I hope you find this blog useful 🙂 We will address new apps that are /aren’t accessible and useful…stereotypes, ADA laws, fair wages, mobility travel, education,assistive technology, braille related topics, guide dog issues, and much more. I wanted to start by sharing an article I wrote recently that was published in a magazine. Enjoy!
Clear Your Vision: Lose the Stereotypes
What did the blonde say when she opened a box of cheerios? “Oh, look! Doughnut seeds!” The above mentioned comment is an example of a stereotype, an attribute given to a particular group of persons. In this instance all blondes are portrayed as air heads Other examples include Asians being good at math, Jews being cheap, African-Americans liking fried chicken and watermelon, men being insensitive, and women being prone to gossip. Stereotype comes from the Greek word “steros,” meaning firm and solid, and “typos,” meaning impression. Are such solid impressions accurate? Obviously, the bias and prejudice of stereotyping is not reliable. For example, some people think that people who are deaf can not communicate effectively with the rest society, and that people with artificial limbs cannot participate in competitive sports. Anoter perception to consider is that the visually impaired are not as capable of being successful as the sighted community. Such an inaccurate thought, as well as the above mentioned stereotypes, exist due to an opinionated misconception, people’s ignorance or lack of education.
An underlying thought of some is that the blind in general are helpless, needing their hand held like a small child, because of inadequacies and incapabilities. A visually impaired friend from Indiana expresses,that “The public consciousness as demonstrated through literature and artwork through the ages depicts the blind as poor, beggars, dirty, and dehumanized individuals. The collective social perception may arise because this may allow us to disconnect compassion and remove any feeling of guilt with respect to the individual or their situation that we may not be able to fix or change.” Yet another friend of mine, Karen Nelson, a mobility and orientation instructor for the Middle Tennessee area, reminded me of an instance not long after loosing my vision.My father and I were in the waiting area at the doctor’s office. A gentleman was sitting across from us facing our direction. The man apparently noticed me, but instead of directing his words at me, he proceeded to ask my father, “So is your son blind?” I wanted to say “Yeah, and deaf too.” I wondered why the man did not address me. Karen aided me in comprehending the man’s actions by expressing that “People often think persons who are blind are unable to do for themselves. What I see that [the] public doesn’t approach persons who are blind because they don’t know what to do or say. There are not the visual cues indicating it is okay. But someone like you who opens the door verbally when near people helps them know that they are welcome to interact with you.” In a sense, it’s understandable because I myself had not met many blind people before my vision loss.Therefore, I grasp the uncertainty of interacting with blind individuals.
When it comes to the work place, can the blind provide comparable or even exceed expectations? The visually impaired have proven through many examples that lack of vision is not a issue when it comes to job performance when provided with the appropriate training and technology if needed. Today, numerous blind personalities carry out their own law firms, doctor’s practices, or are professional athletes such the blind golfer Jeremy Poincenot. However, some employers feel, due to the fact that they do not have the sense of vision, they are inferior, and thus they are not qualified to receive competitive pay. In fact, according to current federal laws, an employer can attain a certificate on a disabled individual mandating a wage less than minimum wage. This is justifiable by law. Reports have come to the forefront regarding certain employers, such as Goodwill, paying their disabled employees as little as one dollar or less an hour! Many advocacy organizations, including the American Federation for the Blind and the National Federation for the Blind, are working with legislation as we speak to ratify and provide equal opportunity to all United States citizens, even if they are disabled. A person’s disability should not be exploited by multi-million dollar companies who misuse outdated regulations. To abuse the hard work of their employees, pocketing the deserved wages and government incentives for themselves.
I personally know of many fine examples of blind individuals who have such an outstanding determination to vigorously pursue their goals and be an active, productive citizen. The examples I have in mind control their circumstances, and don’t let their circumstances control them. Jessica Beecham, a dear friend of mine, has been blind most of her life. Jessica’s eye disease has continued to worsen her limited peripheral vision. Has Jessica allowed her” lack of vision” to give her a “lack of vision?” Quite the opposite! I have never met someone with such zeal and devotion to helping others, advocating rights of people with all disabilities, working with troubled children, and assisting students at a university so that they may get the most of their higher learning experience through education and assistive technology. Jessica was one of the first blind individuals I met when I had first lost my vision. At the time, I was uncertain of my future, as well as what I was capable of doing with my life. Jessica’s vast knowledge was immediately perceived in speaking with her. Her big heart, and sincere eagerness to assist, moved me more than words can say. Jessica reminds me of “The Energizer Bunny”, always on the go, traveling and participating in a vast array of adventuresome activities that most sighted people have not even attempted to pursue or even had the opportunity for that matter. One instance, of Jessica’s “always on the go” mentality happened this past summer I called Jessica to see what she plans she had for that day. Jess replied, “Oh, just about to do a little sky diving.” She could not be more audacious with such a statement. I am aware I still have a lot to learn, but I owe much thanks for her example, assistance when I needed her viewpoint, and her friendship.
I have certainly been guilty of stereotyping groups of people, even intentionally at times. Human tendency is to prejudge. Everyone who is honest with himself or herself will be humble enough to admit they live up, or better said, live down, to such conduct. However, knowledge is power. Occasionally, interaction with the blind, widening out, making an effort to get to know such ones,can give a person a different perspective. Says one father of a recently blinded son, “My contact with the visually impaired while I was growing up was limited to television and musicians, such as Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, and Ronnie Milsap. In the 1990’s I volunteered at the Guiding Hands for the Blind and worked at a radio station where for several years we read local newspapers to around three hundred local visually impaired individuals. I received feedback from such ones from the blind community who enjoyed my reading, but never had the privilege of meeting a fan face-to-face. As a parent, I had no idea what to do when my son lost his sight. I found through research a tremendous amount of support groups, organizations, and facilities that help parents understand the impact in their life and when an accident that leaves a young one blind and most important, how to get help. When I am with my son attending meetings and sporting events, and getting to know those involved, it is clear that many with visual impairment are very capable in organizational management and pursuing higher education and competitive athletics, with the goal in mind of helping others experiencing the same challenges…. A person who loses his sight or has never had sight can learn to do almost anything anyone else can do. I have witnessed it firsthand.”
So, the blind are as incapable and dependent on others, as every blonde when opening a box of Cheerios says, “Look! Doughnut seeds!” Stereotypes are often found unreliable and inaccurate. Never let stereotypes of any individual, color, race, or ethnicity give you a false perspective of one’s capabilities, characteristics, or demeanor. The same courtesy should be extended to those disabled, and more specifically, visually impaired. Many blind people have pursued productive careers that many sighted people only dream about having– like the attorney, Richard h.Bernstein from Michigan. Such fine examples have altered the vistas of certain opinionated people and have shown that blindness is not a disability, but a mere issue that becomes a non issue with the proper training , education, and assistive technology.Various governments as well are discerning the true abilities of the disabled and are amending legislation that reflects such truth. The blind do not possess super human capability. Once at Kroger, I approached the counter to pay for my goods. The cashier skipped the whole introduction formality and says, “Hey, so, do you have super duper hearing?”
I kind of laugh to myself, then reply, “Well, I do pay more attention to my hearing as well as other senses to navigate or do other things.”
The cashier then replies back by saying, “Well, I just saw the movie Daredevil , and he (the blind character) had super duper hearing. So, umm, tell me what else can you do?”
I had to hold myself from saying, “Leap tall buildings with a single bound and catch a bullet with my teeth!””
Another cashier Behind me finally said to the young man, “ Shut up and quit asking him stupid questions.”
Hence, are “solid impressions” always as solid as commonly thought? No! The point is the blind are just like everyone else. The blind are not super-humans with “super-duper” sensory abilities; they merely accomplish the same tasks, just in a different manner. Yes! Clear your vision– lose the stereotypes! Never underestimate the underestimated.