoke told me that the counselor was at another office and I got the number. But when I called that other office, they said the counselor wasn’t there and that they didn’t even know the person. Is this crap going to continue, or is something going to be done about it? Funding is no excuse for getting the runaround. All it takes is people being on top of things, and communicating with one another. Why is that so hard? Any input would be greatly appreciated.