Caroline D


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.

On Tuesday, Lisa and I volunteered for the third time at the Tri-County Association for the Blind. When we got there, Danette was out of the office, and we waited for about 10 minutes until another employee came out and told us what to do. Angie took me into the mail room where I used the paper cutter to cut out labels for an hour. After I had finished this task, I was taken into the production area where I folded pamphlets into thirds and placed them in bins for the remaining hour. Lisa helped me with this task for the last 15 minutes.

My third volunteering visit to the Tri-County Association for the Blind was very disappointing. I was in a separate room for the first hour I was there, and unable to make any contact with the workers. I was in the production area for the second hour, however, I was put at a table that was not close to any of the other workers. The only interaction I had with the workers, was when they said hi on their way to break at 2:00 and when they came back at 2:15. I did not have any interactions with Lisa either, because she was seated at a table across the room from me. The work was very monotonous, and not having any interactions with the workers or Lisa made it even more so. Each week when we go to volunteer, I feel as though the people in charge make us do their catch up work. When I was in the mail room using the paper cutter, Angie came up to me and said something implying that if we were not there, she would be really behind on her work. I feel as though Danette and the other people in charge still do not understand the purpose of us being there.

I am not sure how to relate this visit with any of our course materials, because I did not have any interaction with the workers. I was able to observe them for the last hour, and through my observations I have realized that if I were in their position I would not be able to do that kind of work day in and day out. Overall, I feel as though our time there is not well spent because the purpose of this assignment is to interact with the workers, and the people in charge think that as long as we are in the same room as them it counts.

Friday, Lisa and I had our second volunteering session at the Tri-County Association for the Blind. When we got there, we were met by Diane who told us that we would be putting labels on envelopes. She told us that we would be doing this work in the production area so that we would be able to observe and interact with the blind workers. This task took us about thirty minutes, and then we joined the other workers who were packaging cookies. The task involved taking the cookies out of the boxes, and re-packaging them in bags. The cookies were then being sent to the airlines for the flight attendants to use when passing out the cookies to passengers.

When we arrived at the Tri-County Association for the Blind, I was nervous because I did not know what to expect. The previous week I did not get a chance to really interact with the blind workers, and was hoping to get a chance to this week. When Diane told us that we would be working in the production area I was glad, however our first task was putting labels on envelopes and we were segregated from the other workers. I got a chance to interact with the workers when we were packaging cookies. It was awkward at first because the three people Lisa and I were working with all had headphones on and were listening to music or books on tape, so we could not have a conversation. When the supervisor came out to make an announcement, they took off their headphones and this gave me a change to ask the woman I was sitting next to what kind of music she was listening to. We talked about all different kinds of music, her children, what she likes to do on the weekends, etc. The next hour and a half flew by because we were all talking and getting to know one another. One thing that really struck me while I was working there was when one of the women came up to me and said, “How would you like to do this all day, everyday?” This question really caught me off guard, and I did not know how to respond. It was clear that in her asking the question, she did not want to be there. I tiptoed around the answer because I did not know how to respond.

While the workers were on break I had a chance to talk to one of the supervisors. She was asking Lisa and I about college, and mentioned to us that her daughter had just gone back to school to get her masters degree. She said that her first three semesters she had a 4.0 GPA, but that this past semester it had gone down slightly and she was really disappointed. It was not until further into the conversation that she told us her daughter was blind. It reminded me of Lionel in Motherless Brooklyn, and how people though that because he had Tourette’s syndrome, he was not smart. People often think that because a person has a disability they are not as smart, or as capable as a person without a disability, which is not true.

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