Good evening and Merry Christmas readers,
Would you believe in today’s era of laws which are designed to protect the rights of people with disabilities subtle and overt types of discrimination take place? It could be the blind parents who have their newborn child removed from their care by Child Protective Service workers out of fear they will not be able to adequately care for their child or the college student who is denied access to a visual course. Whether it’s out rightly being denied rides on amusement park attractions or religated to sit inn certain seats on airplanes, those with disabilities are unfortunately treated like second-class citizens due to procedural policies and detrimental attitudes which exist in our supposed progressive society. What prompted me to write this impassioned post today was a friends Facebook status which boiled my blood. On her birthday she was told by a flight attendant she could not sit in an aisle seat all because she carried a white cane. Such a simple tool for the blind which affords us independence is often seen by some as a sign of pity or inability. As an aside, recently a young child had his cane removed by his school and replaced with a pool noodle! I mean, a pool noodle! How shaming, embarrassing and humiliating! My experience with a replacement cane was a yardstick since I was a stubborn fifth grade child with some vision who willingly left my cane at home and was shamed into never forgetting my cane. If you are like, come on—these stories can’t be true, use good ole Google for some fact checking. For starters, blind parents have had their children removed, blind students have been refused courses, dog users have been denied access to services and cane users have been threatened to be taken off of flights because they did not hand over their cane. Secondly, I’m not a blind white cane wheelding ninja chick who is out to take on every battle I face; I have learned when to pick and choose my battles so just sayin’ I’m not a bitter blind person. 🙂
Even when those in high positions admit their error and recant their actions, it does not excuse ignorance and unreasonable actions. Whether it’s the dog guide user who is not permitted admittance into an establishment because of their dog or the cane user who is told in order to fly on an airline they must relinquish their straight cane, this denial of independence is unjust and appalling every time it occurs. If a sighted person who wore glasses or contact lenses were told they could not eat at their favorite restaurant due to the simple fact they used visual corrective devices, you would probably say this sounds absurd. What makes the blind or anyone with any type of disability any different? We are people who are just as capable, diverse, quirky, intelligent, ditzy along with a myriad of other adjectives which can be ascribed to those who happen to fully live their lives with or without limited or no sight.
I could ramble on and on about my personal encounters with the misinformed folks who thought attempting to take away my cane was their business, the well-intended person who felt compelled to manhandle me in a direction I did not want to go, or how often I have recently had to fight for access and Braille literacy in order to receive an equal education, however my experiences are just one of many countless stories in the realm of those with disabilities. Since I do not want this post to be a total downer, I want to acknowledge all of you who do take the time to get to know and appropriately help those who happen to be blind or different in any way. Thank you for being open enough to share your questions and curiosities; I am always happy to answer any inquiries.
Here is where being active comes into play. Rather than sitting on the sidelines lamenting about negative instances and allowing these forms of discrimination to continue, appropriately filing complaints when incidents arise, writing letters, meeting with legislatures and lobbyists are some of the many tools to work toward turning the tide against social stigmas. This is why I am a member of the National Federation of the blind, one of the worldwide consumer and advocacy organizations for the blind who energetically works to educate the sighted and empower the blind to take action toward the end goal of equal status. Despite being a small majority in the grand scheme of societal perspectives, progress may be slow but it sure is steady. I am blessed by the many strides the blind who have come before me have made to secure me the ability to freely parent my child, attend higher education, or compete for employment rather than being isolated out of fear which often has been cloaked in concern or the mentality of “this is what’s best for you.” For each person who stands up and shares their story and educates society of the true abilities of those with any difference, the closer we come to being taken seriously.
Not only have I gained lifelong friends in the Federation and owe my positive philosophy of blindness to this organization, I have also hopefully embodied a spirit of carrying on the independence and equal treatment torch by my actions and words. Whether it is taking the time to answer questions no matter how simple or complex, knowing when to accept help or politely refuse assistance, I attempt to do my part to “change what it means to be blind.”
Until next time