Mon 18 Apr 2005
Before working at the TriCounty Association for the Blind, I had no prior experience working with or around people who were unable to see, and this can account for my previous mindset, and what I now view as ignorance, regarding blind people. For some reason I had this notion in my head that blind people were unable to do half the things that people who can see partook in every day, and I thought that virtually everything that people who could not see did was done with the help of someone around them. After working at the TriCounty Association and catching a glimpse of the way people with visual impairments live their lives, I now know that they are the same as any person on the street except for the fact that they are unable to see. When working beside them, I noticed that they were able to complete the same job I had just as fast as I could. Working at the TriCounty Association has taught me that people who cannot see are more independent than I had originally given them credit for and are able to do much more than I had thought.
The TriCounty Association provides a setting where people who are blind can work and interact with those who are and are not visually impaired. It has both a fundamental and social aspect because it is somewhere people who are blind can work and somewhere they can go to play bingo. The times that I have been there, the atmosphere has been very relaxed and conducive both to forming relationships with co-workers and getting their jobs done. From what I have witnessed, the people who work there truly enjoy their jobs because they provide them with a source of income and they promote interaction and relationships among many people who cannot see.
During my time at the TriCounty Association, I think I had the biggest impact on a worker named Todd. Todd was a young man who was not blind, but I think he had some kind of mental handicap. On our second day of service learning at the Association, I helped Todd make pens that were to be sent to prisons. We spent the whole time talking about everything from movies and music to Todd’s family, and I could tell that having someone to talk to and work with was really brightening Todd’s day and making his job much more enjoyable than it usually is. It was nice to be able to impact someone in such a positive way.
When placed in a “normative” society, I would imagine that people who cannot see would encounter people with a mindset much like I had prior to working at the TriCounty Association. They are seen as unable to do things that people who have sight can do, which is undoubtedly frustrating for them, and are probably asked if they need help doing things more often than not, which gives them less ability than they deserve. They would also encounter more obvious problems, like taking longer to do something or not being able to participate fully in activities like watching a sporting event, although this may not be viewed as a problem to all people.
After working at the TriCounty Association for the Blind, I find it easier to notice similarities between what I have observed and what we talk about in class every day. I was especially able to make a connection between the workers at the Association and Lionel in Motherless Brooklyn. Noticing the camaraderie that the workers at TriCounty Association have with one another made me realize that Lionel did not have people like that to rely on in his life, and I think that had he known another person with Tourette’s Syndrome, he would have been able to accept his condition and outbursts more readily, rather than trying to suppress them to satisfy his co-workers and save himself from embarrassment.