The Flame of Equality
by James Boehm
The disabled have fought an uphill battle in demanding equality of all. Many blind organizations, such as the National Federation of the Blind, endeavor to educate the public regarding the abilities of the visually impaired, squashing all inaccurate misconceptions that are stereotyped. A thriving front of assistive technology experts are an intricate part in the mix of training and equipping the disabled. In 2014, in a time where we may feel that our world is a modernized society, the views many still have on the disabled gives the world the appearance that we are back in the Stone Age, a reverted thinking of inequality, slavery, poor expectations and the perceived inabilities of the “challenged!” A film entitled “A Little History Worth Knowing” exposes the actions of many nations, including the United States, in not only discriminating, but also attempting to extinguish the disabled, putting them out like a minute flame on a Bic lighter. Powerful persons, such as Hitler, attempted through eugenics, to weed out the supposedly weak or disabled, as a strand of crabgrass who holds such thoughts, thus disabling their own selves cognitively.
Assistive technology experts strive to keep the pace with the advances of assistive technology. Bill Burgess, the director of the Assistive Technology lab at Middle Tennessee University, agrees with president Marc Maurer of the NFB, when he states “effective technology …empower(s) the individual user of that technology. Invaluable assistive tools allow the user to “compete effectively in this world and…(achieve) quality in life,” (Monitor, 2004). I truly respect and appreciate Bill’s expertise and sincere desire to empower his clients to successful endeavors. Assistive technology “connects (the disabled) and levels the playing field.” Burgess expressed that technology will continue to advance, becoming “simpler to use… and more ubiquitous, providing universal access (for everyone),” (personal communication, February 16th, 2014). What progress is being made today in education for the disabled.
A bill that will be introduced this year is called the TEACH Act (Technology, Education, and Accessibility in College and Higher Education). Presently, educational institutions provide materials in an accessible format only when requested. The TEACH Act would require that from the get-go, all materials would be accessible and readily available to all students. James Brown, State President of the Tennessee NFB Affiliate, commented, “It is so important for blind students around Tennessee to have equal access to education,” (personal communication, February 18th, 2014). Legislation such as the TEACH Act paves the way for other states to follow and will benefit students of all disabilities. Yes, a bright future accomplished by the hard work of education and advocacy.
The film “History’s” narrator stated that “in the 1950’s and 60’s, while blacks were trying to get in the front of the bus, the disabled were just trying to get on the bus,” (A Little History). Changing the minds and educating the world has had its challenges. Yet today, many have been educated and have a more accurate understanding of the disabled’s capabilities. There is still more work to do!
True, today there have been numerous attempts to extinguish the flame of advocacy among the disabled. Nevertheless, that fire has not gone out! The raging, scorching fire of equality burning deep inside every disabled person has continued to spread like an uncontained forest fire, moving at the pace of a steam powered train roaring to its destination! This destination is a place called ‘equality.” A destination with a capital named “The metropolis Free of Stereotypes, where all its citizens enjoy fulfilling lives of equality and fulfillment.” Through organizations, such as the NFB, our communities are being educated. Persons such as Bill Burgess train the disabled in the progression of technology and independence. Thus, the disabled, well equipped and educated, have proven that they can compete shoulder to shoulder among “normal” man. Examples have shown that with the proper gaining, education , technology, and the lack of hindrance of stereotypes, the disabled flourish, living successful and meaningful lives. William Butler Yates, a famous author is quoted as saying “education is not the filling of the pail, but the lighting the fire.” So may that flame never die!