[nfbwatlk] article by CFB member in campus student newspaper

Frederick Driver wt329 at victoria.tc.ca
Mon Dec 15 08:42:52 UTC 2008


Building blind ambition

The Martlet
Dec 04, 2008

Erin Lacharity

There have always been blind people in the world.

The problem is, I don’t think sighted people see us as a political force or as politically active.

The recent protests against the film Blindness by blind people across North America are one example of our efforts to make our presence known and our voices heard.

As a blind woman, I reject the depiction of blindness in the film. I’m saddened that Jose Saramago, Nobel Prize winning author of Blindness, dismissed the deeply felt reaction of real blind people as “a display of meanness with no point at all.”

However, many people have never met a blind person, and negative misconceptions are pervasive enough without Saramago’s book and film adding to them.

As a blind person, I run into many misconceptions about what it must be like to be me. In a psychology class, the instructor thought that by blindfolding sighted people for an hour, they would get to know what it is like to live and function without sight.

I volunteered to go without my white cane so I could participate in the exercise. My classmates fumbled around, freaking out. They didn’t realize that blind skills are created over a long period. It can’t be experienced in an afternoon.

If anything, this exercise only reinforced the misconception that blind people are helpless, unemployable and lost in the world.

By the end of class, more people felt sorry for me and none of my classmates had learned about the coping mechanisms and skills I employ everyday.

If only the teacher had asked me for my advice, instead of simulating an experience that was so far from the reality of blindness.

When I was a student at Camosun, an individual in the disability office eagerly informed me that if I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my saviour, He would return my sight.

She assumed I needed fixing because I can’t see, and she assumed I wanted to change and not be blind. I don’t. It’s normal and respectable to be blind. It is not a deficiency or a result of my moral or religious conduct.

My political experience began with the Canadian Federation of the Blind. I heard others sharing what I had always felt about myself as a blind citizen. I began to learn our history. Advancements for the blind have been initiated by the blind, and we enjoy greater opportunities today because of our own advocacy work.

The history of sheltered workshops for the blind, weaving baskets and making simple furniture kept us busy and poor. Exclusion from the public school system and extremely limited access to meaningful work kept us sheltered and helpless.

This couldn’t be further away from our true identity and worth.

We are normal people that cannot see. We are full citizens who are very capable. We are the blind leading the blind.

My involvement with the blind movement inspired me to get involved on campus with politics for students with and without disabilities. I want political skills so that I can advocate for myself and others who need their voices to be heard.

This summer I was thrilled to have the chance to attend an international convention of blind people, hosted by the U.S. National Federation of the Blind in Dallas, Texas. Meeting independent, successful, blind delegates from around the world was an emotional and empowering experience for me.

The tapping of thousands of canes together was a sound so beautiful I will never forget it.

I graduate from UVic this spring and will begin to take the first steps towards building my own career. Based on misconceptions about our competence and abilities, blind people face an unemployment rate of over 70 per cent, regardless of educational attainments.

When they do gain employment, blind people are lawyers, accountants, business people and teachers, and are active in a full-range of other occupations.

I plan to overcome the odds, and I hope that someday blind people, when they show up in movies, will be like me.


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