Sun 17 Apr 2005
The Tri-County Association for the Blind is an organization who’s main focus is to help people with visual disabilities. During my three visits to the Association, I was able to observe, and on limited occasions, interact with the blind workers. Although the supervisors are not visually impaired, the workers in the production area are either completely blind or have some type of visual impairment. There were also workers who had some type of mental disability.
The Tri-County Association for the Blind has many benefits. It provides the blind and visually impaired community with many services including access technology, a production facility, social services, prevention of blindness, and the radio reading services. Access technology includes using the computer to transform texts into braille, magnify texts, and speech synthesizers, among others. They also offer the program which teach blind and visually impaired people how to use the computers to do these tasks. The Production Facility is the area that employs the majority of the blind and visually impaired workers. The types of jobs the workers perform are putting pens and pencils together, packaging items, cleaning cassette tapes, carpet installation, and mail preparation. Social Services provide many services to the blind and visually impaired community including in-home services, counseling and support groups, and transportation services. The Association works to prevent blindness by providing screening for children and adults, and by putting on eye safety programs. The Radio Reading Service provides information to the blind and visually impaired community by reading newspapers, and reporting on local news and events over the radio station.
I feel the work I did at the Association benefitted the supervisors more than the blind and visually impaired workers. I often performed tasks in a room separate from the workers. On limited occasions I was able to interact with the workers. The most memorable time I had at the Association was the day I worked in the production room packaging bags of cookies to be sent to the airlines. I was able to interact with the workers and we were able to get to know one another. The next time that I came to volunteer they remembered me. I was not able to work with them on this occasion though, and was only able to have a brief conversation with them when they were on their way to and from break.
The problems which the blind and visually impaired workers face in “normative” society is that “blind” to a lot of people means not capable. The fact of the matter is that just because someone is blind, does not mean that they are not capable. The Association recognizes this, and gives blind and visually impaired people a place to work. However, I feel that the Association does not realize the full potential offered by their employees and has them doing menial labor. The Association provides many services to the blind and visually impaired community, and I feel the work place should be a place where members of the blind and visually impaired community are treated equally. This surprises me, and I think that an organization that is specifically aimed at helping people who are blind or visually impaired would be able to recognize that there is a difference, but to be able to look past that difference and treat them as equals. I realize that blind and visually impaired people should always be treated as equal, but society has a long way to come in how they view people who are different from them, people who in a sense, deviate from the norm.
My experience at the Tri-County Association for the Blind connects to all of the texts we have read. A theme that is consistent in all of the texts, is the way in which people view people with disabilities as different, or not capable. During one of my visits to the Association, I was talking to one of the supervisors about college. She told me that her daughter had a 4.0 GPA but that it had recently dropped to a 3.9 and she was really disappointed. Later she told me that her daughter was blind. This is an example of someone with a disability who is extremely capable, and can be related to Lionel who is a character in Motherless Brooklyn. Lionel has Tourette’s Syndrome and because of this is often thought to be different, and not capable. In fact, Lionel is very capable and smart. As a society, we need to learn that you cannot judge people because of their disabilities, and that just because someone is disabled, does not mean that they are different or not capable.